Monday, November 30, 2009

Is Time Passing Too Quickly?

This academic quarter has flown by. Neither the upset UC students nor office hours have been able to slow down time. Everyone knows that time is passing too quick but nobody is taking action to fight this. The New York Times is shocked that James Spader will turn 50 this year . Relative to William Shatner, he looks quite good. But, the case of that pretty boy not being so pretty anymore brings home an ugly truth. Things fall apart.

How do we fight entropy? Sit ups and push ups are out. What else can be done? I am convinced that if I teach less and simply write and do my research that time will slow down. I am starting to write up my research goals for 2010. They will be ambitious. I hope that 2010 will mark the year when I make my comeback. Like Elvis in Las Vegas, I'm ready for a second act. No detective novels, or working for Obama (I haven't been asked), or textbook writing, I will act as if I'm an Assistant Prof again and get back the "eye of the tiger". I challenge my fellow 40ish friends to join me. REPEC should have a new category of who are the top economists based on flow of output rather than stock and then break this out by age category.

To prepare this Big Push in 2010, I will take a 1 week break from blogging. I will go to my usual Berkeley hangout. You may see me in People's Park.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tyler Cowen on China and Transparency

This NY Times piece has some interesting ideas. Environmental scholars have wondered about the quality of the aggregate carbon dioxide statistics that China generates. Do we really know how many tons of carbon this big nation produces each year? In terms of data quality, is this the tip of the iceberg? Tyler sketches some ugly possible future scenarios concerning China's economic dynamics

After spending two weeks in Beijing in September 2009, I can offer a few observations.

1. China's leading universities are producing 100,000s of talented ambitious young graduates. Now that the young faculty have been trained at Western Universities, this new cohort is getting a serious education. (I cannot judge the quality of the education in the 1980s in China's universities). This huge stock of human capital will allow the "Google Chinas" and other human capital based enterprises to boom.

2. The huge home market --- will act as a commitment device for selling to domestic consumers. Even upper-middle class people in Beijing do not have the standard of living of graduate students in Boston. The Beijing elite live in small apartments with some durables and many without cars. Car ownership is 18% in Beijing as of 2006. My point is that there is a heck of a lot stuff that can be sold to the current urbanites in China and the hundreds of millions of rural people who will soon move to the cities.

3. The government appears to be "pro-growth" --- it is ironic that a communist party government appears to harness public goods investments to achieve greater growth targets than the mighty USA. Counter, to this claim --- it appears that China's marginal taxes are quite high. Even upper-middle class people in Beijing have little disposable income. Arthur Laffer needs to go to China.

So, my bottom line is that 8% growth will continue. Now Tyler might ask me; how do you "know" that their economy is growing at 8% a year? Now there is an objective reality that can be counted. Count new car registrations; count electricity consumption; look at the budget share on food (following the work of Hamilton and Costa; is this budget share falling over time? If so , then this is a clear sign of a growing standard of living.

If you want to read my wife's paper on this topic then read this 2001 JPE paper.

Note that at the end of the Cowen piece he makes some general equilibrium claims.
If China redirects its capital investments inward, how much will U.S interest rates
rise by? If we have a decent macroeconomic model, it should provide such a prediction. Is China "small" in the world capital market? If not, how "big" is it? If China ducks out, will the rest of the world demand a larger risk premium for lending to us?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Credible Foreign Policy and Basic Game Theory: The Cases of Israel and Honduras

This NY Times editorial below surprises me. Could the Smart Obama Team really be this bad at basic game theory? I thought that during the Cold War that RAND was paid big bucks for teaching the government strategy lessons in dealing with the Soviet Union. I guess that the stock of Government knowledge depreciates over time. The Boss of Israel has clearly called President Obama's "bluff" as he anticipated that any threats would not be credible in the sub-game. Tough guy Rahm could have foreseen this and had a surly foul mouthed strategy ready to launch. He seems to have forgotten that tough guy language (while scary to an Ivy League grad) is unlikely to intimidate the typical Israeli.

The NY Times has another long article about Honduras and its coup and new election. I read the article that South America is watching the Obama Team to see if it commits to respecting the Rule of Law regardless of narrow ideological agreement (so if "the people" elect a socialist --- does the USA respect that outcome or does it try to get the guy thrown out and replaced by a friendlier government?). Respecting Rule of Law is a commitment device. It removes discretion but it helps to build up a reputation that is predictable. Here is the Honduras case .

Both cases embody basic ideas in strategy. Rules over discretion. Pre-commit to an ideological vision (rather than ambiguous "pragmatism") and you sleep well at night. Being labelled as "pragmatic" has dragged this new president into a series of costly bargaining games . Games of "chicken" that did not have to break out.



November 28, 2009
Editorial
Diplomacy 101
NY Times

We were thrilled when President Obama decided to plunge fully into the Middle East peace effort. He appointed a skilled special envoy, George Mitchell, and demanded that Israel freeze settlements, Palestinians crack down on anti-Israel violence and Arab leaders demonstrate their readiness to reach out to Israel.

Nine months later, the president’s promising peace initiative has unraveled.

The Israelis have refused to stop all building. The Palestinians say that they won’t talk to the Israelis until they do, and President Mahmoud Abbas is so despondent he has threatened to quit. Arab states are refusing to do anything.

Mr. Obama’s own credibility is so diminished (his approval rating in Israel is 4 percent) that serious negotiations may be farther off than ever.

Peacemaking takes strategic skill. But we see no sign that President Obama and Mr. Mitchell were thinking more than one move down the board. The president went public with his demand for a full freeze on settlements before securing Israel’s commitment. And he and his aides apparently had no plan for what they would do if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said no.

Most important, they allowed the controversy to obscure the real goal: nudging Israel and the Palestinians into peace talks. (We don’t know exactly what happened but we are told that Mr. Obama relied more on the judgment of his political advisers — specifically his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel — than of his Mideast specialists.)

The idea made sense: have each side do something tangible to prove it was serious about peace and then start negotiations. But when Mr. Netanyahu refused the total freeze, President Obama backed down.

