Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series

World-class insights helping to inform and shape public
policy on earth resources, energy, and the environment


The Payne Scholars program gives students the opportunity to perform research, collaborate across campus and engage with a broad network of international experts on global policy challenges. 

Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series Spring 2024


Payne Institute student researcher Edikan Udofia writes about Nigeria is endowed with more than 2 billion metric tons of iron ore reserves and is striving to position itself as a key player in the worldwide steel sector. Despite encountering challenges in the past regarding enhancing its steel manufacturing capabilities, Nigeria is currently well-placed to harness its abundant mineral wealth and enhance its steel production capacity. February 29, 2024. 

Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series Spring 2023

Renewable Energy in Africa: Kenya’s Success and its Possible Implementation in Angola

Payne Institute student researcher Yara Alexandra Lima writes about how Africa represents some of the world’s largest reserves of both renewable and non-renewable energy sources, however, it accounts for half of the world’s power deficit. Many African countries are working towards developing their energy sector and, consequently, improving their economic, social, and political framework.  This paper will discuss the key strategies employed by Kenya to develop its energy sector and increase its electrification rate, and the possibility of applying these policies in other African countries, namely Angola. July 6, 2023.

China’s Consolidation of Rare Earth Elements Sector 

Payne Institute student researcher Tinzar Htun writes about how today China is the biggest global supplier of rare earth elements (REEs), accounting for around 70 percent of global mine production (1.2 million tons) in 2022. More importantly, China holds the dominant role in the downstream process of REE, separating and processing. The partial shutdown of the Lynas facility in Malaysia will grant China near-exclusive control over the production and distribution of REEs in the global market.  May 12, 2023.

Applying Post-Quantum Cryptography – Survey and Application of Machine Learning

Payne Institute student researcher Mack Osborne writes about how quantum computing poses a considerable threat in the world of cyber security. Policy makers are largely unprepared for a post-quantum world, significantly due to a lack of understanding and awareness. The goal of this paper is to improve understanding and provide a new and effective way to analyze post-quantum cryptography, for researchers and security engineers alike.  April 26, 2023.

Critical Mineral Mining and Sustainable Development in Africa

Payne Institute student researcher Mama Nissi Abanga Abugnaba writes about how as a continent with abundant natural resources, such as large reserves of vital minerals, Africa could play a critical role in facilitating the energy transition. This will be possible through a just energy transition that supports the retention of jobs, social aid for affected workers, upskilling of current employees, environmental restoration, and the development of local businesses.  April 10, 2023.


Master of Public Policy, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago student researcher Christian Gaona writes about how the demand for minerals has increased with the growing production of standard technologies, such as EV car batteries, wind turbines, and solar panels. However, major mining companies need help to satisfy the demand at the current rate, leading to inconsistent and expensive supply chains and environmental and geopolitical concerns. Technology companies should consider backward vertical integration strategies to mitigate against risks associated with supply chain issues, which would merge upstream processes essential to companies’ value chains.This article explores how tech companies are best suited to provide the capital and skill sets to overcome the risks associated with mineral extraction and ensure a cleaner, sustainable energy future.  March 9, 2023.


Payne Institute student researcher Hassan Al Hassan writes about how there remain considerable uncertainties surrounding critical mineral supply chains, and their relationship to energy transitions and energy security. There is clear evidence that they will play an increasing role, but the pathways to the future are unclear.  As we strive for answers, one clear area to look is in recycling and circular economy concepts. February 16, 2023.

Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series Fall 2022


Payne Institute student researcher Wyatt Lindsey and Faculty Fellow Jim Crompton write about how in the DJ Basin in Colorado, there has been a collision of industry activities and community development due to the “mini-boom” of O&G development, stemming from hydraulic fracking of the Niobrara Formation and the growing population along the Front Range. After the O&G industry was challenged by regulatory agencies and environmental activists that many traditional practices were no longer going to be accepted, operators had to make a greater effort towards new forms of proactive community and local government engagement to prevent permit delays and operational downtime.  October 27, 2022.

Repurposing Abandoned Mine Lands and the Clean Energy Transition

Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student researcher Peyton Sanders writes about how thousands of abandoned mines across the US are now becoming potential sites for clean energy projects and revitalized communities. The DOE’s Clean Energy Demonstrations on Current and Former Mine Land Program aims to boost the economies of the traditional fossil fuel communities and expand clean electricity capacity by demonstrating up to 5 clean energy developments on abandoned lands. Replication across the country could generate up to 89 gigawatts of additional power for American homes. This will not only give back to communities that powered the country for generations before, but to also allow them to play a significant role in the energy transition moving forward.  October 4, 2022. 

Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series Spring 2022

Critical Minerals and Security: A Look at Gallium

Payne Institute Advanced Energy Systems student Peyton Sanders writes about how gallium plays a vital role in the development of critical defense and energy technologies, and demand is growing. The US is entirely dependent for its gallium needs on imports from countries such as China – raising concerns around supply chain security.  Before being recognized as a strategic critical metal during the mid-twentieth century, Gallium was most often used in high temperature thermometry, barometers, and heat transfer systems. This soft, silvery metal was attractive due to having one of the largest liquid-state ranges of any metal and a very low vapor pressure, but its low reactivity and low toxicity are what made it the safer, more environmentally friendly option compared to similarly performing elements. As a result, the US Department of Defense has since committed to $30 million in funding to break free from strategic mineral reliance on China.  July 5, 2022. 

Metal Market Analysis: An Empirical Model for Copper Supply and Demand

Payne Institute student Sayeh Shojaeinia writes about how copper is expected to play a big role in the global move to renewable energy over the next decade, as solar, wind, and electric vehicles increase. Understanding the metal market and forecasting price changes can help players plan for future changes in supply and demand. Developing dynamic models of demand and supply requires considering price elasticity. In static prediction models, price elasticity is ignored, and the future quantity demanded is predicted without taking into consideration the relationship between price and quantity. A framework is proposed to determine the price elasticity of supply and demand of copper from 1990 to 2020 using production, consumption, and price data. The presented results show that both supply and demand price elasticities in the copper market are small but statistically significant. In this situation, rather than no change in price, there would be a small change in price, and thus, a small change in quantity demanded. June 29, 2022.

The Solar Investment Tax Credit: Inequitable Distribution to Low-and-Moderate-Income Residents

Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student Lyle Vaz writes about how decarbonizing the electric grid has been a key effort in trying to prevent the worst impacts of anthropogenic climate change. The traditional centralized power grid of the past has seen an increasing replacement of fossil fuel-based power plants with generation from renewable energy (RE) sources. While improvement in PV technology and the corresponding decline in costs are the main reasons for this growth in the utility-scale PV space, residential projects suffer because of relatively high upfront capital costs to the stakeholder (homeowner, with much lower income than corporations), and the federal incentive that applies here, the solar investment tax credit (ITC), is scheduled to expire starting in 2024 . May 26, 2022.

Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act: An Assessment on the Path Forward for Energy

Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student Jasey Diaz writes about how after the devastation of Hurricane Maria, the unreliable, unstainable, and unaffordable energy system and utility of Puerto Rico was truly highlighted. This gave way to the Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act in April 2019. This act provides the means to establish an effective programming that allows for the setting of clear parameters and goals for energy efficiency, meeting the Renewable Portfolio Standard, the interconnection of distributed generators and microgrids, wheeling, and management of electricity demand. Thus far, the utility in power has been dissolved and a new management put into place. However, it appears that it is all that has been accomplished.  May 24, 2022.

Is the Army’s New Climate Strategy Economically Feasible?

Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student Jeffrey A. Ginther writes about how as climate change affects weather patterns and triggers extreme weather events around the world, the United States Army has responded to provide stability to unstable regions as well as humanitarian and disaster relief operations. As one of the world’s largest emitters, the U.S. Army is part of the cause for these events. That is partly why the U.S. Army has sought to decrease emissions through the development of the Army Climate Strategy. This paper discusses the objectives and possible methods of the Army Climate Strategy to determine if the new strategy to defeat climate change is feasible or just a gimmick to draw the world’s attention away from such a major emitter.  May 19, 2022.

Offshore Wind in the United States: An Analysis of President Biden’s 30 GW by 2030 Goal

Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student Tina Ortega writes about how the introduction of offshore wind energy in the United States is an important step in achieving long-term clean energy goals and reducing the reliance of imported energy. One study shows that installing 86 Gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2050 can reduce cumulative greenhouse gasses by 1.8%, reduce water consumption in the energy sector by 5%, and support approximately 160,000 jobs throughout the country (Gilman et al., 2016). The advantages of offshore wind compared to onshore wind are plentiful.  May 13, 2022.

Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series Fall 2021

How Recycling Critical Minerals Can Ensure a Future for Lithium-Ion Batteries

Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student Karlyle Munz writes about how new policies are needed in order to ensure long-term availability of the critical minerals and metals involved in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries. The utilization rates of these minerals have increased exponentially in the recent past and further shortages in critical minerals could stunt growth in hundreds of industries. The main critical minerals discussed in this paper are those involved in the construction of the now ubiquitous, lithium-ion battery. Many roadblocks exist in the current recycling process that prevent the general public and large manufacturers from properly disposing of these batteries and devices including a lack of incentives for following recycling procedures.  April 21, 2022.

Colorado’s Adherence to Its Energy Goals: Assessing the Potential Impacts of Recently Enacted Energy Policies

Payne Institute student Jacob Cordell writes about how a combined partnership between government, industry and citizens is needed to adequately address the inequities in current energy infrastructure while continuing to increase employment and transition to a lower emissions future. February 23, 2022.

Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series Spring 2021

Negative Effects of COVID-19 on the U.S. Oil Industry: How can Demand-Side Policies Help?

Payne Institute student Chuxuan Sun writes about how the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a heavy toll on the oil and gas industry. This paper presents the negative effects of the pandemic on oil supply and demand, and argues that to mitigate those effects on the oil industry, a macroeconomic approach should be taken. The paper also argues that the supply shocks are unique Keynesian supply shocks: it induces a larger change in aggregate demand than the supply shocks of oil themselves. June 18, 2021. 

Imperative New Leadership: China’s Rising Role in the War Against Climate Change

Payne Institute student George Goldade writes about how following the Paris Climate Accords and several other global commitments to face climate change, Xi Jinping, the president of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), announced in September of 2020 that the PRC was committing to be carbon neutral by 2060. Foreshadowed by China’s accelerated growth industrially, economically, and politically throughout the last half century, China is now the largest consumer of energy and highest carbon emitter worldwide. This paper explores China’s role in the fight against climate change economically and politically, and consequently discusses the necessity of commitment and leadership from China in order to combat and conquer climate change. June 17, 2021. 

Opportunities and Constraints: Can the U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Transition Their Capital Expenditures Away from Fossil Fuels?

Payne Institute student Deniz Ege Boz writes about how radical curtailment of carbon-based fossil fuels as the primary source in the production, and consumption of energy is required to attain sufficient greenhouse gas emission reductions in the foreseeable future, and keep global warming below 1.5°C. Achieving this goal requires proactive efforts from all stakeholders, the government, energy companies, and consumers. This paper reviews the literature on the interactions among technological systems to identify opportunities, constraints, and policy implications for transitioning the capital expenditures of the U.S. oil and gas industry to technologies with lower carbon intensity, and discusses some alternative solutions. June 17, 2021. 

The Role of Policies in Reducing Commercial Vehicles’ Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Payne Institute student Jade Glaister writes about how with a great need for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, it is critical to target the sources most contributing to the problem. Commercial vehicles, due to their heavy-duty trucks and longer distances, stand out in transportation as one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. This paper analyzes the policies created to reduce the carbon footprint of commercial vehicles as well as investigates the potential for more policies to be developed on the topic. June 16, 2021. 

Using Transmission and Distribution Policy to Support Renewable Energy Deployment in the US: A Systems Approach to Accelerate Decarbonization

Payne Student Scholar and NREP student Tara Pelton writes about how in the United States, electric transmission infrastructure and policy are stalling decarbonization and limiting grid optimization. As renewable energy deployment and consumption continue to grow in the US, the need for an efficient, equitable, and resilient transmission system has only becomes timelier and more significant. This paper considers how the US could quicken decarbonization by enacting and building upon transmission policy that supports hybrid and place-based deployment strategies. The two policies proposed in this paper aim to address shortcomings in current transmission and distribution regulations and compliment recently proposed federal plans to ultimately increase grid resiliency.  June 15, 2021. 

Development of Community Solar Index (CSI) To Maximize Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) Population Participation In Community Solar Projects

Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student Amogh Thatte writes about how a community shared solar system is a solar-electric system that provides power and financial benefits to its subscribers. Recently, constant steady growth in installed shared solar capacity but abysmal participation from the low-to-moderate income (LMI) community has alarmed the researchers about the execution of the community solar. The literature review highlights a need for a specific quantitative metric that would combine technical, social, and economic aspects of community solar development. This paper formulates the community solar index (CSI) based on the location-specific net-zero PV panel size, the LMI population, and annual savings from solar energy. The CSI helps us maintain the focus on energy justice by identifying high-impact states whose LMI population would benefit the most from installing community solar. May 26, 2021.

