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Essays on Environmental Economics



Essays on Environmental Economics


Qu Tang

Doctor of Philosophy in Agricultural and Resource Economics

University of California, Berkeley

Professor Gordon C. Rausser, Chair

This dissertation is comprised of three essays that apply microeconomics theory and econometric methods to study important issues in environmental economics.

In the first essay, I investigate the impacts of imposing inter-state trade restrictions on the compliance costs of coal-fired electric generating units (EGUs) in the context of a U.S. SO2 emissions trading program (the Acid Rain Program). Over the past decade, tremendous efforts have been devoted to modifying emissions trading programs to address cross-state air pollution problems. The modification involves imposing more restrictions on emissions trading across geographical areas. The empirical question is how severe trade restrictions affect the regulated firms’ compliance costs. Using rich data from the Acid Rain Program, this essay developed a discrete-continuous model to estimate electric generating units’ compliance strategies and marginal abatement costs associated with the nationwide uniform emissions trading as the program was implemented in practice. Based on the estimation results, this essay then simulated units’ compliance behaviors and the corresponding compliance costs if interstate trading had been prohibited. The results show that the aggregate compliance costs would increase more than one and a half times for the same emissions reduction goal due to the narrower trading markets in the counterfactual policy design with trade restrictions, and the costs would vary dramatically across space. Combined with the analysis on the benefit side, the results of this essay could be used to predict welfare impacts associated with trade restrictions at both national level and state level. And it may shed light on the future modification and implementation of EPA’s cross-state air pollution regulations.

The second essay applies an equilibrium sorting model to a brand-new housing market in Beijing, China to estimate household preferences for neighborhood public goods provision, including public transportation services, public primary schools, and environmental amenities. The equilibrium sorting model is based on a discrete choice model of household residential location decisions. Relying on a unique, detailed data set on housing location, price, and other household characteristics, I estimate the model following the two-step BLP method, taking into account the heterogeneity of household preferences, incorporating neighborhood-specific unobservable characteristics, and addressing the endogeneity of housing prices using instrumental variables. The results suggest that in general, lower housing price, better environmental amenities, and being closer to job centers will increase the choice opportunity of a neighborhood, and public transportation systems play a more important role in the neighborhoods far away from urban centers. Moreover, different households show varying preferences for these public goods. A distinct fact is that in addition to income, people’s preferences vary greatly with generation (head age of households) and job type (whether there are public employees), which reveal the significant differences between generations and illustrate the welfare for public employees within the context of the transitional economy in China. This preference heterogeneity implies that future policies should be more geographically asymmetric, locally targeted and tailored based on specific socio-economic characteristics.

The third essay estimates the impact of climate change on the crop yields in China. I use a 11-year county-level panel data set covering more than 1,000 counties to estimate the effects of random year-to-year variation in weather on three major crops yields, including rice, wheat, and corn. Because it is not easy for small-scale farmers to adapt to climate change quickly in short time, these estimates could be used to plausibly predict the short to medium-run impacts of climate change on crop yields in China. The essay finds that over the period 2040-2060, projected climate change would reduce rice yield by 1.18% under a comparatively high emission scenario and by 0.08% under a medium-low scenario, reduce corn yield by 2.21% and 1.64% under the two emission scenarios, respectively, and increase wheat yield by 6.68% and 5.48% under the two emission scenarios, respectively. These findings may shed light on future policy designs to enhance the adaptive capacity of agriculture in China and thus ensure food security in the context of climate change.

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