Mr. Netanyahu has since offered a compromise 10-month freeze that exempts Jerusalem, schools and synagogues and permits Israel to complete 3,000 housing units already under construction. The irony is that while this offer goes beyond what past Israeli governments accepted, Mr. Obama had called for more. And the Palestinians promptly rejected the compromise.

Washington isn’t the only one to blow it. After pushing President Obama to lead the peace effort, Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, refused to make any concessions until settlements were halted. Mr. Mitchell was asking them to allow Israel to fly commercial planes through Arab airspace or open a trade office. They have also done far too little to strengthen Mr. Abbas, who is a weak leader but is still the best hope for negotiating a peace deal. Ditto for Washington and Israel.

All this raises two questions: What has President Obama learned from the experience so he can improve his diplomatic performance generally? And does he plan to revive the peace talks?

The president has no choice but to keep trying. At some point extremists will try to provoke another war. and the absence of a dialogue will only make things worse. Advancing his own final-status plan for a two-state solution is one high-risk way forward that we think is worth the gamble. Stalemate is unsustainable.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/28/opinion/28sat1.html?ref=opinion&pagewanted=print

Friday, November 27, 2009

The U.S Carbon Legislation: "Demonstrate Resolve"

I agree with Nat Keohane's main claim here . I read this as a "Field of Dreams" domino effect. If we build it, they (i.e China, India) will follow. The specific details don't really matter. Leadership is leadership. We are trying to shift a perception that the U.S is a free rider and that it is acceptable to continue to free ride on global carbon production. If the U.S commits to being a credible "first mover", then this sharply reduces Political Business cycle issues. Forward looking investors will start to calculate the carbon content of various investment strategies and be more likely to "go green". Such little choices will accelerate the reduction in carbon intensity of our economy. Now will a future Republican administration void all of this carbon stuff in the future? If business people think that the answer is "yes", then they may hedge their investments today. What is cheaper; good lobbyists or "green tech"?

Now, of course the specific details matter. If you want to see serious economists hard at work at getting the details right, please look at this . Larry Goulder's Committee is working hard to get the details right on California's AB32. Economists can use our basic knowledge of incentives to reduce the full cost of meeting a carbon goal. As we lower this "price tag", affected polluters have less reason to complain about the regime shift (switching from a zero price on carbon to a positive price).

Right now we are in the midst of a big tug of war about property rights. The polluters want their "right to pollute" to be acknowledged and to have cap and trade permits be freely allocated to them. They are threatening to lobby and complain and rile up the public if they don't get them. The Greens want the permits to be auctioned so that the polluter pays and the State has more $ for Public Works projects and deficit reduction.

Most economists don't really care about such income effects (unless we own shares in the polluting companies). We care about getting the marginal incentives right.

Now, I do have an international relations question. If the messy U.S democratic process does yield carbon legislation; will the rest of the world follow? Will India and China be impressed? I doubt it but if endogenous technological change means that our engineering nerds invent green products that become cheap and high quality; they will be happy to use them rather than status quo "brown" technologies. So my causal story for how the U.S changes the world is;

1. we go green
2. we innovate and China innovates in order to sell to us under the new carbon laws
3. Learning by doing with respect to these new products
4. due to low price per unit of energy (the rest of the world buys it)
5. carbon intensity falls sharply,
6. does 5 fall more more than global gdp increases? I don't know.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times Need to Study Algebra Again

I am happy to hear that China has pledged to reduce its carbon intensity by 40% by 2020 but does this guarantee a smaller global carbon footprint? Recall that carbon intensity = tons of CO2/GNP. China's economy has been growing by 8% per year. Make the big assumption that this average growth rate will continue until 2020 and ignore compounding. So, in ten years their economy will be 80% bigger and their carbon intensity will be 40% lower than it is now. So, according to my logic relative to today, China's total carbon emissions will be .6*80% or 48% higher. From Al Gore's standpoint, is that progress? At the same time that President Obama is pledging a 20% reducing in CO2 emissions (under these growth assumptions), China's government is pledging that their emissions will be 48% higher. For more details read the NY Times Article on China's Energy Intensity Pledge .

The Los Angeles Times Headline Writers Really need to study algebra again. Look at this headline from their front page. The article contradicts the headline. A 40% reduction in carbon intensity does not equal a 40% reduction in co2 emissions. They are equivalent only if the economy grows by 0% over time!


Now suppose this vision plays out. Under this scenario, China's 2020 share of global co2 emissions would roughly equal what?

Suppose that in 2010; the percentages are; China 20%, USA 25%, rest of the world 55%.

So normalize global co2 production in 2010 to 100 (new units are not tons!)

China produces 20
USA produces 25
ROW (rest of world ) produces 55

If we would reduce by 20% by 2020, then we are at .8*25=20
Assume rest of world grows to 65
Under assumptions above; china grows to 30.

China's new share of global co2 = 30/(30+65+20) = 30/115 = 26%.

So, the rest of the world's climate fate increasingly hinges on what China does. Will it play nice? Will it want a big payment to reduce its externality? Who has property rights here and how is this tied to political power and military clout?

I am an optimist but we optimists better convince ourselves that learning by doing will feed on itself.

We Are All Keynesians Now

Okay, I'll cry uncle. The Keynesian Multiplier of this government spending is very large. My Dynamic Stochastic GE Model concludes that for every $ that the Department of Energy gives to Los Angeles we generate $3112 of new output and intellectual capital. If you want documentation for how my model works, please go to this technical webpage for details.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Green Buildings Conference at UC Berkeley Next Week

Next week there will be a very interesting energy conference at UC Berkeley. I don't like to travel far from Los Angeles but this is worth the effort. These are very exciting days to study empirical energy questions here in California. When I taught in Boston, I was frustrated by the local electric utility's lack of interest in talking to us nerds. In my first 3 years in California, I've been thrilled that several of the electric utilities here are willing to share data with us nerds and are interested to hear about what new results we can produce using their great "ingredients".

California's AB32 provides a good reason for the electric utilities to be thinking "outside of the box". To meet the coming 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard and to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the utilities will have greater incentives to encourage their consumers to be more energy efficient and to encourage more of them to sign up for "green energy" programs. Economists who have thought about how diverse consumers respond to incentives can be useful for people for helping such utilities design "optimal" programs. This is the role I will continue to play. I am trying to be useful member of society.

