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E-IPER Dissertation Defense: Danny Cullenward

Date and Time: 
Friday, May 24, 2013 - 08:30
Y2E2 299
Event Sponsor: 
Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment & Resources

Essays in Energy Economics and Climate Policy

As U.S. climate policy begins to emerge at the state and federal levels, new technological, economic, and legal challenges follow close behind. With the aim of contributing to effective, science-based climate policy, my dissertation portfolio draws on insights from energy economics and environmental law to address current policy debates.

My research comprises two sets of projects. One category, which deals with national-level climate policy, focuses on front-end policy design choices and fundamental arguments over the merits of competing mitigation strategies. The other category addresses California's evolving climate policy regime, providing scientific and legal input into ongoing policy development processes. Both approaches demonstrate an expansion on conventional approaches to academic research, bridging the gap between applied and theoretical research in a way that graduate students from a range of backgrounds can adopt in their own work.

Projects in the first category integrate economic analysis and energy modeling to inform federal policy, which is just beginning to grapple with the climate challenge. Within this category, I explore two related problems: (1) the inadequacy of national energy data and (2) the challenges of using energy models to assess prospective climate policies.

Projects in the second category focus on the climate policy regime in California, where regulators are in the process of implementing a comprehensive cap-and-trade system. I completed research on three related policy issues, working in close collaboration with Stanford's Environmental Law Clinic: (1) participation in a lawsuit, in which I defended the constitutionality of lifecycle assessment methods, (2) the development of carbon offset protocols, and (3) the regulation of a phenomenon called resource shuffling.

My public defense talk will address two projects, one from each category:
1. Energy Modeling: an economic analysis of the distributional impacts of a national carbon fee-and-dividend policy. What are the impacts to households of different income levels when the government imposes a price on carbon and rebates a portion of the revenue on a per capita basis?
2. Litigation: a case study of science advocacy in the legal system. Is it unconstitutional for state regulators to rely on lifecycle assessment methodology?

Oral Exam Committee:
John Weyant, Management Science & Engineering
Jonathan Koomey, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance
Michael Wara, School of Law
Deborah Sivas, School of Law
CHAIR: Gilbert Masters, Civil & Environmental Engineering