• Alaska's ice roads and investment decision in drilling: an empirical analysis

      Azmi Wendler, Sarah; Baek, Jungho; Reynolds, Douglas B.; Herrmann, Mark (2019-08)
      This thesis applies Autoregressive Distributed Lag modeling techniques to estimate the effects of ice road season lengths on exploration activities in Alaska within the North Slope. This analysis uses data on winter off-road travel from 2001-2018 in monthly intervals against exploration wells spudded. It is found that while ice roads do not affect overall drilling activities in the North Slope, the lengths of the season plays significant part in exploration of new fields. While this subject has become a popular subject due to variations in the ice road season, no similar statistical analysis has been conducted to date. Oil prices, production and Alaska's oil policy were also found to be important variables in characterizing exploration activity.
    • Aligning electricity energy policies in Alaska: analysis of the power cost equalization and renewable energy fund programs

      Villalobos Meléndez, Alejandra; Little, Joseph; Huskey, Lee; Baek, Jungho (2012-05)
      Most rural Alaska communities are not road connected and must cope with challenging arctic environmental conditions. Due to their remoteness and sparse populations, these villages depend on isolated non-grid connected electric generation systems that operate on fuel oil. In Alaska, the Power Cost Equalization program is a 25 year long energy subsidy that targets rural residents to provide energy costs relief. A more recent state incentive program, the Renewable Energy Fund, was developed to expand the use of renewable resources and lower the cost of energy. Some rural communities have benefited from this program and have integrated renewable energy to their systems, particularly installing Wind-Diesel systems. Both programs have congruent goals of alleviating dependence on high cost fossil fuels to generate electricity as means to foster development and higher quality of life in rural Alaska communities. However, their incentive structure may conflict. This paper provides a review of these two energy subsidy policies with a particular focus on the Power Cost Equalization program and offers potential changes to its structure such that social cost impacts to rural residents are minimized while removing incentive barriers against energy efficiency and integration of renewable energy in rural Alaska communities.
    • Analyzing factors affecting Alaska's salmon permit values: evidence from Bristol Bay drift gillnet permits

      Wood, Mackenzie D.; Baek, Jungho; Little, Joseph; Greenberg, Joshua (2017-05)
      The effects of total earnings, total costs and mining exploration on permit prices in Alaska are investigated using an autoregressive distributed lag (ARDL) approach to cointegration. I take specific account of regional and gear specific salmon fisheries -- that is, Bristol Bay drift gillnet permits -- in our modelling. I find that there is a stable long-run relationship among permit prices, total earnings, and total costs. It is also found that, in both the short- and long-run, total earnings have a positive and significant relationship with permit prices, while total costs have a negative and significant relationship. Although the mining exploration in the region has a negative and significant effect on permit prices in the short-run, the effect does not seem to last in the long-run.
    • Determinants of anglers willingness to pay to support the Recreational Quota Entity program

      Mitchell, McKenzie; Little, Joseph; Criddle, Keith; Greenberg, Joshua; Hermann, Mark (2019-05)
      This study applies data from a web-based survey administered to Alaska sport fish license holders in 2017 to examine the newly introduced Recreational Quota Entity (RQE) program in Alaska's guided halibut sport fishery and the possibility of increasing halibut available to sport anglers by funding this program through a state-endorsed halibut stamp. Two valuation questions were randomized amongst the survey sample. The questions were designed to elicit willingness to pay (WTP) for a halibut stamp in support of the RQE program under (1) status quo halibut fishing regulations (2) more relaxed charter halibut fishing regulations made possible through revenues from halibut stamp sales. The need for two valuation questions is in response to the many factors that would ultimately determine the degree to which charter fishing regulations could be relaxed and the time needed for regulatory change made possible through revenues from halibut stamp sales. The findings indicate that non-resident anglers and resident anglers have a very similar WTP for a state-endorsed halibut stamp and that anglers are willing to pay for a halibut stamp despite having little or no history of participation in the halibut fishery. The pairwise comparison among mean WTP estimates from both valuation questions indicates that differences in anglers' WTP are inconsequential. Findings suggest that the WTP for a state-endorsed halibut stamp reflects an interest in preserving access to the fishery or the value of reserving an option to participate in the halibut fishery. Respondent education level and employment status were found to be statistically significant determinants of anglers' willingness to pay for a state-endorsed halibut stamp to support the RQE program.
    • The effect of wildfires, spruce bark beetles, and prescribed burns on residential property values in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula

