Author page for Steve Bernow

Steve Bernow

Stephen Bernow was a founding member of the Tellus Institute. His work spanned a wide variety of issues in environment and development with a focus on energy systems and climate change policy. He conducted pioneering research on incorporating environmental externalities into planning and pricing, implementing ecological tax reform, designing sustainable transportation strategies, promoting renewable resources, and modeling climate policy. Before joining Tellus, Dr. Bernow received a PhD in physics from Columbia University in 1970 and taught at the university level.

Tellus Publications (Selected)

The Path to Carbon Dioxide-Free Power: Switching to Clean Energy in the Utility Sector

Steve Bernow, Alison Bailie, B. Castelli, P. O'Connor, J. Romm

To achieve necessary emissions reduction goals, emissions from the power sector, currently responsible for 40 percent of annual US CO2 emissions, must be dramatically reduced. Fortunately, there are technologies available today affecting both electricity consumption and production that could bring about this change. This report examines the policies and measures needed to accelerate the use of those technologies and dramatically reduce US heat-trapping gas emissions by 2020. It explores a broad set of national policies to increase energy efficiency, accelerate the adoption of renewable energy technologies, and shift energy use to more efficient power systems while reducing the electricity bills of consumers and businesses.

An Approach for Better Aligning the Nation's Clean Air and Clean Energy Goals

Alison Bailie, Steve Bernow, William Dougherty

This study considers modifications to the Clean Air Act that would increase the number of emission allowances allocated to renewable energy generation to enable renewables to compete fairly in emission trading and clean air compliance markets, and estimates the economic and environmental benefits of these changes. This analysis provides better understanding of the benefits that would derive from a renewables role in Clean Air Act compliance regimes. The estimated impacts of these modifications are compared with those of other policies, including national renewable portfolio standards (RPS), a tighter cap for sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and trading, modifications to the State Implementation Plans (SIP) for (nitrogen oxides (NOx) trading), multi-pollutant cap/trade, and a combination of multi-pollutant cap/trade and RPS.

Characterization of Criteria Air Pollutant and Greenhouse Gas Emission Factors Associated with Energy Use in the USA: Sources, Assumptions, Methodology

William Dougherty, Alison Bailie, Steve Bernow, Rachel Cleetus, Charles Heaps, Benjamin Runkle

This report characterizes emission factors for both criteria air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions for a variety of processes across the industrial, commercial, residential, transport, and electric sectors. This report is divided into two major parts, one for baseline-based emission factors and the other for measure-based emission factors. Baseline-based emission factors represent average sector-wide emission factors based on the existing and projected equipment vintage, and expected future emission regulations. Measure-based emission factors represent average lifetime emission factors for new technology. The sources, assumptions, and methodology used in characterizing these emission factors are included.

Clean Electricity Options for the Pacific Northwest

Michael Lazarus, David von Hippel, Steve Bernow

This report assesses the efficiency and renewable resources that could be tapped to meet Pacific Northwest electricity needs over the next two decades. The last regional assessment of this type was compiled for the Northwest Power Planning Council's 4th Power Plan in 1994-96. Since then, the landscape of technologies, markets, and policy options has shifted, while growing concerns about electricity price volatility, energy security, and global climate change have increased the value of investments in efficiency and renewable resources.

Managing Risk with Renewable Resources

Steve Bernow, Michael Brower, Maxim Duckworth, P. Spinney

The question of uncertainty and risk in electric utility resource planning has received considerable attention in recent years. One approach to managing risk is for a utility company to invest in diverse power sources such as wind power plants. The authors of this report test this hypothesis by conducting an in-depth analysis of the risk implications of a decision to build a 1600 MW wind power plant instead of a 400 MW gas-fired combined cycle plant. The uncertain inputs included fuel prices, environmental regulations, wind plant output, conventional plant availability, and load growth. This paper examines two different market scenarios: traditional regulation and an unregulated wholesale market characterized either by a power pool or fixed-price contracts of varying duration.

