Economics of Energy and the Environment

Econ 3391, Boston College

Prof. Richard Sweeney


This course provides an introduction to the economics of energy, with an emphasis on the implications for environmental policy. Energy markets have some unique features and important institutional details, and understanding these is essential for designing effective policy. For electricity, oil and natural gas markets, we will first review the theoretical justifications for government intervention. We will then explore what recent economic scholarship has to say about a variety of energy policy questions, including: What is the best way to promote renewable energy? Should we ban fracking? What are the net benefits of building pipelines? Should we be more energy efficient?

A running theme throughout the semester will be generating policy-relevant questions that we can empirically answer using data. Particular emphasis will be placed on using econometrics to make causal statements about relationships central to energy policymaking. Early in the course, we’ll review key econometric concepts and empirical strategies. Students will then be required to read and discuss empirical academic articles each week, as well as write an empirical term paper. A description of the term paper is available here.

A high-level overview of the topics covered is provided below. For a list of exactly what is covered each day is provided in the course calendar. Additional details and course policies are provided in the syllabus.

There is no text book for this class. Required readings for each lecture will be listed on Canvas. Most of the readings for the course, along with additional material, can be accessed via Paperpile. The resources page has lots of extra resources, including news sources and data which may be helpful for the term paper.

Course outline

List tentative and subject to change. Check Canvas for assignment due dates