      Reinker, Paul C.; Little, Joseph; Baek, Jungho; Greenberg, Joshua (2019-08)
      This study estimates the effect that forest fires, spruce bark beetle outbreaks, and controlled burns performed by fire management agencies have on nearby residential property values. Using the hedonic pricing framework, and ten years of house sales from south-central Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, this study found little evidence that wildfires and spruce beetle outbreaks have a significant effect on the final sale price of surrounding homes, but found that the controlled burns contribute to a decrease in surrounding home values. As Alaska's climate becomes warmer and drier, these disturbances threaten to increase in frequency and severity. Understanding how homeowners perceive fire risk and forest damage is increasingly important to fire management policy, as the behavior of residents can help limit both the cost from and incidence of wildfires. The study's findings suggest that homeowners are either insulated from, or indifferent to fire risk, but targeted burns of high-risk areas by fire managers could increase awareness and sensitivity to fire risk.
    • Effects of wind energy utilization on long-run fuel consumption in remote Alaska microgrids

      Vaught, Laura K.; Little, Joseph; Baek, Jungho; Pride, Dominique (2019-12)
      This paper presents an empirical analysis of the long-run reduction in diesel fuel consumption driven by wind energy utilization in remote Alaska electrical grids. Models control for other fuel consumption determinants including customer base and transmission and distribution system efficiency. Fourteen rural communities that integrated wind energy into their diesel powered electrical grids are analyzed within a dynamic panel framework using monthly utility data spanning sixteen years, from 2001 to 2017. An auto-regressive distributed lag approach is taken to address cointegration and presence of a unit root in the data. Long-run parameters are estimated for the full dataset as well as for four sub-samples to compare impacts on microgrids with high and low average renewable utilization and with large and small customer bases. Results indicate that fuel consumption is reduced by an estimated 68 gallons on average for each one percent increase in wind energy penetration on the electricity grid. Beyond 30% average penetration, however, additional wind energy generation leads to increased fuel consumption as turbine curtailment methods must be employed to maintain grid stability, indicating that this is a fuel-offset constraint point in low and medium penetration wind-diesel hybrid systems. High penetration-capable wind-diesel systems with energy storage capabilities may allow utilities to increase utilization rates beyond this threshold to capture additional fuel savings and carbon emissions offset.
    • An exploration of own and cross-price elasticity of demand for residential heating in the Fairbanks North Star Borough

      Graham, Noelle J.; Little, Joseph; Baek, Jungho; Kennedy, Camilla (2019-05)
      The purpose of this study is to utilize community level household energy consumption data to determine the short-run own- and cross-price elasticity of heating oil and wood using the proportionally calibrated almost idea demand system model. Elasticity values can identify how residents of the Fairbanks North Star Borough will potentially alter home heating practices in response to a change in home heating oil price. Results indicate that values for own-price elasticity for oil is -0.259, with a 95% confidence interval of [-0.272, -0.246]. Based on predicted values a 1% increase in the price of heating oil is estimated to result in a reduction of 0.259% in the quantity of residential heating oil consumed by the average household. Cross-price elasticity estimates of wood with respect to a change in the price of oil is 0.198 with a 95% confidence interval of [0.171, 0.234]. Based on predicted values, a 1% increase in the price of oil is predicted to increase wood consumption by 0.198%. In addition, this study utilized a Monte Carlo Simulation with estimated elasticity parameters to predict the change in household level energy consumption of wood and heating oil given an increase in heating oil prices. Approximately 71% of households are predicted to decrease overall energy consumption. 83.5% of households are predicted to decrease oil consumption, and 57.3% of houses are predicted to increase wood consumption. Through evaluating household's energy consumption decisions in the face of changing prices, these results can inform effective air quality policies.
    • Hunters like skewness, not risk: evidence of gambling behaviors in the Alaska hunting permit lottery