Switching Subjects, if you want to see how blog entries influence "traditional media" such as the Santa Monica Mirror take a look at this .

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Life and Death of Turkeys

Bloggers are supposed to provide useful links. Each Thanksgiving, I think about the life of the turkey. This website answered many of my questions about the typical turkey's Biography .

Switching subjects and returning to issues that I actually know something about:

I have a deep interest in "green" products. Coda Automotive is an intriguing new company. Their leaders will visit the UCLA Institute of the Environment in early December. I look forward to meeting them.

I'm particularly interested in speaking to the Coda Leadership about how they are marketing their vehicles. Do they envision that they will be in head to head competition with the Toyota Prius? How do they view the market segmentation between "green car" buyers? In english, do they hope to lure some past Prius buyers to purchase their car or are they looking for guys who used to buy a BMW to buy their car? Are they pro-actively taking steps to generate the same "buzz" that the Prius has achieved?

Green Harvard Battles Allston Rats

Apparently, it is not hard to get into Harvard. Ask these Rats. They clearly were
excited about the opportunity to be research subjects in the new Allston labs and came up from below ground to volunteer to be part of randomized trials. They were "rewarded" for their altruism with sharp counter-measures. Life is not fair.


University Funds Rat-Proof Trash Bins

Harvard denies fault over rodents, but says cans are part of “larger partnership”
By Sofia E. Groopman, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER
Published: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In response to complaints of severe rodent infestation in Allston this February, Harvard spent roughly a quarter of a million dollars to provide North Allston residents with 2,600 rodent-resistant trash cans early last week to help alleviate the problem.

Some North Allston residents have been complaining about a rise in the rodent population, tying it to Harvard’s construction work on the still incomplete science complex.

“It’s absurd to think that blasting a massive hole in the ground isn’t going to cause a rodent problem,” said Jake Carman, a founder of the Allston Brighton Neighborhood Assembly. “The rats weren’t there before they started construction.”

And while University officials maintain that Harvard is “in no way responsible for any increased rodent activity,” the University agreed to fund the trash receptacles as “part of [its] larger partnership with the city and the neighborhood,” said Kevin A. McCluskey ’76, Harvard’s senior director of community relations for Boston.

The principal health inspector for Boston’s Inspectional Services Department, John Meaney, agreed that Harvard is not to blame.

“There would be rats in the neighborhood whether Harvard was there or not,” Meaney said.

The trash cans, distributed by the City of Boston last week, have been generally well-received in the community.

John Cusack, an Allston Brighton Task Force member and a recipient of a rodent-resistant receptacle, said that he loved the cans, calling them “a grand slam” and giving them an “A+.”

“They carry a huge amount of garbage,” Cusack said. “I can’t see any way that they could be anything but the best solution.”

But Harry Mattison, another member of the task force, said he was a bit perplexed by Harvard’s decision to finance this latest addition to the community.

“I was surprised to learn Harvard was spending probably close to a quarter of a million dollars to buy trash cans.” Mattison said. “Individual residents and homeowners should be responsible for their own trash.”

He added that this sort of involvement was “a strange direction” for the University to be pursuing, given earlier talk of providing “community benefits.”

“There was a lot of talk about education, public health—things that Harvard as an educational institution would be uniquely capable of providing,” Mattison said. “There was never discussion of free trash cans.”

—Staff writer Sofia E. Groopman can be reached at segroopm@fas.harvard.edu.

Monday, November 23, 2009

UCLA Expertise on Climate Change

Here's a new criteria for ranking research universities; who on your faculty has thought about the broad issue of climate change? Permit UCLA to put its cards on the table.

Economics Humor

The Young Men (could any women be writing this stuff?) at www.econjobrumors.com are very funny. Dora and I greatly appreciate their cumulative wisdom. I wish that I had the time and the anger to join them because I could certainly top their remarks but I've reached an age where I'm supposed to be a dignified leader. Exhibit A and Exhibit B .

The Environmental Consequences of Long Lived Durable Capital

The New York Times has a front page article today bemoaning that NYC has an old sewer system that overloads on rainy days. Late in the article, the piece claims that the City has relied on gravity (taking sewage downhill to the treatment facilities) rather than investing in costly infrastructure to push more of it along at a higher flow rate to sewage treatment plants with greater capacity.

The article explicitly states that NYC's system is old and hence of low quality. If climate change kicks up more severe storms then this city better be ready to invest. When the sewage system is at full capacity, it blocks new entry of sewage --- rather than allowing this gunk to backup into people's bathrooms --- the sewage is dumped in local rivers causing water pollution. Public health experts have not figured out what is the causal effect of such over-flow incidents on local public health but this merits research. Here is this article .

Now, as people who have followed my work know; the environmental consequences of durable capital has been a theme in several of my past papers. If you need a refresher, read

this paper on emissions from cars

and this paper on emissions from old power plants and this paper on Rust Belt emissions from old steel factories .

Here is the intuition. In capitalism, new products such as computers reflect state of the art technology while older products do not reflect recent engineering breakthroughs. A computer today is better than a computer from 10 years ago.

In a similar fashion; the average car, power plant, factory built in 2009 is cleaner than the average car , power plant,factory built in 1989 even holding age constant. Back in calendar year 1989, the earlier vintage stuff was dirtier.

The problem is the long life of such capital. Look around Los Angeles today, most of the cars, buildings, power plants, factories were built long ago (not this year). They reflect old technologies and thus are polluting and energy inefficient. If we actually want a state of the art capital stock featuring low emissions per dollar of GNP then we want capital to be less durable. If we had to buy a new fridge each year (non durable appliances), we'd have much "greener" homes.

Now , I don't want to hear about the life cycle of production and disposal of such products. If we switched over to the 1 year system, there would be much more recycling and the nerds would figure out how to economize on scarce inputs such as energy if we had carbon pricing.

Durable Capital is costly for the environment during a time of technological progress.


