Modeling Nonrenewable Resources Use with Multiple Demands and Multiple Sources



The theoretical literature following Hotelling (J Polit Econ 39:137–175, 1931) assumed that all nonrenewable resource needs are satisfied by one type of resource (e.g. “oil”), extractible at different per-unit costs. This formulation implicitly assumes that all users are the same distance from each resource pool, that all users can switch costlessly from one type of resource to another (e.g. liquid fossil fuels to coal or vice-versa), and that all users are subject to the same regulations. These assumptions imply, as Herfindahl (Extractive resources and taxation. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp 63–90, 1967) showed, that in competitive equilibrium all users will exhaust a lower-cost resource completely before beginning to extract a higher-cost resource: simultaneous extraction of different grades of oil or of oil and coal should never occur. In trying to apply the single-demand curve model during the last twenty years, several teams of authors have independently found a need to generalize it to account for users differing in their (1) location, (2) resource needs, or (3) regulatory environment. Each research team found that Herfindahl’s strong, unrealistic conclusion disappears in the generalized model; in its place, a weaker Herfindahl result emerges. Since each research team focussed on a different application, however, it has not always been clear that everyone has been describing the same generalized model. The goal in this paper is to integrate the findings of these teams and to present an easily accessible generalization of the nonrenewable resource model to multiple demand curves.


Nonrenewable resources Hotelling model Multiple demands 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and CIREQUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (AREC)University of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Resources for the Future (RFF)WashingtonUSA

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