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David Spence - The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business. Austin, TX, US

David Spence David Spence

Professor, Department of Business, Government and Society | The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business


Business and public policy, business law and regulation, energy and the environment


Areas of Expertise (11)

Corporate Social Responsibility Sustainability Renewable Energy Climate Change Business Ethics Government Regulation of Business Business Law Energy Policy and Law Environmental Policy and Law Fracking Green Policies


David Spence is an educator, attorney, and expert speaker on business and governmental relations and regulation, particularly energy and environmental regulation, including topics such as the hydraulic fracturing debate. He studies and speaks on topics of ethics and corporate social responsibility, business law, and environmental law.

Spence is a professor in the business, government and society department at the McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin, and he teaches energy law at the UT School of Law.

He has taught as a visitor at the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment, the Vanderbilt Law School, the Cornell Law School, Harvard Law School, IMADEC University in Vienna, Austria, and the Bren School of the Environment at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Spence is a prominent researcher published in numerous top tier legal journals including the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Texas Law Review, and the California Law Review. He has also published in peer-reviewed journals, including the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, and the Public Administration Review. He is co-director for regulation and policy, the Energy Management & Information Center, and is on the board of advisors of Ethics Unwrapped.

His public outreach includes expert commentary and op-eds in the Houston Chronicle, UT Law Grid Commentary, Dallas Morning News, San Francisco Chronicle, Austin American-Statesman, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Spence has earned the CIBER Award for the best "internationalized" course for Energy Law, and is a frequent winner of the McCombs School MBA Teaching Honor Roll.



David Spence Publication



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Power Sector Panel Alumni Business Conference 2011 -  David Spence New Expectations for Corporate Social Responsibility


Education (3)

Duke University: Ph.D., Political Science 1997

University of North Carolina School of Law: J.D., Law 1984

Chapel Hill, NC

Gettysburg College: B.Sc., History 1980

Magna Cum Laude. Honoraries: Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Lambda Sigma, Phi Alpha Theta.

Media Appearances (20)

Op-Ed: The Dash to Become Green

Psychology Today  online


In the race to build a greener electricity supply, some states are moving faster than others, according to McCombs Professor David Spence.

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Op-Ed: Politics Once Again Stands in the Way of Sensible Energy Solutions

Dallas Morning News  online


In energy policy, political polarization often gets in the way of common-sense solutions to problems, according to McCombs Professor David Spence.

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When It Comes to Retail Energy, Florida is No Competitor

Pensacola News Journal  online

David Spence, a professor at The University of Texas at Austin's McCombs School of Business and School of Law, concurred to an extent. Spence, who co-authored the energy law casebook "Energy, Economics and the Environment," said in the long term, competitors' desire to win customers creates less price certainty. Instability in retail sales could then trickle down to the companies generating electricity and discourage plant owners from building new generation sources or from being readily available.

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Could A Push To Export Texas' Renewable Energy Be Getting A Second Wind?

KUT  online


“It’s the market,” said David Spence, who teaches energy regulation at UT-Austin's School of Law. “We’re still seeing a demand for renewable energy from consumers and particularly businesses.”

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Wind Energy Takes Flight In The Heart Of Texas Oil Country

NPR  online


That's not the most conservative position in the world, says David Spence, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who specializes in energy and the environment. "It's a full socialization of the costs," Spence says. "We don't use that word in the public discussion. But, yeah, we socialize the costs across all Texas ratepayers."

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What Energy Producers Need to Know About Trump's SCOTUS Pick

Law.com  online


David Spence, a professor at University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business and School of Law, agreed that the Clean Power Plan litigation could be the first significant case related to energy and the environment that Gorsuch would face if confirmed.

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The Legal Battle to Uncover What Exxon Mobil Knew About Climate Change

KWBU - Radio  radio


“The fraud cases are really about people being harmed by climate change and Exxon Mobil’s product being part of that process at the same time that they're essentially arguing that the science is not valid,” said David Spence, professor of environmental regulation at UT Austin.

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How Trump's EPA Pick, Scott Pruitt, Has Favored State Over Federal Authority on the Environment

ABC News  online


David Spence, a professor of law, politics and regulation at the University of Texas at Austin, told ABC News that Pruitt, as a pro-energy sector lawyer, would most likely attempt to first weaken federal air pollution laws, which he said energy companies believe have become more stringent under the Obama administration.

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Poll Finds Millennials More Concerned About Energy and the Environment

The Daily Texan  online


Although energy and environmental issues are still mainly partisan among older Americans, younger voters are overall more concerned about climate change, according to a UT survey. “Support for the notion that climate change is happening and driven by humans has always been higher among younger people than older people,” Spence said. “You see that split particularly among Republicans and conservatives.”

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Texas Power Players Sit Out Political Opposition To Clean Power Plan

NPR  online


"It's a contradiction," says David Spence, a professor of energy regulation at UT Austin. "It seems as though political ideology is driving a lot of the positions being taken by states and state institutions ... because clearly Texas will sell a lot of natural gas to a lot of power plants all over the country, who will be generating more often because of the Clean Power Plan, yet we are opposing the Clean Power Plan."

