GSPIA faculty launch Energy & Environment Blog

GSPIA faculty in the Energy and Environment (E&E) major have created a blog providing  commentary and analysis of E&E issues of public interest. Three years ago, GSPIA developed the E&E major as Pennsylvania emerged as the global epicenter of extracting natural gas from shale formations. The public policy dimensions of shale gas development are many, ranging from local zoning decisions to global climate change agreements. More broadly, the E&E major features courses addressing a wide range of energy and environment issues from a local, national, and global perspective and equips students with subject knowledge and analytic skills for jobs in local government, industry, and nonprofits. 

The E&E blog serves as yet another learning pathway for students and faculty to work together to research, analyze and write about the pertinent issues facing the rapidly and shifting energy and environment landscape. The inaugural post, Energy Production and Policy: Quickly Changing: Increasingly Relevant, written by Assistant Professor Jeremy Weber, discusses the emerging and fading energy industries. 

Major in Energy and Environment 

Energy and Environment explores the politics and policies of the worldwide energy industry, examining ways to meet global energy needs in a sustainable, environmentally conscious way. Pittsburgh is a global epicenter of one of the biggest energy revolutions of the 21st century – the shale gas boom. New technologies like “fracking” are making billions of dollars of natural gas accessible to world markets for the first time, generating thousands of new jobs from Europe to North America. Western Pennsylvania sits atop one of the largest and most productive shale deposits anywhere on the planet, raising major questions about how to extract the gas responsibly, how to protect communities from environmental harm, and how to tax and regulate the rapid growth. GSPIA Students study the economics of the global energy industry, environmental sustainability, and regulatory policy in one of the world’s best living laboratories. Graduates are prepared for jobs at environmental protection agencies, energy corporations, and a host of local, state, and national government offices that make energy policy.

Energy and Environment Faculty

Shanti Gamper-Rabindran (Associate Professor; Ph.D. in Economics, MIT) began research on the shale industry several years ago and has published an article in Energy Technology which highlights the need to address gaps in information collection, access and dissemination for the formulation of evidence-based shale policies.  She is also engaged in an on-going project examining regulatory gaps in the shale industry in emerging economies using U.S. laws as a benchmark. She is currently editing a book with contributions from country experts on shale policies in the U.S., China, Argentina, South Africa, the UK, France, Germany, and Poland.   The book describes factors that influence countries’ decisions on whether and how to pursue shale, such as their energy mix, economic profile and climate commitments, and importantly, the countries’ decision-making processes, which determine the extent to which various competing parties in the shale debate can access information and participate meaningfully in policy formulation. The book project is the outcome of international Environment and Energy conferences that she organized at the University of Pittsburgh in 2013 and 2014.  Gamper-Rabindran participated in the 2015 NSF-NERC US-UK workshop on Improving Understanding the Potential Environmental Impacts of Hydrocarbon Development and she also presented at the Natural Resources Defense Council/Sichuan University Shale Gas Conference in 2015, which brought together U.S. and Chinese researchers working on environmental aspects of shale development. Jointly with colleagues from U.S., Canada and China, she is working on a review article on social science perspectives on unconventional hydrocarbons.  She regularly teaches courses on Global Energy Policy and Global Environmental Policy.

Ilia Murtazashvili (Assistant Professor; Ph.D. in Political Science, University of Wisconsin) became interested in hydraulic fracturing because it was described as a “wild west” situation and one of the major topics in his first book was conflict over minerals in the nineteenth century—the real wild west.  His publications on fracking include a comparison of state-level responses to opportunities for hydraulic fracturing in New York and Pennsylvania (in William E. Hefley and Yongsheng Wang, eds., Economics of Unconventional Shale Gas Development: Case Studies and Impacts, 2016) and a comparative study of the prospects for sustainable hydraulic fracturing in South Africa and Botswana (in Governance in Africa, 2015).  He is currently working on several projects related to shale governance, including the appropriateness of decentralized governance of fracking which compares regulation in the US and European Union; how entrepreneurs such as land men provide insight into the shale boom; and an investigation into the institutional foundations of the presence or absence of a shale resource curse.  He has co-taught a capstone seminar on Marcellus Shale in Comparative Perspective and regularly teaches a course on Natural Resources: Governance and Management.  He also co-organized, with Sabina Deitrick, a workshop on “The Regional Impacts of Shale Gas Drilling: Understanding Economic and Governance Implications for Communities and Regions.” 

Jeremy Weber (Assistant Professor; Ph.D. in Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin) is a native of Pennsylvania and first became interested in shale development when he heard from childhood friends about growing interest in leasing land for natural gas wells. When he finished his Ph.D. and began working in the research wing of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, large-scale development of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale was just beginning, so his attention first turned to Western states that that had already experienced growth in drilling. Over time, his shale-related research has proliferated, covering a wide variety of topics such as local income and employment effects, land and housing values, leasing markets and royalties, state tax policies, and impacts on school finances and performance.  These articles have appeared in journals such as Resource and Energy Economics, Energy Economics, Review of Agricultural and Resource Economics, and Economic Development Quarterly.  Two of his most recent papers focuses on his home state— “When Externalities are Taxed: The Incidence and Effects of Pennsylvania’s Impact Fee on Shale Gas Wells” (with Katie Jo Black and Shawn McCoy) and a policy brief for the GSPIA Center for Metropolitan  Studies on “ Shale Development, Impact Fees, and Municipal Finances.”  Weber recently presented his research to the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, which oversees the implementation of Act 13, in Harrisburg.  Weber regularly teaches courses on U.S. Energy Policy, Energy Production and the Local Economy, and Environmental Economics. 

Sabina Deitrick (Associate Professor; Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning, University of California – Berkeley) recently began pursuing research on the planning implications of shale gas development in Southwestern Pennsylvania and, in spring 2015, co-organized with Ilia Murtazashvili a workshop on “The Regional Impacts of Shale Gas Drilling: Understanding Economic and Governance Implicat



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