Research Director and Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future

PhD Economics, University of California - Santa Barbara 1988
BS Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky 1981

I conduct applied economic research on a wide range of environmental, energy, and natural resource issues. Most of my work has a strong policy focus. Currently, I work primarily on issues related to urban sustainability and resilience. With 80% of the U.S. population and 50% of the world’s population living in urban areas, percentages that have steadily risen over the past several decades, addressing environmental concerns in urban areas is of paramount concern. Moreover, climate change is posing difficult challenges related to resilience of urban areas to weather extremes and sea level rose. My research focuses on four specific areas: land use, ecosystem services, climate resilience, and building energy use.

My work on land use has examined suburban development patterns and the impacts of zoning and other land use policies, including transfer of development rights (TDRs). I have worked with colleagues to develop a new spatial simulation land use model that integrates economics with techniques developed by geographers and land use scientists. With funding from NSF, we are adapting the model to represent land use in coastal areas for the purpose of assessing policies to improve coastal “resilience,” i.e., the ability of communities to withstand and adapt to extreme weather events.

 Ecosystem services are fundamentally tied to land use. My research looks at how investments in natural (or green) infrastructure, natural areas such as wetlands, forests, and other open space, can provide ecosystem services such as flood protection and water quality improvements. I also have examined the recreational value of these natural lands and conduct related research on how best to finance parks and conservation lands. In current research, I am working with an engineer to assess the ability of wetlands to attenuate storm surge and the value of that important service.

Cities are increasingly concerned about their carbon footprints, and buildings are an important component of that footprint (up to 80% by some estimates). Some experts see an energy efficiency “gap” in buildings—cost-effective improvements that could be made to lower energy use but are not. My work is focused on the role of information provision in closing this gap. Recent research is focusing on how home energy audits might fill this gap in residential buildings and the potential of commercial building energy benchmarking and disclosure programs, adopted in an increasing number of cities.