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Sustainable Development and the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative: An Economic Assessment

 The connection between the emerging field of sustainability science and the economics of sustainable development has motivated a line of interdisciplinary research inspired by the notion of “positive sustainability.” This notion is founded on three principles or pillars: (1) adopting a complex systems approach to modeling and analysis, integrating natural resource systems, the environment, and the economy; (2) pursuing dynamic efficiency, that is, efficiency over both time and space in the management of the resource-environment-economy complex to maximize intertemporal well-being; and (3) enhancing stewardship for the future through intertemporal equity, which is increasingly represented as intergenerational neutrality or impartiality. This paper argues that the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) fails to satisfy all three pillars of sustainability, and consequently fails to achieve the "sustainability criterion" put forward by Arrow, Dagupta, Daily et al: that total welfare of all future generations not be diminished. HCEI shrinks the economy, contributes negligibly to reduction of global carbon emissions, and sparks rent seeking activity (pursuit of special privilege and benefits) throughout the State of Hawaii.


The Impact of Same-Sex Marriage on Hawai‘i’s Economy and Government

This report provides quantitative and qualitative measures of the impact of same-sex marriage on Hawai`i’s economy and government. We find that marriage equality is likely to lead to substantial increases in visitor arrivals, visitor spending, and state and county general excise tax revenues. We estimate that fewer than 100 spouses will be added as beneficiaries to public and private employer-provided health insurance plans. The size of the gains from marriage equality depends critically on upcoming rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.  




A dynamic approach to PES pricing and finance for interlinked ecosystem services: Watershed conservation and groundwater management

A theory of payment for ecosystem services (PES) pricing consistent with dynamic efficiency and sustainable income requires optimized shadow prices. Since ecosystem services are generally interdependent, this requires joint optimization across multiple resource stocks. We develop such a theory in the context of watershed conservation and groundwater extraction. The optimal program can be implemented with a decentralized system of ecosystem payments to private watershed landowners, financed by efficiency prices of groundwater set by a public utility. The theory is extended to cases where land is publicly owned, conservation instruments exhibit non-convexities on private land, or the size of a conservation project is exogenous. In these cases, conservation investment can be financed from benefit taxation of groundwater consumers. While volumetric conservation surcharges induce inefficient water use, a dynamic lump-sum tax finances investment without distorting incentives. Since the optimal level of conservation is generated as long as payments are correct at the margin, any surplus can be returned to consumers through appropriate block pricing. The present value gain in consumer surplus generated by the conservation-induced reduction in groundwater scarcity serves as a lower bound to the benefits of conservation without explicit measurement of other benefits such as recreation, biodiversity, and cultural values.


Published Version: Roumasset, J., Wada, C.A., 2013. A dynamic approach to PES pricing and finance of interlinked ecosystem services: Watershed conservation and groundwater management. Ecological Economics. 87, 24-33.




How China’s Approved Destination Status Policy Spurs and Hinders Chinese Travel Abroad

China’s “Approved Destination Status (ADS) policy allows citizens of mainland China to take pleasure trips abroad on group package tours to countries that have negotiated and implemented agreements with China. In this paper, we examine the reasons for this unique preferential and incremental travel liberalization system and how it affects mainland Chinese outbound pleasure travel.

 Working Paper


What Should Be the Appropriate Tax Base for Online Travel Companies' Hotel Room Sales?

This essay examines the current dispute between state and local governments in the U.S. and online travel companies (OTCs) over the appropriate hotel occupancy tax base for online hotel bookings. It addresses the question of what should be the appropriate tax base in designing hotel occupancy tax statutes. It argues that the appropriate tax base should be the full rental prices of the hotel rooms paid by consumers inclusive of online travel company markups and service fees and not the discounted net rates paid by the OTCs to their hotel suppliers.

Published: Mak, J. 2012. What Should Be the Appropriate Tax Base for OTCs’ Hotel Room Sales? Pages 775-786  Tax Analysts. Tax Analysts, Falls Church, Virginia. 