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In Energy Politics, Simple Wins, But Simple is Usually Wrong

HuffPost Politics  online


Nationally, fracking has made natural gas cheap, and so we are burning less coal (and killing fewer people) — for now. But make no mistake: Coal is not dead, despite what you might have heard, says McCombs Professor David Spence.

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The Clean Power Plan: Let the Litigation Games Begin

Huffington Post  online


Although a good, sound policy, the president's Clean Power Plan -- the rule regulating greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants -- will unleash a torrent of litigation rivaling that following the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Most major environmental rules generate legal challenges, but there are three reasons why this one will generate a litigation tsunami.

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Historic Clean Power Plan To Impact Texas

KEYE  tv


“So because of that opportunity to switch Texas is being required to do more than average share of the reduction,” said David Spence, law and regulation professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Spence said despite this downfall, the plan will produce more jobs in Texas.

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In Texas, an Unlikely Battleground Over Frackiing

The Wall Street Journal  print


“I expect to see lots of these” clashes, says David Spence, a professor of law and business at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Why Lower Crude Prices Are Good for the Oil Industry

Houston Chronicle  online


David Spence, a professor of law, politics and regulation at the University of Texas at Austin's Energy Institute, reminded me that despite recent sustained prices of $100 a barrel, prices are still high.

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Cuomo's No-Decision Approach to Energy and the Environment

Capital  online


“Politically it seems to be a fairly tried-and-true strategy, especially if you have presidential ambitions—you don't make decisions that can come back to haunt you,” said Spence.

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Can Your Town Ban Fracking? Depends on the State

The Christian Science Monitor  print


“These bans are springing up all over the place,” says David Spence, a professor of law, politics, and regulation at the University of Texas at Austin, in a telephone interview Friday.

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North Carolina Senate Votes to Make Disclosure of Fracking Chemicals Illegal

Insurance Journal  online


U.S. public opinion is divided on fracking, with hundreds of local jurisdictions banning it, said Spence. Opting to punish disclosure of information could fuel people’s fears.

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Why America’s power grid needs natural gas now more than ever

Fortune  online


Now that the Obama administration has finalized its Clean Power Plan regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the power sector, the focus of attention turns to the states, which must now find a way to reduce emissions consistent with the Plan. One question states face as they envision a lower carbon future is how much to rely on natural gas-fired generation.

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Another fracking boom to beget another fracking bust; or will it?

The Hill  online


Employers and community leaders in Midland, Texas are in a scramble to keep essential services operating as restaurant workers and school bus drivers are leaving their jobs for much more lucrative work in the oil patch.

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Articles (11)

David B. Spence Citations Google Scholar

Listing of top scholarly works by David B. Spence.

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U.S. Climate Policy and the Regional Economics of Electricity Generation Energy Policy


Our results provide new insights into the competitive barrier that low gas prices represent for renewables, the superior efficacy of carbon taxes (even at low rates) over RPSs, and the singular competitive advantage renewables enjoy by virtue of having near zero marginal costs.

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Naive Energy Markets Notre Dame Law Review


This Article uses contemporary energy policy disputes to illustrate how and why energy markets can never resemble the idealized markets of economic theory that have become so popular in conservative policy discourse.

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The Regulatory Contract in the Marketplace Vanderbilt Law Review


This Article examines how piecemeal pursuit of two energy visions has produced mismatches between rapidly evolving markets and governance institutions that cannot change as quickly. To better evaluate these mismatches, the Article develops a framework that accounts not just for market operation and environmental externalities, but also the technical constraints of grid operation and electricity fuels.

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Old Statutes, New Problems University of Pennsylvania Law Review


Congress is more ideologically polarized now than at any time in the modern regulatory era, which makes legislation ever harder to pass. One of the consequences of this congressional dysfunction is a reduced probability that Congress will update regulatory legislation in response to significant new economic, scientific, or technological developments. This predicament, we argue here, has important implications for the federal agencies charged
with implementing statutes over time and for courts adjudicating challenges to agency statutory implementation.

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The Political Economy of Local Vetoes Texas Law Review


This analysis will consider the many and varied effects of fracking in terms of costs and benefits: not to quantify them or to suggest that they ought to be quantified but rather as a way of exploring how the distribution of impacts disposes people toward or against shale oil and gas production.

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Responsible Shale Gas Production: Moral Outrage Vs. Cool Analysis Fordham Environmental Law Review


A look at the political conflict surrounding shale gas production.

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Federalism, Regulatory Lags, and the Political Economy of Energy Production University of Pennsylvania Law Review


This article takes a policy-neutral approach to the federalism questions at the center of the shale gas production controversy.

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Sarbanes-Oxley As Quack Corporate Governance: How Wise Is the Received Wisdom Georgetown Law Journal


This article demonstrates that the current dominant view that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) is wholly unsupported by the academic literature is misguided.

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The Shadow of the Rational Polluter: Rethinking the Role of Rational Actor Models in Environmental Law California Law Review


Examining the debate between the traditional view that environmental regulators must deter pollution through the imposition of fines and penalties, and the view that regulatory systems are overly complex and unnecessarily punitive.

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The Law, Economics, and Politics of Federal Preemption Jurisprudence: A Quantitative Analysis California Law Review


Federal preemption case law under the Supremacy Clause and dormant Commerce Clause has been marked by a high degree of conflict and controversy.

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