SWITCHING SUBJECTS: My 8 year old son figured out the bundling problem yesterday. While studying Amazon prices for Lego Star Wars sets, he noticed a violation of the law of one price. Amazon sells individual star wars creatures (yoda) at a high price and also sells his ship alone at a high price relative to the price of purchasing Yoda and his ship. My son was also able to figure out why they do this (heterogeneous customers and price discrimination). The "force (economics) is strong in him".

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Research on the Role of "Good Schools" Causing a Reduction in the Propensity to Commit Crime

For academic economists, there are certain seasons. In early October, we wonder if we will win the Nobel Prize this year. In early November, we wonder whether there are any interesting job market candidates and we click around the various leading departments to see who are the new Ph.Ds being launched into our mighty field. While I no longer read anything, I do click around. In early December, we wonder why the AEA meetings are being held in Atlanta and feel no guilt about not going. In January, we are on academic leave and sit happily in deep thought. In February, we make a big bet on the Super Bowl to make up for our UC paycuts. In March, we finish our new book and wonder whether Hollywood could turn it into a decent movie staring Eddie Murphy.

Given that I've written a couple of pathetic blog posts about my concern about the medium term future of academic economics, I've been hunting for signs of interesting new research on the horizon. This David Deming job market paper interests me.

It has a Cambridge feel to it. In North Carolina, local good schools feature excess demand for their scarce slots. They resort to a lottery for allocating these slots. The losers of these lotteries represent a very good control group for the "lucky" folks who are randomly assigned to the good schools. Apparently, several years later -- the crime propensities for the people who go to the good school are lower than those in the control group.

This is a nice contribution to the urban economics literature and the education literature. It would take some serious work to merge crime data to these student level school assignments. I'm impressed with the effort.

While I only skimmed the paper (I am old), I doubt that the author can tease out whether the true cause of this finding is the; A. better teachers, B. better peers or both. Learning begets learning, skill begets skill. Ideally, he could survey the lottery winners and study their divergence from their old friends in the control group. Do they read more? Watch less TV than their old friends? Are they more patient and have more self control? How do "good schools" change us? While the author has a single case study, if he could team up with a sociologist and get some time diaries for the treatment group (those who won the lottery) and the control group (those who lost) --- then this study could be really important and call it "Divergence, Big Time".

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Academic Macro Economics Just Keeps Getting Trickier

In 1988, I thought that the Brock-Mirman one sector Growth Model was nasty stuff but now look at Exhibit A and Exhibit B. Progress not regress.

I will let you decide if this elegant model resembles the modern economy. Do you see Google within it? Do you see skill formation? Do you see Diet Coke or cell phones? Now, I agree that we have to start with something tractable. But, at the tender age of 43 --- I'm still learning how economists play our game. We have reality and we have our models, our goal is to construct models in order to explain and predict reality. To make progress, we need to write down models that we can solve and that somehow strip down reality into a subset of stylized facts that the model will explain.

Exhibit A above tells a complex loose story about the non-stationarity of our modern economy. I couldn't really tell what Axel believes is the research program. He dismissed what others are doing without laying out a positive vision.

I am trying to clear out the time to carefully read the Hansen/Sargent stuff on robustness. Even when I was a dumb graduate student, I smelled that rational expectations was imposing a "communism" of everyone agreeing on the unique "true" probability model. To their credit, these guys are introducing some uncertainty into the minds of the decision makers. This resembles what Weitzman has been talking about in terms of "fat tail" climate risk. I know that I do not know many things. This knowledge has helped me to rise in our profession!

Leading Indicators of West LA's Economic Recovery

My neighbor , Candy Spelling, is showing confidence in local housing prices. As a patriotic American, she has not lowered the asking price of $150 million for this Little Holmby House:



I play golf on the golf course just out of sight on the south west part of the picture. This charming course is 1/2 mile from my smaller estate. The Playboy Mansion is just up her block to the North east.

That's income integration.

In West LA, many many homes are for "lease" rather than for "sale". Dora and I take this as a sign that people are betting that home prices will continue to rise in this fancy area. During this recession, it has been interesting to watch both demand and supply of homes for sale decline. Since many people simply hand their LA home to a child when they die or downsize , there isn't the "urgency" to sell that exists in many low quality of life cities.

Since, I have most of my wealth tied up in my home --- Candy Spelling's vote to press on to find a 9 digit bid buyer --- gives me confidence in my investment. Thanks Candy.

At the UCLA faculty lunches, I have suggested to colleagues that we collectively buy this house and all move in (like an old guy's and gal's dorm). The house is big
enough to accommodate our diverse lifestyles and personalities. It would shorten the
commute for many people and we would get more exercise with the pool and tennis courts. Senior faculty could better monitor junior faculty effort and vice-versa!

The Chair of the Department could quickly deploy people to meetings and external relations with nearby fat cats who might make donations to the department would improve as people would want to come over to party at our house.

Now there would be maintenance and incentive issues but smart economists could write a time consistent contract for this new "Econ Commune".

Would the other departments be envious of us? I don't think so.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How Do You Grow Your Own Miniature David Brooks?

Parents understand backwards induction. We believe that if our child can attend an elite university that this will build his/her human capital, social networks and resume. The fancy university bumper sticker on your car will signal that this kid should and will be part of the meritocratic elite (i.e the NY Times David Brooks). Is any of this logic actually true? Do the elite schools really have such a "treatment effect"?

Regardless of the truth, we believe that there are benefits of a Harvard degree. With the bulge in the number of upper-middle class types of people all seeking these scarce slots at Ivy League Schools, the probability of getting into these elite schools is getting real low.

To raise your kid's chance --- the kid has to attend the right high school and before that the right elementary school and before that the right kindergarten. So, this is dynamic programming. While the behavioral economists say we do not plan consistently, this NY Times article focuses on the "hyper-rational" parents who are competing into a frenzy over getting their kids into the right 4 year old schools.

Stanley Kaplan should be proud. The winners in this "arms race" will be the test prep programs as the Admissions Committees at the Daltons of the world must come up with a new test that the ambitious parents cannot use their $ to give their kid a leg up .

A sociologist might say that this is all a waste of money as it creates anxiety for no good reason over a keeping up with the joneses status competition ("my kid attends a school in the 02138 zip code in Cambridge").

