Monday, June 01, 2009

My Texas NPR Debut at 11am PST tomorrow on "Green Jobs"

"This is Matthew from Los Angeles. I'm a long time listener, first time caller. I'd like to ask Prof. Kahn a question. Why are you trying to pick a fight with Van Jones?" Well, I would prefer to battle Van Halen but Van Jones is now a bigger draw.

A fundamental issue in public policy is whether there exist any "double dividends" where through one policy you can achieve two distinct goals. Through encouraging a public push for "green jobs" can we significantly increase energy efficiency and reduce urban minority unemployment? I hope this is the case but there are still a few open questions. I will be discussing some of these tomorrow on My Texas NPR Radio Tomorrow at 11am PST .

While economists have been typically pessimistic about the cost-effectiveness of job training programs, an optimistic Obama worldview is that under-employed adults can be trained in construction so that they can be part of a domestic green army who will retrofit our energy inefficient buildings and homes and can install the millions of new solar panels and wind turbines that will soon generate our power in a carbon regulated economy.

I like this vision but I wonder if it is right. In my preferred vision, private sector firms will be incentivized by carbon pricing to take a second look at whether they are consuming too much energy. My concern is that the Obama Team will justify a large public sector employment growth in the name of increasing energy efficiency.

What is the optimal size of the public employment sector? This paper has informed my thinking.