California’s Valiant Attempt to Address Resiliency through Microgrid Commercialization Falls Short

Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student Emily E. McDonald writes about how recently, the interplay between extreme weather events and the US electric grid has taken center stage. This past summer, California utilities instituted rolling blackouts to fight wildfires caused by downed electric lines. These events have brought to light the need for a more resilient electricity grid that can provide power when demand sky-rockets, supply is removed, and transmission lines cannot carry power. A new microgrid plan approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in January aims to address resiliency through commercialization of renewable energy microgrids. While this is a good first step toward rapid commercialization, the focus of this policy is too narrow; It incentivizes only utilities to build microgrids through financial schemes that do not adequately address high economic and regulatory barriers to entry. March 12, 2021.

The Success of FERC Order 2222 Lies in the Hands of Grid Operators

Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student Jesse Dugan writes about how on September 17th, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued Order 2222, which aims to remove barriers to the participation of distributed energy resource (DER) aggregations in wholesale power markets. Heralded as a “game-changer,” a “landmark action” and “the most significant order the Commission has ever issued” by experts in the field, Order 2222 has the potential to help make the grid more resilient, sustainable, and affordable. However, issuing the order is not enough to guarantee that it will achieve its goals; that depends on how grid operators decide to implement it, and how the market responds. March 10, 2021.

Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program

Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student Austin Kinzer writes about the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) incentive program that is designed to achieve policy goals of social equity, efficient siting, and effective grid integration by incentivizing specific land-use, offtaker, and system design characteristics. A closer look at the systems operating under the SMART incentive with data from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) reveals that the effectiveness of these incentives is variable and policy changes may be necessary to achieve desired outcomes, particularly for low-income communities.  March 4, 2021.

Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series Fall 2020

Tribal Landscapes and the Energy Transition: Approaches to Supporting Renewable Infrastructure Projects in Indigenous Communities

Payne Student Scholar Jocelyn Johnson writes about how renewable energy will be a crucial part of the United States’ response to climate change. Tribal lands are considered ideal locations for renewable infrastructure projects, but tribes cannot realize the full potential power generation on these lands without proper funding and educational opportunities, in addition to the willingness of the U.S. government and utility companies to relinquish some of their power.  This report explores the historical context of energy production on Indigenous lands and discusses how the United States can lead the way to recognizing tribal sovereignty and begin healing historic wounds inflicted by the fossil fuel industry during the energy transition.  March 10, 2021.   

Implementing a Carbon Tax in the United States to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Payne Student Scholar Torre Brown writes about how in support of the current fight against global climate change, over forty countries around the world have already implemented a tax on carbon emissions in some capacity. The United States as a whole is not one of these forty countries despite being one of the largest contributors to global carbon emissions. This paper analyzes what some approaches to a country-wide implementation of carbon tax could be in the United States, and evaluates their potential success economically, socially, and in terms of overall carbon reduction.  March 10, 2021.   

Energy Subsidy Reform: Social Implications & Public Acceptance

Payne Student Scholar Nina Guizzetti writes about how countries all over the world have begun to alter or eliminate their subsidies on oil and gas. While there are many motivations for this change, they most often stem from a fiscal and environmental standpoint.  Once these subsidies are altered or eliminated, low income households are put at risk. The objective of this paper is to examine the social implications of subsidy reform in order to determine the factors that influence public acceptance of subsidy reform.  March 9, 2021.   

Development of Electric Vehicle Battery Supply 

Payne Student Scholar Kylee Shiekh writes about how as the demand for electric vehicles grows, so does the role that lithium-ion batteries play in the market for electric vehicles. The lithium-ion battery takes a significant portion of the cost and range capability of the vehicle. It is becoming increasingly important for vehicle manufacturers to create secure and reliable supply chains for batteries. There are a range of approaches being pursued including vertically integrated supply chains, partnering between vehicle manufacturers and battery manufactures, as well as securing direct supply from mining companies for materials. March 2, 2021. 

A Proposal to the Argentinian Government: The Implications of Expanding the Renewable Energy Sector

Payne Student Scholar Camila Garcia-Ferreyra writes about how as a third world country, Argentina would greatly benefit from renewable energy. Various lecture series as well as many scholarly and popular articles support this idea. As countries continue to develop, it is essential to provide a reliable stream of energy. Even more so, encouraging renewable energy can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which is ideal for combating climate change.  March 2, 2021.