A human capital theorist might push back saying that as long as the kid doesn't burn out due to stress that dynamic complementarities in learning to solve problems means that this strange process does create some very talented people.

Now can elite schools remain "diverse" if a subset of applicants know how to play the admissions game and are using their inside knowledge to maximize the probability that their kids get the elite slots? This is interesting game played between the admissions officers, the elite parents and the more naive other sets of parents.

A mechanism design theorist should think of a way for admissions officers to be able to categorize parents into the two types (Scarsdale versus naive); but not based simply on geographical residence when the kid is in High School or parental income. Armed with knowing the "types distribution", the admissions officers could have different standards for different types. Now whether this would hold in Court, I can't say.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

National Commitments to CO2 Targets: First Mover Advantage Due To Thermal Underwear

If you had to bet, will China or the USA move first and make a credible commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions? Are there any benefits to being the first mover? Today, the New York Times explains why South Korea has been willing to unilaterally show some leadership on carbon mitigation. The answer in brief is thermal underwear. Comparative advantage is an apparently useful idea for understanding the willingness to lead in providing global public goods.

"While some of the pledges are conditioned on reaching a binding international agreement, some countries, like South Korea, have said they will act whether the world did or did not.

South Korea, whose emissions nearly doubled from 1990 to 2005, said it would cut emissions by investing in energy-efficient buildings and transportation, developing new green industries and changing patterns of consumption.

“Our industry is really energy-intensive, so this is very ambitious,” Sang-Hyup Kim, South Korea’s secretary to the president for national future and vision, said in a phone interview from Seoul. He noted that the president and cabinet ministers had made the pledge in a building with the thermostat set low, and while wearing thermal underwear."

Here's the NY Times article.

UPDATE: If you have ever thought that hypothesis testing is not funny, then here is a good counter-example.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

UCLA Pollution Research Bolsters the Case for Closing Santa Monica Airport

I know how to conduct a cost/benefit analysis. I gain nothing from the Santa Monica Airport and this UCLA research documents the ambient air pollution costs. I can personally vouch that this airport's planes are noisy. Add the social costs of noise pollution + social costs of the air pollution and this is greater than any benefits the rich guys who fly into the airport gain. This proves that the airport should be shut down and used for siting renewables --- convert it all into solar panels please. It is nice and sunny there. Some nice big box stores with solar panels on top would be quite nice and green. There is no reason to continue with this status quo. This new research helps to make a convincing case. Science should lead public policy.

Cash for Caulkers Redux and Anticipating Behavioral Responses to the Embedded Incentives

This blog post on incentives for improving home energy efficiency caught my eye.

"HOME STAR would reimburse homeowners for a range of residential energy upgrades including air sealing, insulation, new light bulbs and household appliances. Homeowners would be eligible to receive up to $2,000 for implementing at least two upgrades from a list of qualifying measures, or up to $3,500 for at least four qualifying measures. Higher incentives would be available to homeowners who achieve energy savings of at least 20 percent. Projects that reduce energy consumption by 20 percent would be eligible for up to $4,000 in incentives, plus $1,500 for every additional 5 percent reduction in energy consumption."

Please read the last sentence carefully. To you econometrics nerds, what does this "at least 20 percent" mean? Suppose it is implemented in the following fashion; after you take the treatment and implement the "qualifying measures" you must hand over 1 month ex-post electricity bill. So, If your weatherization is over in April 2010 --- you would show your May 2010 electricity bill and if you consume 20% less then you used to (say relative to March 2010's electricity bill), then you get more $ from Obama.

If this is the implementation scheme then, rational people will increase their baseline consumption (to make it easier to achieve a 20% reduction) AND they will take steps to minimize their electricity consumption just after the treatment such as moving out of the house and living in a hotel for a week or two to guarantee that their home's electricity consumption falls by 20% during the evaluation month. Economists are always talking about manipulating the baseline but this is a case of manipulating the ex-post consumption so that you fool the DOE into thinking that you are now lean and green and merit a transfer. In truth, this household just wants free cash.

I would advise the Obama Administration to require 9 months of electricity bills and average them after the treatment to demonstrate a 20% reduction in electricity consumption.

Some Thoughts on Cash for Caulkers

The New York Times is in deep thought about improving U.S buildings' energy efficiency. Here is Exhibit A and Here is exhibit B.

I certainly agree that buildings are major consumers of electricity and I agree that older buildings that were built before more stringent building codes were enacted consume more electricity. Dora Costa and I are studying this point right now.

Can an economist be useful in helping the engineers, the "green jobs weatherizers" and the Obama Administration design cost-effective policy here?

We know that Cash for Clunkers was silly stuff in terms of payment per ton of carbon abatement achieved. Will Cash for Caulkers be less of a stinker? I certainly hope so.

So, let's return to the treatment effects literature. Buildings are highly heterogeneous. They differ with respect to their birth year, size, construction, usage over time, renovation history, climate conditions and geographical location. They also differ with respect to who actually works and lives there. Is it a bunch of robots or Google data clusters? Or is it 100s of workers hanging out in cubicles?

Taking these observable and unobserved (to the research nerd) attributes as given, the Obama Team armed with Federal subsidies wants to send in an elite team of "energy doctors" to find wasteful electricity consumption in the building. Sounds good to me. These doctors will write out a menu of what suggested changes they recommend that the building operator make.

Each of the "courses" on this menu will have a cost and the federal government is likely to pay several of these costs but what are the benefits?

Now, enter the treatment effect economists. You do not have to be Angrist or Imbens or Heckman to see that this is a classic case of heterogeneous treatment effects. Now, is this a case of essential heterogeneity?

As someone who would love to see effective government policy, we need to identify where is the largest greenhouse gas emissions reduction per dollar of government investment. Don't forget the following obvious point. States differ with respect to their carbon emissions factor. California's emissions factor is half that of Missouri's.

The same kwh of electricity generates more carbon in the Midwest than in the West. If government subsidies are focused on reducing GHG emissions, then the governmetn should focus on energy inefficiency in the NERC regions with high carbon emissions per KWH of power generated.

