Working Paper Series

  • Indirect Land Use and Greenhouse Gas Impacts of Biofuels

    Daniel Kammen, Richard J. Plevin

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (April 2013)

  • Deep carbon reductions in California require electrification and integration across economic sectors

    Daniel Kammen, Max Wei, James H Nelson, Jeffery B Greenblatt, Ana Mileva, Josiah Johnston, Michael Ting, Christopher Yang, Chris Jones, James E McMahon

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (March 2013)

  • Renewable energysectordevelopmentintheCaribbean:Current trends andlessonsfromhistory

    Daniel Kammen, Rebekah Shirley

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (March 2013)

    Island regions and isolated communities represent an understudied area of not only clean energy development but also of innovation. Caribbean states have for some time shown interest in developing a regional sustainable energy policy and in implementing measures which could help to protect its member states from volatile oil markets while promoting reliance on local resources. Here we examine four case studies of renewable energy advancements being made by public utility companies and independent energy companies in the Caribbean. We attempt to locate renewable energy advances in a broader historical framework of energy sector development, indicating a few policy lessons. We find that different degrees of regulatory and legislative sophistication have evolved in different islands. Islands should have specialized policy focus, contrasting the ad-hoc nature of current regional energy policy discussion. We also conduct a cost benefit analysis which shows that these early, innovative alternative energy projects show themselves to be both profitable and significant sources of emissions reduction and job creation. This lends support to the potential benefits of regional energy policy.

  • Destruction, Disinvestment, and Death: Economic and Human Losses Following Environmental Disaster

    Solomon Hsiang, Jesse Keith Anttila-Hughes

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (February 2013)

    The immediate physical damages caused by environmental disasters are conspicuous and often the focus of media and government attention. In contrast, the nature and magnitude of post-disaster losses remain largely unknown because they are not easily observable. Here we exploit annual variation in the incidence of typhoons (West-Pacific hurricanes) to identify post-disaster losses within Filipino households. We find that unearned income and excess infant mortality in the year after typhoon exposure outnumber immediate damages and death tolls roughly 15-to-1. Typhoons destroy durable assets and depress incomes, leading to broad expenditure reductions achieved in part through disinvestments in health and human capital. Infant mortality mirrors these economic responses, and additional findings -- that only female infants are at risk, that sibling competition elevates risk, and that infants conceived after a typhoon are also at risk -- indicate that this excess mortality results from household decisions made while coping with post-disaster economic conditions. We estimate that these post-typhoon "economic deaths" constitute 13% of the overall infant mortality rate in the Philippines. Taken together, these results indicate that economic and human losses due to environmental disaster may be an order of magnitude larger than previously thought and that adaptive decision-making may amplify, rather than dampen, disasters' social cost.

  • Complexity and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Environmental Research

    Daniel Kammen

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (January 2013)

  • Industry Self-Governance and National Security: On the Private Control of Dual Use Technologies

    Stephen M. Maurer, Sebastian v. Engelhardt

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper: GSPP12-005 (December 2012)

  • Ideas into Practice: How Well Does US Patent Law Implement Modern Innovation Theory?

    Stephen M. Maurer

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper: GSPP12-003 (November 2012)

    The US Supreme Court’s decision in Graham v. John Deere (1966) placed neoclassical economic insights at the heart of modern patent law. But economic theory has moved on. Since the 1990s, legal scholars have repeatedly mined the discipline to propose ad hoc rules for individual industries like biotech and software. So far, however, they have almost always ignored the literature’s broader lessons for doctrine. This article asks how well today’s patent doctrine follows and occasionally departs from modern economic principles.

    The article starts by reviewing what innovation economists have learned since the 1970s. While it is conventional for legal scholars to divide the neoclassical literature into multiple competing “theories,” shared mathematical methods and modeling assumptions (e.g. profit-maximization) guarantee that the neoclassical literature’s various strands cannot disagree in any fundamental way. For this reason, whatever differences exist in the neoclassical literature are more accurately seen as special cases of a single underlying theory. We argue that this underlying theory must include at least three principles. The first limits reward to non-obvious inventions and explicitly entered the law through Graham’s PHOSITA standard. The second principle holds that patent breadth should be chosen to balance the benefits of innovation against the costs of monopoly. Though widely recognized by judges and scholars, the principle’s influence on doctrine remains remarkably incoherent. The final principle prescribes rules for allocating patent rewards where multiple inventors contribute to a shared technology. Unlike the first two principles, this insight was unknown in the 1960s and has yet to enter the law.

    Remarkably, patent doctrine uses a single concept – Graham’s “Person Having Ordinary Skill in the Art” or “PHOSITA” – to address all three principles. This means that doctrinal solutions for one principle can have unintended impacts on the others. In some cases, this link is optional. For example, the article shows how the PHOSITA concept could be generalized to provide separate and distinct tests for, say, non-obviousness and patent breadth. However, other links are mandatory. In particular, the article shows that any doctrinal architecture built on Graham’s PHOSITA test automatically allocates reward among successive inventors. Though reasonable, these default outcomes fall short of the economic ideal. The article analyzes how changes in the Utility, Blocking Patents, Reverse Doctrine of Equivalents, and the Written Description doctrines can mitigate this problem. However, other gaps are inherent and cannot be eliminated without abandoning Graham itself. This radically revised architecture would probably cause more problems than it solves.

  • Taking Self-Governance Seriously: Synthetic Biology’s Last, Best Chance to Improve Security

    Stephen M. Maurer

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper: GSPP12-003 (November 2012)

    Synthetic biologists have vigorously debated the need for community-wide biosecurity standards for the past decade. Despite this, the US government’s official response has been limited to weak and entirely voluntary Guidelines. This article describes attempts by journal editors, academic scientists, and commercial firms to organize private alternatives at the grassroots level. Private commercial standards, in particular, are significantly stronger than federal Guidelines and currently operate across more than eighty percent of the synthetic DNA industry. The paper generalizes from these examples by asking when strong private standards are both feasible and likely to produce outcomes that are comparably democratic to conventional agency regulation. It closes by describing interventions that government can use to promote and manage grassroots standards initiatives.