      Lane, Brock; Little, Joseph; Greenberg, Joshua; Baek, Jungho (2018-05)
      In Alaska, hunting permits are distributed by traditional lottery. The absence of a preference point system means that applicants have little invested in their applications, and there are a variety of fallback hunting opportunities. Not unlike a jackpot-style state lottery, the cost to play is low relative to the potential prize winnings. These factors may cause risk-averse or risk-neutral individuals to exhibit a preference for positive skewness in their bets. Analysis in this paper is focused on four prevalent game species: moose, dall sheep, mountain goat, and bison. Pooled Ordinary Least Squares regression models were constructed to predict permit application levels as a function of various hunt characteristics, qualities, and restrictions. Permit descriptions are provided to applicants in a published document called the drawing supplement, which is the primary source of data for this study. Additional hunter-reported data is obtained from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website. A comparison of calculated permit values and private ranch hunting opportunities validates many of the observations drawn from the models. Permit values are also used to fit a cubic model of bettor utility. Even when awarded prizes are not monetary, applicants exhibit a preference for positive skewness and aversion from risk that is typically associated with gambling.
    • McNeil River State Game Sanctuary permit lottery applicant preferences and marginal willingness to pay for permit application: a best-worst discrete choice experiment

      Young, Taylor B.; Little, Joseph; Baek, Jungho; Greenberg, Joshua (2019-08)
      This study applies data from a web-based survey administered to 2016-2018 McNeil River State Game Sanctuary permit lottery applicants to examine preferences and marginal willingness-to-pay (WTP) for an application contingent upon marginal interval increases among specific attributes of a bear viewing experience. A best-worst discrete choice experiment (BWDCE) was used to elicit respondent data, which consisted of eight individual choice tasks using a Balanced Incomplete Block Design (BIBD) in Sawtooth Software. Each choice task was comprised of five attributes: permit application price, odds of winning a permit, number of bears viewed daily during visit to the Sanctuary, cubs being present, and most common type of bear feeding activity viewed while at the Sanctuary. Each attribute was decomposed into two to four varying levels across choice tasks, depending on the attribute in question. The findings suggest that lottery permit applicants have a significant desire to view bears fishing for salmon, and to see cubs. These results imply a clear desire of applicants to visit the Sanctuary in high season. As expected, respondents also stand to obtain a positive effect on personal utility of increased odds of winning a permit, and to a lesser extent, view a larger number of bears while at the Sanctuary, and therefore have a positive mWTP to both of these characteristics as well. The price coefficient in both the preference parameter utility model and the mWTP model is negative, as expected, but not large in magnitude which may be attributed to the sample being wealthier than average and/or the forgone permit application price is viewed as a wildlife conservation donation. The main model used for analysis is the mixed (random parameters) logit (MXL), and the preference parameters estimated are then used to estimate mWTP in WTP-space using Stata. Results using a multinomial logit (MNL) and conditional logit (CL) are also presented for comparison and affirmation that MXL is better suited for the data in order to allow for preference heterogeneity and random parameters, rather than fixed parameters.
    • On the willingness-to-pay for Elodea removal in the Fairbanks North Star Borough

