Energy Price Jumps, Fat Tails and Climate Policy

Charles F. Mason, Neil A. Wilmot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Many authors who have analyzed key energy prices, such as crude oil and natural gas, have found that these prices exhibit “fat tails”—the feature that large percentage changes occur far more often than would be predicted by a conventional model. These fat tails can arise either because of time-varying volatility or because of rapid, unexpected changes—also known as jumps. Addressing global climate change is likely to require broad-based deployment of new infrastructure. This new infrastructure is likely to be both costly to build and difficult to reverse—suggesting the deployment of new infrastructure is an example of “investment under uncertainty” [1]. In this context, a key concept is the “option value of waiting,” i.e., the potential gain in value that arises from waiting to learn more about the evolution of some key underlying stochastic ingredient, such as a commodity price or the cost of a carbon permit. We argue that this option value of waiting is likely to be increased by the presence of jumps. Assuming there is some urgency in undertaking these investments, the increase in option value of waiting is worrisome and motivates the deployment of a policy intervention that reduces this option value.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)993-1005
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Modeling and Assessment
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 16 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank two referees and the Advisory Editor for constructive feedback, which has improved the presentation of our manuscript. All remaining errors are the authors sole responsibility.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Climate policy
  • Energy prices
  • Fat tails
  • Investment under uncertainty
  • Jumps


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