The global fossil fuel industry is in the midst of a series of historic shifts. New extraction technologies have unlocked massive oil and gas resources in the United States, transforming the global market and both helping and hindering the fight against climate change. Natural gas is now the fastest-growing fuel worldwide, and an important alternative to coal because of its cheaper price tag and lower emissions. Meanwhile, global oil prices are increasingly volatile, while urbanization, rising fuel competition, and changes in global supply are reshaping the market. These developments in the oil, gas and coal markets have a significant effect on global economic growth, climate change, environmental quality, and a range of industries—from transportation to electric power. Yet, the rising pace of change has frequently tested the ability of industry and government alike to assess market trends and carefully evaluate policy and investment decisions.
EPIC scholars are working to understand and shape these fundamental developments in the fossil fuel industry, including the structure of the markets, the important role of innovation, and the most effective approaches to environmental regulation. For example, EPIC researchers are exploring hydraulic fracturing’s effects on the income, employment, housing prices, and health of nearby residents and the environment; the economics of private mineral leases for shale gas; and past trends and future prospects in the U.S. natural gas market and the broader global oil and gas market. EPIC scholars are also evaluating the pivotal role federal oil, gas and coal leases play in the energy market. They are investigating opportunities for reforms to these programs, such as to the auction process, royalty system, and environmental protections in order to improve both federal revenues and environmental outcomes. This work includes a partnership with the UChicago Law School’s Abrams Environmental Law Clinic to propose changes to the federal coal leasing program to better incorporate the social cost of carbon into environmental impact assessments.