The (un)changing nature of resource policies: Technological and institutional impediments to efficient hydrocarbon extraction.
February 25, 2013
Academic Building A G008, 5:00 PM
Institutional economics has put technological change at the forefront of explanations of endogenous institutional change. New technology shifts the relative prices of alternative goods and thereby also creates incentives for actors to change institutions to align with the new technology. However, institutions are the product of political processes that manifest the preferences of political actors. Therefore, there is no a priori reason to suspect institutional change will occur following a technological breakthrough; and, if change does occur, there is no a priori expectation that the resultant institutional framework will result in a net social benefit. This talk explores this tension in institutional change by focusing on the advent of hydraulic fracturing technologies to exploit shale hydrocarbon resources. Though fracking is a new technology of extraction relative to conventional drilling, most states have not changed regulations governing the hydrocarbon industry. This may have profound consequences for the economic efficiency of extraction and for environmental externalities.
A native of the four-season outdoor paradise of Minnesota, the question as to how humans can best manage natural resources for long term survival has always intrigued me. Having read Hardin’s provocative treatise “The Tragedy of the Commons” several times, it was a wonderful relief to first read Elinor Ostrom’s “Governing the Commons”–a methodical investigation of the conditions under which tragedies are likely to occur and, more importantly, when they are not as likely to occur. Later, as a student of Ostrom at Indiana University, I received my Ph.D. in political science, writing a dissertation that examines the use of majority rule voting as a collective choice mechanism in the commons. Though proud of my dissertation, I am excited to move beyond that project and begin to explore issues of natural resource governance more broadly. My current research projects include an investigation of international forestry policy and a nascent project on the political economy of property rights in shale gas extraction, as well as a project looking into the effectiveness of alternative institutional frameworks in US ocean fisheries commissions. Since September, 2012, I have been an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Binghamton University.
Video starts at 7 minutes and 15 seconds.
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