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Energy Journal Issue

The Energy Journal
Volume 32, Number 3

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Testing for Asymmetric Pricing Behaviour in Irish and UK Petrol and Diesel Markets

Colin Bermingham and Derry O'Brien

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol32-No3-1
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This paper empirically tests whether Irish and UK petrol and diesel markets are characterised by asymmetric pricing behaviour. The econometric assessment uses threshold autoregressive models and a dataset of monthly refined oil and retail prices covering the period 1994 to mid-2009. In addition to providing an appraisal of the existence of asymmetry in the Irish and UK markets, the paper provides an important methodological contribution. Tests of asymmetry in the literature normally partition the sample into periods of falling and rising international oil prices. This fails to account for price pressures coming from the equilibrium error of the cointegrating relationship. In particular, the possibility of conflicting price pressures arising from short-run dynamics in retail prices and responses to disequilibrium errors needs to be explicitly modelled. We take this issue into account in an econometric model and we highlight the importance of this distinction. In terms of the asymmetric behaviour of these markets, the paper finds no evidence to support the "rockets and feathers" hypothesis that prices rise faster than they fall in response to changes in the value of international oil prices.

Volatility Dynamics and Seasonality in Energy Prices: Implications for Crack-Spread Price Risk

Hiroaki Suenaga and Aaron Smith

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol32-No3-2
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We examine the volatility dynamics of three major petroleum commodities traded on the NYMEX: crude oil, unleaded gasoline, and heating oil. Using the partially overlapping time-series (POTS) framework of Smith (2005), we model jointly all futures contracts with delivery dates up to a year into the future and extract information from these prices about the persistence of market shocks. The model depicts highly nonlinear volatility dynamics that are consistent with the observed seasonality in demand and storage of the three commodities. Specifically, volatility of the three commodity prices exhibits time-to-delivery effects and substantial seasonality, yet their patterns vary systematically by contract delivery month. The conditional variance and correlation across the three commodities also vary over time. High price volatility of near-delivery contracts and their low correlation with concurrently traded distant contracts imply high short-horizon price risk for an unhedged position in the calendar or crack spread. Price risk at the one-year horizon is much lower than short-horizon risk in all seasons and for all positions, but it is still substantial in magnitude for crack-spread positions. Crack-spread hedgers ignore nearby high-season price risk at their peril, but they would also be remiss to ignore the long horizon.

Modeling Strategic Electricity Storage: The Case of Pumped Hydro Storage in Germany

Wolf-Peter Schill and Claudia Kemfert

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol32-No3-3
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We study the strategic utilization of storage in imperfect electricity markets. We apply a game-theoretic Cournot model to the German power market and analyze different counterfactual and realistic cases of pumped hydro storage. Our main finding is that both storage utilization and storage-related welfare effects depend on storage ownership and the operator's involvement in conventional generation. Strategic operators generally under-utilize owned storage capacity. Strategic storage operation may also lead to welfare losses, in particular if the total storage capacity is controlled by an oligopolistic generator that also owns conventional generation capacity. Yet in the current German situation, pumped hydro storage is not a relevant source of market power.

Oil Price Shocks and Labor Market Fluctuations

Javier Ordóñez, Hector Sala and José I. Silva

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol32-No3-4
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We examine the impact of real oil price shocks on labor market flows in the U.S. We first use smooth transition regression (STAR) models to investigate to what extent oil prices can be considered as a driving force of labor market fluctuations. Then we develop and calibrate a modified version of Pissarides' (2000) model with energy costs, which we simulate in response to shocks mimicking the behavior of the actual oil price shocks. We find that (i) these shocks are an important driving force of job market flows; (ii) the job finding probability is the main transmission mechanism of such shocks; and (iii) they bring a new amplification mechanism for the volatility of the labor market, and should thus be seen as complementary of labor productivity shocks. Overall we conclude that shocks in oil prices cannot be neglected in explaining cyclical labor adjustments in the U.S.

Is Arbitrage Tying the Price of Ethanol to that of Gasoline? Evidence from the Uptake of Flexible-Fuel Technology

Alberto Salvo and Cristian Huse

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol32-No3-5
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Brazil is the only sizable economy to date to have developed a homegrown ubiquitously-retailed alternative to fossil fuels in light road transportation: ethanol from sugar cane. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the uptake of flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs) has been tremendous. Five years after their introduction, FFVs accounted for 90% of new car sales and 30% of the circulating car stock. We provide a stylized model of the sugar/ethanol industry which incorporates substitution by consumers, across ethanol and gasoline at the pump, and substitution by producers, across domestic regional and export markets for ethanol and sugar. We argue that the model stands up well to the empirical co-movement in prices at the pump in a panel of Brazilian states. The paper offers a case study of how agricultural and energy markets link up at the very micro level.

Inducing Clean Technology in the Electricity Sector: Tradable Permits or Carbon Tax Policies?

Yihsu Chen and Chung-Li Tseng

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol32-No3-6
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Tradable permits and carbon taxes are two market-based instruments commonly considered by policymakers to regulate pollutions. While a tax is fixed, predetermined by authorities, the uncertain permits price is driven by market dynamics, fluctuating with the prices of natural gas and electricity. Both instruments offer firms different incentives for adopting clean technologies. This paper explores the optimal investment timing when a coal-fired plant owner considers introducing clean technologies in face of these two policies using a real options approach. We find that tradable permits could effectively trigger adopting clean technologies at a considerably lower level of carbon price relative to a tax policy. Higher levels of volatility in permit prices are likely to induce suppliers to take early actions to hedge against carbon risks. Thus, offset and other price control mechanisms, which are designed to reduce permit prices or to suppress prices volatility, are likely to delay clean technology investments.

Optimal Abandonment of EU Coal-fired Stations

Luis M. Abadie, José; M. Chamorro and Mikel González-Eguino

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol32-No3-7
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Coal-fired power plants face potential difficulties in a carbon constrained world. The traditional advantage of coal as a cheaper fuel may erode in the future if CO2 allowance prices increase. When would it be optimal to abandon a coal station and obtain its salvage value? We assess this question following the Real Options approach. We consider the case of a coal plant that operates in a deregulated electricity market where natural gas-fired plants are the marginal units. We assume specific stochastic processes for the fundamental uncertainties in our model: coal price, natural gas price, and emission allowance price. The underlying parameters are derived from actual futures markets. They are further used in a three-dimensional binomial lattice to assess the decision to abandon. We draw the optimal exercise boundary. Sensitivity analyses (regarding fuel prices, allowance price, volatilities, useful life, residual value, thermal efficiency, safety valves in carbon prices, time step) are also undertaken.

Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies in the European Power Market

Rolf Golombek, Mads Greaker, Sverre A.C. Kittelsen, Ole Røgeberg, and Finn Roar Aune

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol32-No3-8
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We examine the potential of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies in the European electricity markets, assessing whether CCS technologies will reduce carbon emissions substantially in the absence of investment subsidies, and how the availability of CCS technologies may affect electricity prices and the amount of renewable electricity. To this end we augment a multi-market equilibrium model of the European energy markets with CCS electricity technologies. The CCS technologies are characterized by costs and technical efficiencies synthesized from a number of recent CCS reviews. Our simulations indicate that with realistic values for carbon prices, new CCS coal power plants become profitable, totally replacing non-CCS coal power investments and to a large extent replacing new wind power. New CCS gas power also becomes profitable, but does not replace non-CCS gas power investment fully. Substantially lower costs, through subsidies on technological development or deployment, would be necessary to make CCS modification of existing coal and gas power plants profitable for private investors. doi: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol32-No3-8