Ernie specializes in applying the principles of cost-benefit analysis, economic valuation, and economic-impact analysis to describe the economic importance of natural resources. He formed Natural Resource Economics, Inc. in 2012. From 1978 to 2012, he managed economic and policy analysis for the consulting firm, ECONorthwest, where he was a co-owner, vice president, and senior economist. He also has taught cost-benefit analysis and economic development for the University of Oregon’s Department of Planning, Public Policy, and Management, and taught high-school science as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda.
He has described the economic importance of market and non-market goods and services derived from diverse ecosystems: dryland, montane, riparian, lake, river, forest, grassland, urban, savannah, estuarine, marine, coastal plain, island.
His analyses have addressed resource-management programs for water quantity, quality, and reliability; economic security for at-risk human communities; conservation of at-risk fish, wildlife, and plant species; management of natural-resource risks; adaptation of households, businesses, and communities to expected changes in climate; management of public lands and waters; diversion of surface and ground water for irrigation, livestock, domestic, and municipal-industrial uses; maintenance or enhancement of in-stream flows; water conservation; forest restoration; and floodplain management.
His descriptions of the economic importance of natural resources have covered marginal and aggregate estimation of market value and social value (including cultural value); impacts of resource-management alternatives on commercial and non-commercial (including subsistence) components of surrounding economies; and the distribution of positive and negative economic outcomes among existing groups and across current and future generations.
Much of his work has entailed describing the market and non-market competition for natural resources, identifying externalities associated with different resource uses (costs and benefits that accrue to those outside the decision-making process), and tracing the effects of the externalities on competitive outcomes.