Coal: America's Past, America's Future

Steve Bernow, Michael Lazarus, Sivan Kartha

As this report shows, a coal-focused national energy strategy would be fundamentally misguided. Wearing foggy and myopic lenses, one might perceive the California power crunch, high natural gas prices, and talk of "clean coal" as ample economic and technical justification for more coal. But closer and clearer examination reveals that there is a long way to go before coal will be truly, if ever, clean and an even longer way before such coal would be competitive. Policy efforts to promote coal would threaten to seriously exacerbate pollution, climate change, and health risks and would would render the chances of international accord in tackling global climate change even more remote.

Environmental Tax Shifting in Massachusetts: Taxes That Work for our Environment and the Economy.

Steve Bernow, Rachel Cleetus, Anne Reynolds

This primer describes an innovative approach to tax policy called Environmental Tax Shifting (ETS). The basic idea is that rather than raising revenues by taxing activities that we want to encourage or support like income or savings or labor, we would tax things we want to discourage like pollution or waste or sprawl. This primer elaborates on different ways we could raise the revenues needed in Massachusetts while at the same time protecting the environment and enhancing the economy.

Powering America: Myths vs. Facts in the US Energy and Global Warming Debates

Steve Bernow, Michael Lazarus, Sivan Kartha

This report provides fact-based arguments disproving the current myths of today's "energy crisis." It covers such topics as foreign oil dependency, domestic production of oil, renewable energy, California's energy crisis, and global warming.

Design of Coordinated Energy and Environmental Policies Using Multicriteria Decision Methods

Steve Bernow

Conventional economic modeling tools that depend upon one criterion to select among possible alternatives for inclusion in an energy or environmental policy have many limitations. The use of multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM) methods in an integrated assessment (IA) framework offers a far better alternative to cost/benefit and similar methods. To facilitate understanding of MCDM methods, we offer a typology for this broad class of models, suggest some of the types of problems that may be analyzed with these methods, and recommend the implementation of several MCDM methods in currently evolving IA frameworks.

Originally published in Energy Policy 32, no. 6 (April 2004): 721-725,

Clean Energy: Jobs for America's Future

Alison Bailie, Steve Bernow, William Dougherty, Michael Lazarus, Sivan Kartha

In order to create a responsible, forward-looking energy policy, the United States will need to examine a number of important issues. Will the policy help meet America’s energy needs? Will it enhance national security? Will it contribute to a strong economy? Will it help meet America’s needs for a safe and healthy environment? In order to begin to answer these questions, World Wildlife Fund commissioned the Tellus Institute to consider the potential impacts of implementing a broad suite of clean energy policies over the next twenty years. This study analyzes the employment, macroeconomic, energy, and environmental impacts of implementing such policies.

Technology Learning: Wind Electric Generators, Solar Photovoltaics, and Fuel Cells

Steve Bernow

The purpose of this study is to investigate the empirical basis in recent history for cost reductions for three advanced energy technologies—solar photovoltaics, wind turbines, and fuel cells—and their prospects for further cost reductions. The report presents simple models based on manufacturing output and research and development (R&D) spending for each of these three technologies. Policymakers and modelers can use these tools to help assess policies such as the renewable portfolio standard and R&D subsidies, as well as more general policies such as emission taxes or cap-and-trade systems.

Texas' Global Warming Solutions

Steve Bernow

The economic analyses of America’s Global Warming Solutions indicated that Texas would be the state with the highest net job creation from the national policies evaluated. This report presents a new detailed analysis of the benefits that Texas would derive from those national policies and measures to combat global warming. Many of these policies and measures could be pursued in the state, appropriately tailored to its conditions and institutions, with similar results and benefits for Texas citizens.

