Areas of Expertise (4)
Energy Policy and Climate Change
Electricity Deregulation, Market Formation and Competition
US and International Airline Competition
Oil and Gasoline Market Pricing and Competition
Severin Borenstein is E.T. Grether Professor of Business Administration and Public Policy at the Haas School of Business and faculty director of the Energy Institute at Haas. He is also Director emeritus of the University of California Energy Institute (1994-2014). He received his AB from UC Berkeley and PhD in Economics from MIT. His research focuses on business competition, strategy, and regulation. He has published extensively on the airline industry, the oil and gasoline industries, and electricity markets. His current research projects include the economics of renewable energy, economic policies for reducing greenhouse gases, and alternative models of retail electricity pricing. Borenstein is also a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, MA. He served on the Board of Governors of the California Power Exchange from 1997 to 2003. During 1999-2000, he was a member of the California Attorney General's Gasoline Price Task Force. In 2010-11, Borenstein was a member of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood's Future of Aviation Advisory Committee. In 2012-13, he served on the Emissions Market Assessment Committee, which advised the California Air Resources Board on the operation of California’s Cap and Trade market for greenhouse gases. In 2014, he was appointed to the California Energy Commission’s Petroleum Market Advisory Committee, which he chaired from 2015 until the Committee was dissolved in 2017. Since 2015, he has served on the Advisory Council of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. In 2019, he was appointed to the Governing Board of the California Independent System Operator.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology: PhD, Economics
UC Berkeley: BA, Economics
Honors & Awards (7)
International Association for Energy Economics, Outstanding Contributions to the Profession Award
Distinguished Fellow of the Industrial Organization Society
Distinguished Faculty Mentoring Award (for graduate student mentoring), UC Berkeley
Distinguished Service Award, Public Utility Research Center, University of Florida
Earl F. Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching, Full-Time MBA Program
Michigan Economic Society Undergraduate Teaching Award
National Science Foundation Research Grant #SES-8711576 “Efficiency in the Allocation of Operating Licenses”
1987 – 1990
Selected External Service & Affiliations (9)
- 2019 - present, Member, California ISO Board of Governors
- 2015 – 2017, Chair, Petroleum Market Advisory Committee, California Energy Commission
- 2015 – present, Member, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Advisory Council
- 2012 – 2013, Member, Emissions Market Assessment Committee, California Air Resources Board
- 2010 – 2011, Member, U.S. Department of Transportation, Future of Aviation Advisory Committee
- 1997 – 2003, Member, Governing Board of California Power Exchange Corporation
- 1995 – 2000, Editor, Journal of Industrial Economics
- Past co-editor or editorial board member: Editorial Board Member, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, Journal of Economic Literature, Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, Review of Economics & Statistics, International Journal of Industrial Organization, Journal of Industrial Economics
- 1992 – present, Research associate, National Bureau of Economic Research
Positions Held (1)
At Haas since 1996
2009 – present, E.T. Grether Chair in Business Administration and Public Policy
1996 – present, Professor, Haas School of Business
2009 – 2014, Director, Energy Institute at Haas
1994 – 2014, Director, University of California Energy Institute
1994 – 1996, Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, UC Davis
1990 – 1994, Associate Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, UC Davis
1983 – 1990, Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Department of Economics and Institute of Public Policy Studies, University of Michigan
1978 – 1979, Staff Economist, Office of Economic Analysis, US Civil Aeronautics Board
Media Appearances (15)
Renewables Threaten German Economy & Energy Supply, McKinsey Warns In New Report
Germany is facing energy supply problems in the process of transitioning to renewables. In an earlier interview with Bloomberg, Prof. Severin Borenstein, E.T. Grether Chair in Business Administration and Public Policy and Faculty Director at the Energy Institute at Haas said, “We have to have systems in place to make sure we still have enough generation on the grid -- or else, in the best case, we have a blackout, and in the worst case, we have some kind of grid collapse."
PG&E, SoCal Edison and SDG&E Push to Boost Shareholder Profit
California’s investor-owned utilities are urging state regulators to authorize bigger profits for shareholders who might otherwise be spooked by the utilities’ liabilities from recent wildfires. It's really a battle over rate increases, said Prof. Severin Borenstein, E.T. Grether Chair in Business Administration and Public Policy and Faculty Director at the Energy Institute at Haas. “The rate of return establishes how much revenue they should be allowed to recover. That, in turn, establishes how much they're allowed to charge.”
The Energy 202: Four carmakers spurn Trump over mileage rules. Will others follow?
Washington Post online
Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW have challenged the Trump administration by agreeing to apply stricter fuel-efficiency standards. Prof. Severin Borenstein, E.T. Grether Chair in Business Administration and Public Policy and Faculty Director of the Energy Institute, said the deal will only be effective if it spreads. “The real test will be over the next month or two about which auto companies say they are in,” he said.
