Research Papers: Jonathan Eyer

Does water scarcity shift the electricity generation mix toward fossil fuels? Empirical evidence from the United States

By Jonathan Eyer, Casey Wichman

Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 87


Water withdrawals for the energy sector are the largest use of fresh water in the United States. Using an econometric model of monthly plant-level electricity generation levels between 2001 and 2012, we estimate the effect of water scarcity on the US electricity fuel mix. We find that hydroelectric generation decreases substantially in response to drought, although this baseline generation is offset primarily by natural gas, depending on the geographic region. We provide empirical evidence that drought can increase emissions of CO2 and local pollutants. We quantify the social costs of water scarcity to be $330,000 per month for each plant that experiences a one-standard deviation increase in water scarcity (2015 dollars), a relationship that persists under future projections of water scarcity.

The effect of firm size on fracking safety

By Jonathan Eyer

Resource and Energy Economics, 53


Large firms are becoming increasingly dominant in the natural gas production industry. At the same time, regulators and environmental groups are concerned about potential environmental damage associated with hydraulic fracturing. However, small firms are protected from the full extent of their damages, while large firms must internalize a greater portion of their social costs. This paper examines the effect of firm size and liability on environmental safety in the context of hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale across three dimensions of size. Impacts of firm size on safety are found across legal, regulatory, and brand dimensions of size with the largest effects being driven by changes in regulatory liability. These safety gains are sizable as violation rates would be approximately twice as high if firms at remained at 2008 sizes.

Research Areas


Research Topics