Cleaner Generation, Free Riders, and Environmental Integrity: Clean Development Mechanism and the Power Sector

Steve Bernow, Sivan Kartha, Michael Lazarus, Thomas Page

This study provides a first-cut estimate of the potential carbon emissions impacts of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), focusing on new power plants in the power sector of non-Annex 1 countries. We conclude that while the CDM could induce some legitimate lower-emission electricity generation in host countries, it could also give rise to a considerable amount of spurious emissions allowances by crediting non-additional ("free-rider") activities—activities that would have taken place even in the absence of the CDM. We find that under some plausible CDM regimes, the CDM could serve primarily as an instrument for generating spurious credits, and only secondarily as an instrument for economic efficiency or sustainable development.

New England's Global Warming Solutions

Steve Bernow, William Dougherty, Jana Dunbar, Thomas Page

This report presents a new detailed analysis of the energy impacts, carbon and pollutant emissions reductions, and economic benefits in New England of the national policies and measures analyzed in America’s Global Warming Solutions. That study indicated that the region would reap about one sixth of the net national employment created. Now, achieving such benefits by 2010 would require an even more aggressive set and schedule of policies, or else the benefits would occur somewhat later in time. Nonetheless, these results show that a truly aggressive national policy commitment to the problem of climate change could achieve large near-term carbon emissions reductions along with environmental and economic gains.

America's Global Warming Solutions

Steve Bernow, Sivan Kartha, William Dougherty, Karlynn Cory, Maxim Duckworth, Michael Ruth

This study finds that the US could reduce its carbon emissions to its Kyoto target and, indeed, to significantly below that target. Moreover, this can be achieved with overall net savings in the costs of energy and energy-using equipment. These policies and measures yield many other benefits, such as for human and ecosystem health, technological innovation, and job growth. They would also demonstrate clearly to the rest of the world the seriousness with which the US is acting to meet its climate protection responsibilities and, thereby, to help advance the goals of the climate convention.

Putting the Brakes on Sprawl: Innovative Transportation Solutions from the U.S. and Europe

Steve Bernow, D. Gurin, William Dougherty, Anne Reynolds

There is no one formula for reversing the consequences of uncontrolled and unplanned growth, yet there are successful strategies that can help American towns and cities combat sprawl. This report examines some innovative transportation practices in six cities—practices that can lessen sprawl's impact on our neighborhoods and on our environment. The report groups the problems and solutions under three, interrelated themes: (1) relieving traffic congestion, (2) overcoming inaccessibility, and (3) restoring neighborhood quality of life and downtown vitality.

Viewpoint: Economic Theory and Climate Change Policy

Frank Ackerman, Steve Bernow, Irene Peters

What is the appropriate role for economics in the development of climate change policy? Ideally, when formulating public policy, decision-makers should rely on expertise from a variety of disciplines, economics among them. Yet economics is often looked upon as the ultimate arbiter of policy choices, because it seems to offer something the other sciences do not: a theoretical framework capable of valuing the consequences of different policy choices with a single metric. This paper argues that this practice is not legitimate, and that most economic policy assessment models, in their current forms, are biased against non-marginal policy changes such as those required to meaningfully address the challenges of climate change.

A Small Price to Pay: US Action to Curb Global Warming is Feasible and Affordable

Steve Bernow

This report debunks arguments about the difficulty and costs of compliance with the Kyoto Protocol. Tellus Institute and the Union of Concerned Scientists surveyed and compared a series of studies from the past ten years that examine the future prospects for energy-efficient and low-carbon fuel technologies. According to such studies, great technological potential exists for the United States to significantly reduce its carbon dioxide emissions. In many cases, the resulting savings on energy bills from the use of more efficient measures would outweigh the cost of implementing those measures. Moreover, the same measures that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions would also yield other significant environmental and public health benefits.