California and carmakers reach clean vehicle agreement, rebuking Trump administration
KQED Forum online
Gov. Gavin Newsom and top air regulators today announced an agreement with Ford, Honda, BMW, and Volkswagen on reducing tailpipe emissions. Prof. Severin Borenstein, E.T. Grether Chair in Business Administration and Public Policy and Faculty Director of the Energy Institute, joined a live panel to talk about the national repercussions of this move. "I think it's a very optimistic step back from the direction the Trump administration has been taking," he said.
PG&E's own documents make national headlines
In the wake of devestating wildfires, documents show that PG&E was aware it needed to upgrade old lines, but didn't. "If these reports are accurate, it seems like it rises to the level of negligence and if it's negligence, then I think it's appropriate that PG&E shareholders pay all that they have before anybody else stepped in like the government or ratepayers," said Prof. Severin Borenstein, E.T. Grether Chair in Business Administration and Public Policy.
California, New York racing to cut emissions, but each faces major obstacles
San Francisco Chronicle online
Both California and NYC are racing to the bottom in cutting emissions. But the best outcome of the race may actually be the knowledge and know-how they generate, said Prof. Severin Borenstein, E.T. Grether Chair in Business Administration and Public Policy. That means "learning what works and what doesn’t in two states with very different climates and economic patterns,” Borenstein said. “In some ways, that’s even more important than whether they hit their goals exactly.”
Can American states slow global warming on their own?
The Economist online
When the western stand-off subsides, Oregon may emerge as the latest state to pass ambitious emissions-reductions legislation, in this case a cap-and-trade programme for carbon pollution. New York is poised to approve its own ambitious climate targets—carbon-free electricity by 2040 and a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.
In lobbying battle for electric vehicle tax credit, it's car makers vs. oil and gas industry
Washington Post online
Auto industry and oil and gas lobbies are at loggerheads over the extension of an electric vehicle tax break, and opponents bring up the point that the tax break mostly benefits upper income buyers. A 2015 study by Prof. Severin Borenstein and Assoc. Prof. Lucas Davis found that 90 percent of the credit’s benefits accrue to the top 20 percent of taxpayers.
Contentious Oregon climate plan takes lesson from California's mistakes
Oregon has a chance to learn from California's cap-and-trade program. According to Prof. Severin Borenstein, E.T. Grether Chair in Business Administration and Public Policy, before the 2008 recession, California set its emissions cap too high, thinking the economy would grow faster than it did. "I definitely think Oregon should be doing something different than what California has done," Borenstein said. "Right now, if you ask what is the current cap-and-trade market doing to reduce carbon emissions, I think the answer is not very much."
Gas prices top 4 dollars in the Bay Area
KCBS Radio online
Gas prices are inching up each week and now are over 4 bucks a gallon in most places around the Bay Area. We've heard stories about summer driving season...refineries having a hard time meeting demand...but what is really happening? To find out, KCBS Radio news anchors Jeff Bell and Patti Reising spoke with Severin Borenstein, faculty director at the Energy Institute at U-C Berkeley's Haas School of Business.
PG&E Profits Plummet Amid Bankruptcy, and SEC Probe Adds to Utility's Troubles
Analysts believe the bankruptcy costs reflected in PG&E's latest financial results aren't likely to subside in the near term. "We certainly are not seeing the full impact of the liability that is likely to fall on PG&E from the fires," said Prof. Severin Borenstein, E.T. Grether Chair in Business Administration and Public Policy. "That is going to be manyfold larger than the numbers we're talking about here."
Editorial | The tribulations of California gas prices
Santa Cruz Sentinel online
Higher taxes on gas don't explain why state prices are so high. It was Prof. Severin Borenstein, E.T. Grether Chair in Business Administration and Public Policy, who first IDed a "mystery surcharge” that he estimates has cost consumers $20 billion.
California’s Green Governor Is Puzzled By His State’s High Gas Prices
Climate Change Dispatch online
The blog looks at and quotes from several news reports on high California gas prices and the "mystery surcharge" on fuel first identified by Prof. Severin Borenstein, E.T. Grether Chair in Business Administration and Public Policy.
Steve Forbes: Rich people don't need your money to buy electric cars -- Let's get real about EV tax credits
Fox News online
According to research by Prof. Severin Borenstein, E.T. Grether Chair in Business Administration and Public Policy, and Prof. Lucas Davis, Jeffrey A. Jacobs Distinguished Professor in Business and Technology, for the Energy Institute at Haas, it's Americans in the top 20 percent of income earners that receive on average 90 percent of the federal tax credits for electric vehicles.
Californians want answers on high gas prices — but politicians rarely deliver
San Diego Union-Tribune online
Prof. Severin Borenstein, E.T. Grether Chair in Business Administration and Public Policy, wrote last year about a 22-cents-per-gallon “mystery surcharge” that first appeared in 2015 and which can’t be explained by taxes or environmental regulations. Borenstein believes that price hike alone is costing California drivers at least $4 billion a year.
Selected Papers & Publications (6)
Severin Borenstein, James Bushnell, Frank A. Wolak, and Matthew Zaragoza-Watkins
Severin Borenstein and James Bushnell
Severin Borenstein, James Bushnell, and Frank Wolak
Severin Borenstein and Nancy Rose
Energy and Environmental Markets