      Kaczmarski, Jesse I.; Little, Joseph; Greenberg, Joshua; Fix, Peter (2018-05)
      The empirical research conducted herein addresses a public need for the funding of a project that would eradicate Elodea in the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB). The eradication project has been outlined and approved by State and Federal agencies and has gathered funding to begin the eradication process. The study aims to develop a mean willingness-to-pay value for survey participants by shifting the funding burden to property tax payers. This body of work includes a primer on Elodea in the borough, an overview of contingent valuation, a parametric approach to willingness-to-pay, and results of the study conducted on Fairbanks property owners. The average willingness-to-pay per survey respondent is $50.32. In addition, 72% of survey respondents voted for the enactment of the program at their proposed cost level. These financial burdens took values of $10, $30, $60, or $120 per year for 4 years to fund the proposed program. A penalized maximum log-likelihood estimation found that the most significant predictors for the likelihood of a yes vote are the respondent's perceived risk to the ecosystem and recreational opportunities. Additionally, the respondents concern for the use of herbicides in the borough to treat the Elodea infestation is highly significant. The high level of prior knowledge throughout the survey indicates that respondents had established view on Elodea prior to the survey.
    • Up in smoke: exploring the relationship between forest firefighting and subsistence harvest

      Rodrigues, Alyssa V. S.; Little, Joseph; Greenberg, Joshua; Trainor, Sarah; Brinkman, Todd J. (2018-05)
      Wildland firefighting in Alaska is changing due to the impact of climate change on the boreal forest. Changes to the wildland firefighting regime could have significant impacts on community participation during fall subsistence hunting and, consequentially, food security levels. Many rural Alaska communities have mixed cash-subsistence economies in which people have to balance their time between earning an income and harvesting subsistence foods. Cash income is necessary to pay for things such as housing, electricity, gasoline, gun, ammunition, and other capital necessary to engage in subsistence. This dissertation aims to better understand the current relationship between Type 2, or hand crew, wildland firefighting and subsistence, primarily fall subsistence hunting, through several methods. Surveys and interviews were conducted with Type 2 wildland firefighters followed by policy recommendations. Econometric modeling of the wildfire attributes, community attributes, and firefighting wages and dispatches was conducted. Lastly, a food production simulation was conducted. Utilizing these various methods gives a well-rounded understanding of the relationship between firefighting and subsistence. Firefighting wages currently contribute to subsistence harvest productivity. As climate change lengthens the fire season, rural Type 2 fire crews will continue to participate in firefighting and fall subsistence hunting. Only under the most extreme estimates of future wildland fires does time spent fighting fire reduce time spent on subsistence fall hunting by much so that rural communities are unable to meet their subsistence needs.
    • Wildfire in Alaska: the economic role of fuel treatments and homeowner preferences in the wildland urban interface

      Molina, Allen Christopher; Little, Joseph; Drury, Stacy; Baeck, Jungho; Greenberg, Joshua (2019-08)
      The challenges of increased temperatures, drier fuels and more intense wildfires are having a detrimental effect on Alaskans, especially those who live in the wildland urban interface. This area is defined by open wildlands being directly adjacent to homeowners. Human safety and property are exposed to increasing risk from these wildfires as climate-based changes affect the state. The rising costs of suppressing wildfires necessitate exploring potential solutions to minimize the impact on the state population and budget. The purpose of this study is to analyze the feasibility of fuel treatments to reduce suppression costs and provide incentives to private homeowners to create safer property spaces. An electronic survey and choice experiment were administered to 388 Alaskan homeowners to measure willingness-to-pay for different attributes associated with wildfire risk reduction variables, including nearby fuel treatments and overall neighborhood participation. Expenditure data were collected for large Alaskan wildfires between 2007 and 2015. An econometric cost model was developed to estimate the effect of nearby fuel treatments on final wildfire suppression expenditures. In both scenarios, there was a limited effect from public land fuel treatments on homeowner preferences and total suppression costs. Homeowners had a strong preference for thinned fuel treatments but did not prefer clear-cut tracts of land, even when compared to doing nothing at all. The survey provided significant insight into the preferences of Alaskan homeowners, including altruistic behavior, free riding behavior, self-assessment of risk, and the amenity values of surrounding vegetation. The costs of large Alaskan wildfires in the data set was mainly driven by protection level and number of burn days, and not by the presence or potential utilization of fuel treatments.