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Power Plants, Air Pollution, and Regulatory Rebound

Meredith Fowlie, Associate Professor, Dept of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley

May 16 2022 | 11:00am to 12:00pm PT Bren Hall 1414 / Online

Headshot of Meredith Fowlie
Meredith Fowlie

Professor Meredith Fowlie is one of the foremost economists working on energy and environmental markets. Her research is especially relevant to real-world applications of markets and regulations as we aim to decarbonize our economy. Students and our campus community will have much to learn from her talk.
—Ranjit Deshmukh, Assistant Professor, Bren School and Environmental Studies

Dr. Fowlie will be presenting in person at Bren. Join us in Bren Hall 1414 (masks recommended) or watch online using this link and passcode power


Interactions between overlapping air quality regulations can have unintended impacts on polluting activities. We identify a potentially important interaction whereby local regulators in areas constrained by one kind of regulation—threshold-based local air quality standards—have an incentive to permit more local pollution in response to a decline in emissions induced by another kind of regulation—rules targeting power plant emissions. We combine air particle trajectory modeling, machine learning, and an econometric model of local air pollution exposure to quantify the relationship between sustained reductions in upwind power-plant emissions of PM2.5 precursors and downwind pollution levels. We use the model to test whether pollution levels in constrained counties "rebound" when emissions from upwind pollution sources are reduced. We document evidence that is consistent with a local emissions rebound response. Work-in-progress explores the efficiency and distributional implications of this tradeoff between local health benefits and local abatement costs. 


Meredith Fowlie holds the Class of 1935 Endowed Chair in Energy at UC Berkeley. She is a Professor in the Agriculture and Resource Economics department, a faculty director at the Energy Institute at Haas, and co-director of the Environment and Energy Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her research interests include energy market regulation, climate change policy, the economics of air pollution, the demand-side of energy markets, renewable energy, energy, and energy access in emerging economies. She enjoys engaging with the policy process and is currently serving as a Governor-appointed member of California’s Independent Emissions Market Advisory Committee. 

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