The Economics of Groundwater

We provide synthesis of the economics of groundwater with a focus on optimal management and the Pearce equation for renewable resources. General management principles developed through the solution of a single aquifer optimization problem are extended to the management of multiple resources including additional groundwater aquifers, surface water, recycled wastewater, and upland watersheds. Given an abundant (albeit expensive) substitute, optimal management is sustainable in the long run. We also discuss the open-access equilibrium for groundwater and the conditions under which the Gisser-Sanchez effect (the result that the present value generated by competitive resource extraction and that generated by optimal control of groundwater are nearly identical) is valid. From the models and examples discussed, one can conclude that optimization across any number of dimensions (e.g. space, time, quality) is driven by a system shadow price, and augmenting groundwater with available alternatives lessens scarcity and increases welfare if timed appropriately. Other rules-of-thumb including historical cost recovery, independent management of separate aquifers, and maximum sustainable yield are inefficient and may involve large welfare losses.

Working Paper

How Big? The Impact of Approved Destination Status on Mainland Chinese Travel Abroad

China’s Approved Destination Status (ADS) policy governs foreign leisure travel by citizens to ADS-designated countries. To model the effects of ADS on Chinese visitor arrivals, we specify a model of demand for a representative Chinese consumer who values trips to n differentiated foreign destinations. Using panel data for Chinese visitor arrivals for 61 countries from 1985 to 2005, we estimate fixed effects models accounting for selection effects and a semiparametric matched difference-in-differences (DID) model. The semiparametric matched DID estimates indicate that ADS increased Chinese visitor arrivals annually by 10.5 to 15.7 percent in the three-year period following ADS designation.



Chinese Saving Dynamics: The Impact of GDP Growth and the Dependent Share


China’s national saving rate rose rapidly in the 2000s after declining through the late 1990s. These dynamics are not explained by precautionary motives, the institutional distribution of income, or reform related processes in general. Rather, we find a compelling explanation lies with GDP growth fluctuations and movement in the dependent share in population. We estimate a vector autoregressive model for the period 1978-2008, then generate in-sample simulations that successfully replicate the 2000s run-up in the saving rate. Our out of sample forecasts show the saving rate dropping in the 2010s as the dependency share falls and GDP growth moderates.

Published: Bonham, C. and Wiemer, C. "Chinese saving dynamics: the impact of GDP growth and the dependent share,"  Oxford Economic Papers, published online April 2012, doi:10.1093/oep/gps 020.

Working Paper VersionDATA FILE (XLS)

An Assessment Of Greenhouse Gas Emissions-Weighted Clean Energy Standards

Published in the journal Energy Policy, this paper quantifies the relative cost-savings of utilizing a greenhouse gas emissions-weighted Clean Energy Standard (CES) in comparison to a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Using a bottom-up electricity sector model for Hawaii, this paper demonstrates that a policy that gives “clean energy” credit to electricity technologies based on their cardinal ranking of lifecycle GHG emissions, normalizing the highest-emitting unit to zero credit, can reduce the costs of emissions abatement by up to 90% in comparison to a typical RPS. A GHG emissions-weighted CES provides incentive to not only pursue renewable sources of electricity, but also promotes fuel-switching among fossil fuels and improved generation efficiencies at fossil-fired units. CES is found to be particularly cost-effective when projected fossil fuel prices are relatively low.


UHERO has developed a two-page Policy Brief on this paper. The full publication can be found at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421512000961

The Effect of Minimum Drinking Age Laws on Pregnancy, Fertility, and Alcohol Consumption

Analysis of micro-level data reveals that changes in the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA)could induce changes in the intensity and location of alcohol consumption, sexual behavior, and teen fertility. Effects on teen fertility vary across different populations. Among 15-20 year-old non-poor whites, less restrictive legal access to alcohol decreases the probability of first pregnancy and abortion. For this group, easier legal access to alcohol likely increases the alcohol consumption in bars. For black and poor white young women, the results are sensitive to the alcohol consumption restrictions measure. A decrease in the MLDA increases the probability of first pregnancy and abortion. Yet, using a more precise measure that accounts for the MLDA and the woman’s age, these results generally no longer hold.