A Pragmatic CGE Model for Assessing the Influence of Model Structure and Assumptions in Climate Change Policy Analysis

Steve Bernow, Alex Rudkevich, Irene Peters, Michael Ruth

This report presents a simple pragmatic CGE model with an emphasis on industrial energy use. The purpose of the model is to serve as a tool for the exploration of model structure and assumptions. The motivation for this work was the fact that economic modeling studies influence the debate on the merits of climate change abatement studies and are consulted by policymakers seeking guidance. These studies assess the effectiveness and merits of policy options based on simulations of energy policies with energy-economic models. Policymakers, analysts, stakeholders, and the interested public should understand the strengths and weaknesses of the models and assumptions employed in such studies so that they can use them constructively.

An Evaluation of Integrated Climate Protection Policies for the US

Steve Bernow, Maxim Duckworth

This paper presents and discusses an integrated set of policies designed to reduce US carbon emissions over the next four decades. This innovation path also aims to promote environmental quality, particularly by reducing emissions of criteria air pollutants, to reduce US dependence on imported oil, and to induce technological innovation and diffusion in energy production and consumption. In addition to such environmental benefits, such a path would lead to net savings and substantial job growth.

Originally published in Ecology and Society 2, no. 2 (1998): 1-17.

Energy Innovations: A Prosperous Path to a Clean Environment

Steve Bernow

This study analyzes a balanced national strategy that can put the United States on an innovative, prosperous path leading to an economically and environmentally sustainable energy future. This strategy, referred to as the “Innovation Path,” is marked by a set of programs and policies that would guide our economy toward lower cost, less polluting, more secure, and more sustainable ways of producing and using energy. The approach involves setting fair performance standards, creating incentives, providing better information, and reducing transaction costs in order to foster investments in clean and efficient technologies.

Strategies for Reducing Energy Consumption in the Texas Transportation Sector

M. Eurott, Steve Bernow, Mark Fulmer, Irene Peters

Texas is the nation’s highest energy consumer and its highest emitter of carbon dioxide, and the state’s contribution to global climate stabilization and local environmental quality will require a re-examination of its transportation system. In this study, four alternative scenarios were constructed, reflecting different energy strategies that Texas could pursue to address these issues. These scenarios suggest that only if very aggressive policies are adopted—such as those modeled in the Visionary Scenario—will transport energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in Texas stabilize, let alone decline.

Modeling Carbon Reduction Policies in the U.S. Electric Sector

Steve Bernow

The U.S. electric sector contributes about 35 percent to the nation's total annual carbon dioxide emissions. Modeling climate change policies in the electric sector, however, poses a number of challenges. This report uses PCNEMS (1995 Version), a computer model constructed and applied by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), and ancillary analyses to assess several policies designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in this sector, including extension of EPACT renewables credits, system benefits charges for sustained orderly development of renewables, carbon taxes and caps, accelerated deployment of new technologies, and incentive financing.

Environmental Sustainability as a Goal in Resource Planning and Policy

Steve Bernow, Bruce Biewald

Resource planning and policy must consider impacts on the quality of our environment. Economic theory offers both a basis for environmental policy—the allocation of resources based upon individuals’ willingness to pay—and instruments for achieving policy goals, for example emissions taxes and pollution trading systems. This paper points out some of the shortcomings of an economic-based approach, particularly when used as the basis for environmental policy. It calls for a shift to an approach in which sustainability is emphasized.

From Social Costing to Sustainable Development: Beyond the Economic Paradigm

Steve Bernow, Bruce Biewald, Paul Raskin

Recent years have been characterized by a major transition in public policy regarding economics, the environment, and human well-being—particularly, the application of economic principles to environmental policy and the insertion of ecological principles into economic affairs. This article explores the evolutionary character of this transition and the contention in which it is often embroiled, such as debates over externalities valuation, discounting, and monetization. It then describes the PoleStar project and how it addresses the complex social, economic, and ecological interactions that will underpin human development in the twenty-first century.

Originally published in Olav Homeyer and Richard Ottinger, eds., Social Costs of Energy: Present Status and Future Trends (New York: Springer, 1994), 373-404.