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Market Power in Electricity Markets: Beyond Concentration Measures

Severin Borenstein, James Bushnell and Christopher R. Knittel

Year: 1999
Volume: Volume20
Number: Number 4
DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol20-No4-3
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Abstract:
The wave of electricity market restructuring both within the United States and abroad has brought the issue of horizontal market power to the forefront of energy policy. Traditionally, estimation and prediction of market power has relied heavily on concentration measures. In this paper, we discuss the weaknesses of concentration measures as a viable measure of market power in the electricity industry, and we propose an alternative method based oil market simulations that take advantage of existing plant level data. We discuss results from previous studies the authors have performed, and present new results that allow for the detection of threshold demand levels where market power is likely to be a problem. In addition, we analyze the impact of that recent divestitures in the California electricity market will have on estimated market power. We close with a discussion of the policy implications of the results.



Ethanol Production and Gasoline Prices: A Spurious Correlation

Christopher R. Knittel and Aaron Smith

Year: 2015
Volume: Volume 36
Number: Number 1
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.36.1.4
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Abstract:
Ethanol made from corn comprises 10% of U.S. gasoline, up from 3% in 2003. This dramatic increase was spurred by recent policy initiatives such as the Renewable Fuel Standard and state-level blend mandates and supported by direct subsidies such as the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit. Some proponents of ethanol have argued that ethanol production greatly lowers gasoline prices, with one industry group claiming it reduced gasoline prices by 89 cents in 2010 and $1.09 in 2011. The 2010 figure has been cited in numerous speeches by Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack. We show that these estimates were generated by implausible economic assumptions and spurious statistical correlations. To support this last point, we use the same statistical models and find that ethanol production "decreases" natural gas prices, but "increases" unemployment in both the U.S. and Europe. We even show that ethanol production "increases" the ages of our children. Overall, we see no compelling reason to believe that the effect of ethanol use on gasoline prices has been more than $0.10 per gallon.



Unintended Consequences of Carbon Policies: Transportation Fuels, Land-Use, Emissions, and Innovation

Stephen P. Holland, Jonathan E. Hughes, Christopher R. Knittel, Nathan C. Parker

Year: 2015
Volume: Volume 36
Number: Number 3
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.36.3.shol
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Abstract:
Renewable fuel standards, low carbon fuel standards, and ethanol subsidies are popular policies to incentivize ethanol production and reduce emissions from transportation. Compared to carbon trading, these policies lead to large shifts in agricultural activity and unexpected social costs. We simulate the 2022 Federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and find that energy crop production increases by 39 million acres. Land-use costs from erosion and habitat loss are between $277 and $693 million. A low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) and ethanol subsidies have similar effects while costs under an equivalent cap and trade (CAT) system are essentially zero. In addition, the alternatives to CAT magnify errors in assigning emissions rates to fuels and can over or under-incentivize innovation. These results highlight the potential negative effects of the RFS, LCFS and subsidies, effects that would be less severe under a CAT policy.





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