Published version: Cintina, I. (2014) The Effect of Minimum Drinking Age Laws on Pregnancy, Fertility, and Alcohol Consumption. Review of Economics of the Household, doi 10.1007/s11150-014-9271-8

Working Paper

Economic Analysis of the Proposed Rule to Prevent Arrival of New Genetic Strains of the Rust Fungus Puccinia psidii in Hawai‘i

Since its first documented introduction to Hawai‘i in 2005, the rust fungus P. psidii has already severely damaged Syzygium jambos (Indian rose apple) trees and the federallyendangered Eugenia koolauensis (nioi). Fortunately, the particular strain has yet to cause serious damage to ‘ōhi‘a, which comprises roughly 80% of the state’s native forests and covers 400,000 ha. Although the rust has affected less than 5% of Hawaii’s ‘ōhi‘a trees thus far, the introduction of more virulent strains and the genetic evolution of the current strain are still possible. Since the primary pathway of introduction is Myrtaceae plant material imported from outside the state, potential damage to ‘ohi‘a can be minimized by regulating those high-risk imports. We discuss the economic impact on the state’s florist, nursery, landscaping, and forest plantation industries of a proposed rule that would ban the import of non-seed Myrtaceae plant material and require a one-year quarantine of seeds. Our analysis suggests that the benefits to the forest plantation industry of a complete ban on non-seed material would likely outweigh the costs to other affected sectors, even without considering the reduction in risk to ‘ōhi‘a. Incorporating the value of ‘ōhi‘a protection would further increase the benefit-cost ratio in favor of an import ban.

Working Paper

Species Invasion as Catastrophe: The Case of the Brown Tree Snake


This paper develops a two-stage model for the optimal management of a potential invasive species. The arrival of an invasive species is modeled as an irreversible event with an uncertain arrival time. The model is solved in two stages, beginning with the post-invasion stage. Once the arrival occurs, the optimal path of species removal is that which minimizes the present value of damage and removal costs plus the expected present value of prevention costs. An expenditure-dependent, conditional hazard rate describing species arrival is developed based on discussions with natural resource managers. We solve for the optimal sequence of prevention expenditures, given the minimum invasion penalty as just described. For the case of the Brown Tree Snake potentially invading Hawaii, we find that pre-invasion expenditures on prevention are inverse U-shaped in the hazard rate. Efficient prevention should be approximately $2.9million today and held constant until invasion. Once invasion occurs, optimal prevention requires $3.1million annually and $1.6million per year on species removal to keep the population at its steady state level, due to high search costs at very small population levels.

Published: Burnett, K., S. Pongkijvorasin, and J. Roumasset. "Species Invasion as Catastrophe: The Case of the Brown Tree Snake," Environmental and Resource Economics, 51:241-254, doi:10.1007/s10640-011-9497-3.


Integration of North and South American Players in Japan's Professional Baseball Leagues

Teams in Japan’s two professional baseball leagues began to add foreign players to their rosters in the early 1950s, with the average number of foreign players per team reaching 5.79 in 2004. One reason for their increased use of foreign players was that foreign hitters substantially outperformed Japanese hitters. We show\ that the pace of team integration with African-American, Latino, and Caucasian players varied substantially across teams, a pattern also observed in North American professional baseball leagues. Using team data for the 1958-2004 seasons, econometric analysis shows that good teams that experienced a poor season played foreign players more frequently in the next season’s games.


Alcohol Use and Pregnancies Among Youth: Evidence From a Semi-Parametric Approach

Despite a well-established correlation between alcohol intake and various risk-taking sexual behaviors, the causality remains unknown. I model the effect of alcohol use on the likelihood of pregnancy among youth using a variety of estimation techniques. The preference is given to the semi-parametric model where the cumulative distribution of heterogeneity is approximated by a 4-point discrete distribution. Using data on 17-28 year-old women from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, I find that alcohol consumption increases the likelihood of pregnancy by 4.7 percentage points. Quantitatively similar but statistically weaker effects were found in the fully parametric models such as the two-stage least squares model and the bivariate probit model. Finally, the fully parametric models that ignore the effect of unobserved heterogeneity failed to establish this relationship.

Working Paper

The Direct and Indirect Contributions of Tourism to Regional GDP: Hawaii

After two decades of development and refinement, the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) has been touted as the most comprehensive way to measure the economic contribution of tourism to a destination's gross domestic product. However, recent literature has pointed out that the TSA is deficient in that it does not yield the indirect contribution of tourism to GDP. This paper shows that the TSA cannot be used to estimate the indirect contribution unless the import content of tourism is zero. The indirect contribution can be estimated using input-output (I-O) multipliers. We illustrate using Hawaii as an example.

Working Paper

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