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Regulatory Remedies to the Common Pool: The Limits to Oil Field Unitization

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  • Gary D. Libecap
  • James L. Smith

Abstract

We examine the potential inability of voluntary unitization to remedy common property losses associated with oil field development. Unlike the traditional literature, we show that if the field contains two (or more) substances that differ in kind (like oil and gas), then it is possible that non-unitized forms of ownership and operation (with conflicted production incentives) may dominate unitized development of the resource. More specifically, it may be impossible to identify any plan of unitized development that is not pareto-dominated by initial endowments or other non-unitized production arrangements which the parties might devise. These results cast the role of the regulatory agency in a new light. Whereas compulsory unitization has tended to be viewed as a uniformly helpful form of outside influence that succeeds by reducing or overcoming the deadweight cost of bargaining, from our perspective it could also be seen as forcing on the parties a "solution" that unavoidably harms one or more of them.

Suggested Citation

  • Gary D. Libecap & James L. Smith, 2001. "Regulatory Remedies to the Common Pool: The Limits to Oil Field Unitization," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 1-26.
  • Handle: RePEc:aen:journl:2001v22-01-a01
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    Cited by:

    1. Andrew B. Ayres & Eric C. Edwards & Gary D. Libecap, 2017. "How Transaction Costs Obstruct Collective Action: Evidence from California’s Groundwater," NBER Working Papers 23382, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Jongwook Kim & Joseph T. Mahoney, 2002. "Resource-based and property rights perspectives on value creation: the case of oil field unitization," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(4-5), pages 225-245.
    3. Lin, C.-Y. Cynthia & Leighty, Wayne, 2007. "Government Leasing Policy and the Multi-Stage Investment Timing Game in Offshore Petroleum Production," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt0x81x3jp, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    4. Gary D. Libecap, 2014. "Addressing Global Environmental Externalities: Transaction Costs Considerations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 52(2), pages 424-479, June.
    5. Osmundsen, Petter, 2002. "Regulation of common property resources under private information about resource externalities," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 349-366, November.
    6. Lin, C.-Y. Cynthia, 2007. "The Multi-Stage Investment Timing Game in Offshore Petroleum Production: Preliminary results from an econometric model," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt70t9n2r3, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    7. Gary D. Libecap, 2018. "Douglass C. North: Transaction Costs, Property Rights, and Economic Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 24585, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Sylvain Rossiaud, 2015. "L’ouverture de l’amont pétrolier à des compagnies privées. Un cadre d’analyse en termes d’économie des coûts de transaction," Post-Print hal-01162793, HAL.

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    JEL classification:

    • F0 - International Economics - - General

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