Now within a St. Louis, how much does a specific building's electricity consumption decline by if we introduce one of the treatments on the "menu" suggested by the inspector? Unfortunately, we do not know. We need to estimate these "treatment effects" and document their heterogeneity BEFORE we scale up this program into a multi billion dollar program.

In a rational policy world, we would have a serious pilot study implemented by the NERDS before we roll out the full blown program. In this pilot study, a few thousand commercial buildings would have tailored energy upgrades and doing a before/after comparison --- we would use electricity consumption data to see if the treatment group's consumption significantly declined after treatment relative to the pre-period and relative to a kosher control group. Has this been done? I don't think so.

NERDS, please note the curse of dimensionality here. In an earlier paragraph-- I mentioned at least 10 dimensions of heterogeneity. Suppose that there are just 2 types within each of these dimensions (so big buildings versus small buildings). So, there are 2 to the 10th power number of combinations of possible building types. Ideally for each of these we would like to know how its electricity consumption would decline if given treatment j. If we need 30 observations to get a kosher standard error on the treatment effect, this would need to be a very very big pilot study! Now a reasonable reply is to focus on the most common types of buildings but I will leave it to others to calculate how much that reduces the dimensionality of the problem and the necessary sample size.

UPDATE: I thank Tara Fridhandler for the following information about what is going on in Canada with regards to figuring out which energy projects are cost effective.



Tara wrote: "I recently attended a presentation in which Canada has set out to do exactly what you suggest. While thousands of buildings were not involved in the pilot, they did uncover some interesting results with the dozens of buildings they studied across the nation."



Here is the program:

http://www.cagbc.org/initiatives/green_building_performance/green_up_program.php



And here are the current results:

http://www.cagbc.org/initiatives/green_building_performance/pilot_projects.php


Here is a second post of mine on this new program. In that post, I focus on the bad incentive effects built into the proposed policy's criteria for determining how big of payoff the government will give a household. Households have an incentive to manipulate their baseline electricity consumption and their ex-post treatment electricity consumption because the government transfer is an increasing function of the treated household's % reduction in electricity consumption. I discuss how to address that issue so that only "real reductions" are rewarded.


This CFC (Cash for ...) Redux raises a bigger issue regarding the role of bloggers
in improving public policy rather than being content to simply make fun of bad policy
ex-post.

Can economics bloggers play a pro-active role in helping the Obama Team form better micro public policies before they actually implement them?

Programs such as Cash for Clunkers and for Caulkers have noble goals, but
in each case I foresee several unintended consequences that will affect
their likely effectiveness.

> My concern is that Washington will go ahead and enact these naive
> policies and then 5 years from now some "smart" economist will
> write a Peltzman style JLE paper on the uintended consequences of
> policy X.
>
> I would prefer to live in a world where Policy Makers announce
> Trial Balloons and wait to hear back from the leading bloggers
> (not me) and those who comment on their pieces. In my
> ideal world, the Policy Makers would then update their policy
> proposal to Congress. Such Bayesian policy makers would admit
> that they can learn from others, and would update their policies
> to reflect the cumulative comments from the Bloggers and the
> network who comment on their blog. Wouldn't Hayek prefer this?
>
> Are you optimistic that bloggers can be pro-active? Or are we
> simply witty ex-post monday morning quarterbacks? Can you name a
> case up to this point where we have "changed the world"?

Since bloggers do not face the publication lags that journals face, bloggers
can in real time comment on policy and actually improve their ex-ante content similar
to the open source Wikipedia model.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Productive Furlough Days

All around the country, other academics feel sorry for their UC peers as we gain some first hand experience with furloughs. Here are the details . You can see our respective pay cuts in % terms and you can see that we have been granted the right to "engage in outside compensation on our furlough days". So, recognizing that I do have rights and I'm always willing to learn and work hard, I have joined a new team namely The Brattle Group .

The Brattle Group has many excellent energy consultants and I'm eager to work with these guys on a variety of projects that are directly related to climate change mitigation efforts. If you (or my various co-authors) want me to do some work for you, please call Brattle!


Environmental Economics Expert Matthew Kahn Joins Brattle as a Senior Advisor

The Brattle Group is pleased to announce that Matthew Kahn has joined the firm as a senior advisor.

Dr. Kahn is a professor at the UCLA Institute of the Environment, the Department of Economics, and the Department of Public Policy. His research focuses on environmental, urban, real estate and energy economics, and he has recently conducted research on the broad issue of climate change mitigation.

He is the author of Green Cities: Urban Growth and the Environment (Brookings Institution Press, 2006) and the co-author of Heroes and Cowards: The Social Face of War (Princeton University Press, 2009). Dr. Kahn is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Before joining UCLA in January 2007, he taught at Columbia University and the Fletcher School at Tufts University, in addition to serving as a visiting professor at both Harvard University and Stanford University. Dr. Kahn holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Chicago, a G.C. in Economic History from the London School of Economics, and a B.A. in Economics from Hamilton University.

Monday, November 16, 2009

New Intellectual Property Created at UCLA

David Levine and his buddy Boldrin may have left UCLA a couple of years ago but I hope they are proud of its recent intellectual property . Would this stuff have been dreamed up under the Boldrin/Levine rules? Note that the Economists on campus have produced most of it! (I'm kidding)

The Consequences of Smoking Bans at Columbia University: Another Test of the Pollution Havens Hypothesis?

University Senate meetings are usually not that interesting unless the faculty is in the mood to yell at the President. But, here are some quotes from a Columbia meeting examining the issue of a smoking ban on the main campus.

"Michael McNeil, assistant director of Health Services at Columbia, presented on the proposed smoking ban for the Morningside campus. He said that there are currently “significant inconsistencies” in Columbia’s policies on smoking near buildings, and that officials should strive for consistency.

McNeil noted that smoking rates continue to decline among students, and the percentage of the population that smokes daily has decreased to single digits. He also informed the senate that New Yorkers tend to smoke less on average, but the level of nicotine in their blood streams is higher than average because of second-hand smoke.

