Econ 3391: Economics of Energy and the Environment

Monday / Wednesday 10:30AM-11:45AM
Gasson Hall 302

Instructor: Richard Sweeney

Office: Maloney Hall 385A
Office hours (On Zoom):
- Friday: 4:00 – 4:50 pm

Graduate Assistant: Kevin Choi

Course website:
All materials and required assignments will be placed on Canvas. When in doubt about an assignment, defer to Canvas.


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? Do the benefits of new pipelines outweigh the costs? 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.


Microeconomic Theory (ECON2201 or ECON2203) and Econometric Methods (ECON2228) are (strict) prerequisites for this course. I will assume that you remember all important concepts from both courses, although we will do a quick overview of econometrics during the first part of class.

Environmental economics (Econ 2277) is recommended but not required.


There is no textbook for this course. The material will consist of lecture notes and academic articles which will be posted on Canvas. For those interested, I have listed several good optional text books on the resources page.

Required Readings

There will be one or two required readings for each class. These will be listed in the module page ony this website and linked to on Canvas. It is essential that you complete these readings before class in order to contribute to and benefit from the discussion. To facilitate this, students are required to submit answers to one or two short questions about the readings the night before each class. Failure to submit answers before class will reduce your participation grade.

Questions will be listed on Canvas along with the posted reading for each class. On some days, the readings will be divided up amongst the class. Please make sure you read each Canvas assignment carefully to avoid extra work.



Problem sets – 25 percent

  • There will be 4 problem sets.
  • All problem sets must be submitted through Canvas before class on the due date. Solutions will be posted at the start of class, and, as a result, late problem sets will not be accepted. For the due dates, please see Canvas.
  • You are allowed to work in groups, but each person must hand in their own problem set. Please note your group at the top of your submission.
  • The problems sets will involve using Stata. Students must submit their (own) Stata code as well as a separate document writing up their answers to the problems.

Preparation and participation: 25 percent
Students are expected to be engaged in class. If I feel that this is not happening I will resort to cold calling and quizzes to gauge preparedness.

As was mentioned above, students will be asked to submit a short response to the reading before class each day (10 percent). There will also be one or two “blog entry” style assignments (5 percent), which will count towards participation.

Final Paper: 50 percent Working in groups of three or four, students must write a research paper on an energy or environmental issue of their choosing. This will be discussed in detail in class, but please note the paper related assignment dates on Canvas. A description of the term paper is available here.

Important policies

Attendance: In previous years this class had a strict attendance policy. I do not want to impose that this year due to Covid. I expect some students to have to quarantine at some point, and want everyone to stay home if they feel sick. However repeated unexcused absences will reduce your participation grade.

Assigned seats: In order to facilitate attendance and learn everyone’s names quickly, I will ask that students sit in the same seat every class. Seats will be assigned based on where everyone is sitting on the third class.

Lecture slides: Will be posted on the course website prior to each class. I strongly suggest you print them out and take notes on them during class.

Email: I am typically off email by 9 pm. I will try to be more available right before assignments are due, but please plan your questions accordingly.

Academic integrity: Students are advised to carefully review and abide by the university’s policies on academic integrity. Any instances of cheating or plagiarism will be reported to the Dean’s office without exception.