Influence of Carbon Capture and Storage in the Brazilian Oil and Gas Industry

Payne Student Scholar and NREP student Chiang Cheng Siew writes about how in recent years, climate change and global warming have spurred efforts in a global scale to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through carbon capture and storage (CCS). In this paper, the implementation and development of CCS in the oil and gas industry in Brazil was discussed in terms of the developing technologies, energy operations, policies, and challenges faced by the Brazilian national government and Petrobras. The Brazilian economy relies on extractive industries (oil, gas, timber, and mining) and agribusiness activities, and this current economic model jeopardizes Brazil’s energy and climate security.  March 2, 2021. 

Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series Spring 2020


Payne Student Scholar Brett Shearer writes about how the majority of states have mandated renewable energy targets, and electric utilities have supported the transition to net-zero generation with self-imposed emissions targets. Consumers appear to agree, with many calling for action to fight climate change. We have thus reached a rare consensus between significant numbers of policymakers, the electric utilities, and the general public. That consensus, however, does not hold when the topic turns to how to achieve the agreed objective. The disagreements over the necessary policy steps moving forward now risk slowing or stopping the progress that has already been made within the electricity sector. July 21, 2020.


Payne Student Scholar Gabe Stephens investigates how the energy transition has created a conflicting set of circumstances for Colorado and its communities. The state’s renewable energy industry has experienced rapid advancements, while the incumbent coal industry has endured a steady decline. Communities that have long relied on coal for their economic well-being are faced with an increasingly difficult outlook. Few areas in the state are experiencing this more than Moffat and Routt Counties, who account for the majority of the state’s remaining coal industry. The State government has pledged to support these communities through a ‘Just Transition’ initiative designed to offset the economic impacts associated with the industry’s decline. June 26, 2020.


Payne Student Scholar Tyler Pritchard investigates the viability of increased public transportation capacity and the potential benefits of such improved capacity in the state of Colorado. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that Colorado is capable of improving its public transportation capacity and able to achieve substantial environmental benefits from such development. This analysis is based on the comparison of transportation data from Colorado, Sweden, and Norway in terms of annual transit rides per head, transportation sector energy consumption, transportation sector CO2 emissions, and annual vehicle kilometers traveled (VKT).  June 25, 2020.


Payne Student Scholar Caleb Workman writes about how Chinese investment on the African continent, while contentious, has many benefits. Currently, Chinese private and state-owned firms are heavily involved in Africa through direct investment and commodity-backed loans. These firms invest in infrastructure, natural resource extraction, manufacturing, and service industries. African countries contain natural resources and a low-wage labor market, while Chinese companies have expertise and capital. As a result, the relationship between China and Africa presents mutually beneficial opportunities. African countries gain the potential to experience exceptional economic development in the future due to Chinese involvement.  June 16, 2020.  


Payne Institute student John Massale comments about the recycling policy regarding Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) varies by region, county, and city.  This research examined the type of policy that leads to the largest diversion of compostable materials from landfills.  The data was gathered by performing small case studies of a handful of US cities that have established voluntary, mandatory, or incentivized composting programs.   January 27, 2020.


Payne Institute student Anna Evans comments on Colorado’s relative position in setting emission reduction targets, an analysis of Colorado’s potential reduction strategies, and looking specifically at the effects that improved insulation or the adoption of LED lighting in residential homes would have on residential emissions.  January 9, 2020.


Payne Institute student Will Callahan comments about emissions from the transportation sector that pose a great risk to global health. Vehicle electrification is one way to mitigate tailpipe emission, thereby reducing the health risk. Gov. Jared Polis and Lyft recently announced Lyft’s plan to add 200 electric vehicles (EVs) to the Denver fleet. Data from EVI Pro Lite, Auto Alliance, and a doctoral dissertation on ride-hailing were used to estimate the impact of Lyft’s decision on Denver’s emission profile and existing charging infrastructure. An initial injection of 200 EVs will have a small but non-negligible effect on emissions.  January 6, 2020.

Payne Scholars: Student Commentary Series Fall 2019


Payne Institute and Mines Advanced Energy Systems student researcher Madeline R. Macmillan writes about how the Colorado General Assembly House Bill 19-1261, originally introduced on March 21st, 2019, was signed into law May 30th, 20191. The legislation highlights the rising rates of greenhouse gas emissions, and the evidence of climate change in the state such as increased wildfire vulnerability, beetle infestation, and extreme heat.  November 11, 2019.  

The Payne Institute experts are regional, national, and international leaders in applied research in natural resources, energy, and the environment. Our team is involved in a wide variety of research projects in these fields, and are committed to sharing these results with academic and professional audiences.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs, viewpoints, or official policies of the Payne Institute or Colorado School of Mines.