Michael Adler, a faculty senator from the Columbia Business School, was outraged. Calling himself an “unabashed smoker,” he said, “The minority should not be discriminated against.” He quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson’s statement that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” though he missed the first two words, prompting another senator to challenge his interpretation.
“I think this situation doesn’t need any remedy,” Adler said. “The ban is so stupid.”

Biology professor Bob Pollack raised the concern that the ban may make the surrounding community “feel that we are dumping our problems onto them.” "

So, is Prof. Pollack saying that smokers will wander in the neighborhood and smoke and expose the non-columbia neighbors to the cigar smoke. regulation leading to a displacement effect --- will the Earth Institute write a paper about this? This is a domestic pollution haven effect (see Kahn 2004).


http://www.columbiaspectator.com/2009/11/16/university-senate-meets-sans-bollinger-once-more

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Famous for Robbing the Famous: Rent Seeking in the Modern Los Angeles Economy

Are you a productive citizen? Are you adding more to our economy than this pretty gang ? The "Bling Ring" was smart enough to use the Internet to identify which celebrities live in which LA homes and then to use the Internet to know which celebrities would be out of town on which days. This is sufficient information for figuring out what is a good day to rob their homes. But (perhaps intentionally?), they have now been caught and a great after school movie will be made based on their daring doings. Perhaps I will star as the protagonist?

This story has given the NY Times the opportunity to engage in some rogue sociology. Here are some possible explanations for the gang's actions; "In coverage of the Bling Ring, there has been much speculation about what turns teenagers to such crimes: Is it lax parenting? Have children raised on reality TV and intimate-sounding Tweets from movie stars lost all boundaries between the screen and themselves?"

Now, it is certainly true that the Los Angeles money culture is on display in West L.A. When a fancy sports car has zipped past me, with some dude talking on his cell phone, I have asked myself --- why don't I have one of those? I can't claim that this ping of envy has hurt too bad. To quote the rock band Kansas, "the moment is gone".

Dora and I do bemoan that Los Angeles does not see the mapping from skills and knowledge to earned income. UCLA and USC have not done a good enough job convincing the locals that the future is about problem solving rather than in networking and preening to prepare for the next Hollywood export on the international media market.


CELEBRITY UPDATE: While I didn't rob either of them, I shook hands with John Lithgow last week at the Farmer's Market and today on our way back to the market I spotted former Secretary of State Warren Christopher parking his Lexus on my street. My wife was impressed that I recognized him as we drove past him but my mind does work quickly and in strange ways.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ambient Lead Pollution in China

The LA Times has a sad article today about industrial lead emissions in specific regions in China . The article says that this is direct evidence of the pollution haven hypothesis. As developed countries regulated lead emissions, China grabbed this market and produced lead that is used as an input in making car batteries. The growth in exports scaled up this production and the population is now suffering the public health consequences.

For evidence on the medium term and long term consequences of lead exposure go here http://www3.amherst.edu/~jwreyes/papers.html .

If Jessica is right, then a generation of exposed children will have troubled adulthoods and also cause social problems measured in terms of higher crime rates.

Siqi Zheng and I have documented and explained recent pollution progress across China's major cities but we focused on ambient particulates and so2. It would interest me to see some cross-city research for China's major cities focused on ambient lead levels.

Friday, November 13, 2009

This Week's Lexington Column in The Economist

My mother has always liked Mike Cragg so she will be happy to see that Cragg and I are cited in this Lexington Column in The Economist . People have been interested in our work examining the political economy of Carbon voting such as the vote on the June 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act. Based on analyzing actual votes, we document that members of Congress and the Senate vote "pro-carbon mitigation" when they are from liberal, rich, low-carbon areas. So, the Obama Team will need to craft transfers to conservative, poor, high carbon districts if they want to garner votes from such areas.

We have revised the paper and the new draft is here .

Ideally, I would encourage authors in other nations to think about whether they can use our design to study voting patterns in their nations. Self interest certainly matters in carbon politics but a little bit of "greenness" can partially offset this. So, this is a Chicago Stigler/Peltzman/Becker regulation paper with a touch of Berkeley hippyness! For people who know me, doesn't that sound like me?

Can Economists Learn from Tao's Example? Will Academic Economics Become Open Source?

Terence Tao, a UCLA star math prof, is using his blog as an open source platform to allow countless math nerds to work together on the same paper at the same time.

"After six months and more than 1,000 comments from more than 50 mathematicians, a paper titled “A new proof of the density Hales-Jewett theorem” is ready to be submitted under the pseudonym D.H.J. Polymath because of the difficulty in determining how much each person has contributed. The paper is one of the first to be collaborated through a blog.

Though Tao has experience with long-distance collaboration, he said cooperating through a blog was an exciting experience.

Instead of e-mailing back and forth with his coworkers, new comments arrived every hour. Not all of the comments contributed substantially to the paper, but the environment was more open.

“It almost became addictive,” Tao said, laughing. He had continuously refreshed the page for new comments."

Here is the article and here is the blog .

Could economists mimic Tao's approach to science? Will this approach reduce the demand to be close to star economists? Will the University of Hawaii rise in the rankings as excellent scholars want to live there and it doesn't affect their productivity?

Now the challenge for petty economists, is that we all say that we stand on the shoulders of giants but each of us wants to be the giant. It appears that Tao has created a less egotistical "common property" approach for making progress.

Now in applied micro, we all know that nobody would put in the time to clean and prepare a new data set if he/she couldn't be a monopolist and use it once it is clean and ready to go. It must be the case that in math that there aren't the same fixed costs for getting ready to solve a problem. In math, a whole bunch of decentralized nerds must each have some knowledge that is worthless except if it is simultaneously brought together with the other parts. This O-Ring is a little bit different than in economics that may have more of an additively separable production process.

I do think that the leading journals should create blog pages to allow people to comment on the papers.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Measuring the Output of Economists

All academic fields have an index numbers problem. To collapse a scholar's lifetime output into a single index of quality, we must agree on how to add up "apples" and "oranges". Do 3 QJE papers = 412 Journal of Junk Food Publications? How much does your star status go up by if you are working for President Obama right now? If you write a popular blog? If you write a silly blog? If you write a great book? If you write a bad book? If you train the next generation of star students. Look to the REPEC rankings to see how it weighs these different indicators of output.

