Identifying “Known Unknowns” in the Natural Gas Revolution

Last week, my colleagues and I released a new RFF report, The Natural Gas Revolution: Critical Questions for a Sustainable Energy Future. At one point, I began referring to this document as the “Known Unknowns” report, in reference to a widely quoted Donald Rumsfeld speech. As the former secretary of defense noted, there are certain […]

Gauging the Distributional Consequences of Public Policies

Although we know that public policies have different effects across a population, examination of the distributional effects has been largely neglected. Instead, the principal criteria now used in public policy assessments are measurements of net benefits, which estimate the sum of a policy’s benefits minus its costs, and benefit–cost ratios. But using these criteria can […]

Space Launch Risk Redux

Indemnification, the nation’s approach to managing some of the risks associated with the launch of privately owned rockets carrying our satellites for telecommunications, Earth observations, supplies for the International Space Station, and other services, is on its way to becoming a new annual rite of winter.  Specifically, the federal government (taxpayer) indemnifies a portion of […]

The Sandy Supplemental by the Numbers

The amount of federal spending on disaster aid has been growing over time. Hurricane Sandy resulted in an enormous level of supplemental appropriations. For perspective, we compared the Sandy supplemental appropriation, more than $50 billion, with the 2012 federal outlays by agency, excluding entitlement programs, military spending, and debt payments, as shown in Figure 1. […]

Valuing Conservation in the Context of Climate Change

In the twentieth century, flooding caused more deaths and property damage in the United States than any other natural disaster. Most climate models predict that flooding will worsen in the future, a prospect that is leading a growing number of communities to explore the use of natural areas as protection against extreme events. These areas […]

Making Flood Insurance Affordable

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) found itself floundering in debt after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, sparking a legislative push to overhaul it. The result was a risk-based pricing plan under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, signed by the president last July after passing with wide bipartisan support. But recently, questions about […]

How Much Do Weather-related Disasters Cost?

Climate scientists predict many weather-related extreme events may be changing in frequency or intensity as the climate warms, or their location, timing, and duration may be changing.  The public also perceives a trend toward more extreme events which they pin on climate change: a 2012 poll of U.S. residents by researchers at Yale found that, […]

Resources Magazine: The Limits to Ingenuity

When is ingenuity likely to help solve ecological problems? Is humanity’s ability to innovate its way around environmental problems relevant to how we think about conservation? I tackle these questions and contemplate the limits to ingenuity in a piece for the latest issue of Resources. Read the full article here.

Pipeline Safety and Keystone XL

The Premier of Alberta is in town promoting the Keystone XL pipeline. She fielded questions at the Brookings Institution, and regarding a question referring to last month’s spill in Arkansas said ”these are very isolated incidents, and they don’t happen as often as people might suggest that they could.” There are plenty of data on pipeline spills which […]

Using Executive Action to Promote Climate Change Adaptation

Buried in the middle of climate’s extended shout-out during the State of the Union, President Obama pledged to direct his Cabinet to “to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable […]