ESP 162: Environmental Policy -- Syllabus details

Format note for 2022:

After the first week of class online, this will be a live, in-person course. While some videos and other materials are provided online, the course is not a hybrid. Students are expected to attend lecture and lab and are responsible for all  content provided live in these meetings. At times there will be participation credit, which can be excused (see below) but cannot be made up (since interacting live is the point of the credited exercise). TAs and the instructor can help students understand what was missed in live meetings on an infrequent basis (e.g. due to illness) but not on a repeated basis.  


This course will take an economic approach to policy design and assessment.  Most environmental policies involve establishing a goal (e.g. an allowable maximum daily load of pollution in a river) and a method to induce achievement of that goal (e.g. charges for industrial pollution emission).  This course will introduce you to the means economists have developed to accomplish both of these steps as efficiently as possible.  What is the “right” level of pollution or degradation to allow, if any?  Which of many available economic policy tools is preferred under the given environmental and economic system?  I will show you how to answer these questions, to evaluate environmental policy using an economic framework, with an awareness of both the power and limitations of the method. We will cover the relevant analytical tools of economics and explore applications to current policy problems such as climate change, water pollution and invasive species.    

Required resources:

1. Textbook, referred to as "K&O":  N. Keohane and S. Olmstead.  Markets and the Environment, Island Press, Washington, D.C., 2nd Edition, 2016.  The UCD library has an electronic version of the K&O textbook here.

2. Kennedy School case study, which can be purchased on-line (see course schedule).

3. Excerpts from other texts and magazine and journal articles will be made available online linked to the course website.

4. We will be use Excel for various exercises. To download and install Microsoft Office (including Excel) for free for UCD students if you don't have it (or have a very old version) see these instructions.

Optional: Three chapters from a basic textbook (dry but detailed discussion of many of our basic models).

Assignments and grading:

Your final grade will be based on:

Participation  (discussions, experiments, and case studies)  20%
Homework (problem sets)                                                      35%
Midterm                                                                                  20%
Final exam                                                                              25%

Homeworks will consist of problem sets to help you master the basic concepts.  There will be approximately one homework assignment every 2 weeks, due on Canvas at a time specified in the assignment.  Late homework will be accepted up to 24 hours but will have a grade penalty (10%). Homeworks submitted after 24 hours will not receive credit. Problem sets:  
  • Should be completed with enough time to spare so that if you have a problem uploading to Canvas you have time to pursue a backup method (smartphone, personal computer, campus computer, etc).  Technical difficulties and conflicting work/travel schedules are not acceptable excuses for late submission. 
  • May be handwritten or typed.
  • Must be turned in online on Canvas as a single PDF file with all pages in the proper order and orientation.  
  • To create a PDF you have at least three options: (1) complete the assignment in MS Word then print to PDF on your computer; (2) edit the PDF version on your computer (e.g., using text and/or digital pen input), or (3) print the assignment to paper and then scan the finished version to PDF (using campus computing lab scanners or an app like CamScanner - Phone PDF Creator on an Android or Apple device to use the camera to scan to PDF [the app is free on Android and Apple; for multiple sheets in one assignment use Batch Mode]).
  • You are allowed to work on assignments with your classmates, however you must produce your own answers in your own words.  As summarized by the Office of Student Judicial Affairs, "even if the instructor permits collaboration, it is never ethical to copy someone's work or let them copy yours."
  • Problem sets will typically be 10 points each. We will typically grade two questions in depth for 2.5 points each and award the remaining five points based on the completeness of the remaining responses.
  • For some problem sets we will note additional problems to "Read".  These are not assigned and should not be turned in but are strongly suggested for practice and review.

Lab absences and participation:

  • If you are ill and cannot attend a lab for which participation credit is awarded notify your TA by email by 7:45am on the day of the lab and we will exclude that activity from your participation grade.
  • Unearned warm-up and participation credit from lab absences can be excused (e.g. due to illness) but cannot be made up.  This credit is a proxy for informed participation in a group activity or discussion, which cannot be made up outside of lab.
  • Sometimes there will be participation credit for (1) submitting responses online to warm-up exercises and (2) lab attendance.  If you are not present in lab, no credit for the warm-up exercises will be awarded.  The point is to be present and prepared. Being prepared but not present does not warrant partial credit. 
  • Lab absence due to illness will not be excused (as above) more than once during the quarter unless a written verification from a physician or counselor is provided. Such verification is also needed if your first request for an excused lab absence is received after 7:45am on the day of the lab.

Use of course materials:
My lectures and course materials, including PowerPoint presentations, tests, outlines, and similar materials, are protected by U.S. copyright law and by University policy. I am the exclusive owner of the copyright in those materials I create. You may take notes and make copies of course materials for your own use. You may also share those materials with another student who is enrolled in or auditing this course in this quarter. You may not reproduce, distribute or display (post/upload) lecture notes or recordings or course materials in any other way — whether or not a fee is charged — without my express prior written consent. You also may not provide the materials for someone else to do so. If you do so, you may be subject to student conduct proceedings under the UC Davis Code of Academic Conduct.

Academic Integrity:
As a University of California, Davis student, you have agreed to abide by the University's Code of Academic Conduct. It is your responsibility to be familiar with the code. All academic work must meet these standards. Lack of knowledge of the academic honesty policy is not a reasonable explanation for a violation. Questions related to course assignments and the academic honesty policy should be directed to the instructor
. UC Davis Academic Senate policy requires instructors to report any suspected plagiarism to Student Judicial Affairs (SJA).

Special Accommodation:
Please let me know if you have a learning disability, chronic condition, sensory or physical disability or if English is not your first language and you need special assistance in lecture, reading or writing assignments contact. Students needing accommodations because of disability should register with UCD’s Student Disability Center (SDC) and complete the appropriate SDC forms issued before accommodations can be provided. The SDC is located at 54 Cowell Building. They may be reached by phone at (530) 752-3184.

Mental health:

  • If you are feeling especially stressed or just need to talk to someone, you should take advantage of the free counseling services offered on campus.
  • If you’re having a hard time studying efficiently and adjusting to university academic expectations, you should visit the Student Academic Success Center.
  • University is expensive and it can be difficult to make ends meet. If you are living in Davis and having a hard time finding a healthy meal or getting basic necessities, please visit the UC Davis Pantry.