So, what is my point? Dora and my dwarf orange tree has yielded fruit!




As you can see, we have a bumper crop. No Cambridge economist can do this. This orange tree cost us about $30 bucks and I have spent probably 5 hours each year working on it. Valuing my time at a Nobel Laureate's consulting wage of $1500 an hour; this orange cost me $7530 (ignoring the cheap water cost).

It better taste good! Now, we also grow figs, lemons, other oranges, persimmons and other stuff but tis plant is my baby.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The New York Post is a Leading Academic Source for Ideas and Quotes

As I try to finish the final draft of my new book, I found these letters, from angry New Yorkers who were frustrated by heavy rains knocking out the NYC subways in 2007, to be quite useful. The NY Post captures the voice of "real" New Yorkers. Somehow, the letters in the NY Times don't carry a similar punch. The Times publishes too many letters written by "important" people getting huffy that they were misquoted or forgotten and not quoted in some previous important piece. In contrast, the Post's readers just want to yell. I respect their honesty.

I promise to send each of these letter writers a copy of my 2010 treatise!

What is my new book about? Well, what do I know? Cities, climate change and our future. Brad Delong and I will both publish new books for Basic Books in fall 2010. I look forward to lowering their average!


DOES THE 'M' IN MTA STAND FOR 'MORONIC'?
Last Updated: 5:00 AM, August 12, 2007

Posted: 5:00 AM, August 12, 2007

THE ISSUE: Wednesday's storm and the ensuing MTA challenges.

The entire MTA organization is incompetent, from root to branch. Thanks to them, we have a subway that is a disgrace to the greatest city in the world ("Twister," Aug. 9).

I just spent another nightmare day of non-existent trains, inadequate information given by people who would simply evaporate if they cared any less, sweltering carriages on the C and E lines and incomprehensible announcements spoken over a speaker system that would have been an embarrassment 50 years ago, let alone in 2007.

Throwing more money at an organization this feckless would be like shoveling it into a furnace.

William Lawson
Queens

****

As we spend countless hours and dollars to make ourselves more secure against the threat of terrorism, it seems that such minor infrastructure problems are more likely to gravely affect the lives of everyday New Yorkers.

When will our elected leaders see that if rain can virtually cripple a great metropolis like New York, these mass-transit and utility problems have moved beyond the realm of minor problems into major ones?

We expect New York to be great, yet our increasing number of infrastructure failures is slowly making us resemble a regrettable backwater unworthy of the nickname the Empire State.

Kathy B. Huang
Manhattan

****

I ask The Post to please slam the MTA for what it did on Wednesday. It was a disgrace.

I was stuck in a subway tunnel on the B line for almost two hours. I thought people were going to faint.

This system is terrible and is not how New York City's subways should be run. The service is like something you'd expect to see in some Third World country.

Tom Roberts
Manhattan

****

With the storm the other day, Katrina, Rita and the tsunami along the Indian Ocean, Al Gore is looking like he's 100 percent correct about global warming.

If we continue to ignore global warming, storms will get worse and worse.

Edward Drossman
Manhattan

****

Rumor is that Gore was observed running through the streets of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, shouting, "I warned all of you this would happen."

Robert McKenna
Staten Island

****

Maybe we do not have the luxury to waste money on all the parades that ensure every group is culturally appreciated.

I, for one, would like to know that every time it rains, I do not have to wonder if the trains are running or if the whole transit system is down.

David Rivnak
Amityville

****

Why are we paying and, more to the point, trusting the MTA to expand the transit system when it can't operate what it has?

As it contemplated new subway lines and cathedral-like stations, one of the seasoned executives, expert study groups or high-priced consultants might have realized that New York is subject to the occasional summer thunderstorm.

Why can't we spend some money on fixing the storm drains?

Just because the MTA has problems getting work done, it shouldn't mean the rest of us can't get to work.

Michael Duff
Queens

****

As any resident of Queens who uses the E, F, R or V knows, the subway system cannot handle severe thunderstorms without the tracks flooding and shutting down train service.

This has been an ongoing problem for many years.

The Bloomberg administration needs to conduct an immediate investigation as to the reason for the MTA's failure to correct this situation.

Any delay on the mayor's part to launch this investigation will only cause further hardship to all New Yorkers.

It is only a matter of time before someone dies from a system shutdown.

Robert Subjenski
Manhattan

****

Earth to the MTA: It rains here sometimes.

Doesn't "A" in MTA stand for "authority"? When no downtown trains were running, the only announcement at the Port Authority was about the E train.

Orange vests were nowhere. Cops were handling their jobs, but only by telling everyone one route, the M20, which came once an hour, packed, while 10 empty ones passed by "out of service" was running.

J. Andrew Smith
Bloomfield, N.J.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Father Wins a NYU Teaching Award

I haven't won any teaching awards and I don't expect to win any soon. I do know a guy who wins these things and he is proud of it and I'm proud of him. But, he could publish more!

Master Clinician: Martin L. Kahn, MD, the Joel E. and Joan L. Smilow Professor of Cardiology since 2002, was honored for his patient-centered work in cardiology. Dr. Kahn has dedicated his career to the training of physicians, the search for new knowledge and the care of the sick. The high standards he sets for himself as a clinician and teacher are a reflection of his belief that he represents not only himself and the Medical Center, but the entire medical profession.

See See page 5 of this document for a photo and the full bio of the true Dr. Kahn.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Evan Smith Reinvents Texas News Coverage

Evan Smith, an old friend from Hamilton '87, is featured in a photo in the NY Times Business page today . He looks tough in the picture. What has he done? Started a hedge fund? Gone to a tea party? No and No. He has created a new way to deliver the news separate from print sales and circulation.

The economics here is interesting. Step #1: Find a sugar daddy. Regardless of the sugar daddy's motives, the first step is to find an endowment of roughly $5 million bucks. That guarantees an annual flow of $250,000 a year and this is a non-profit so no taxes. With that credible committment of cash, then pursue some advertising and some premium subscriptions. Let's suppose that this yields $200,000 a year. Evan's only cost is for the webpage and to pay the writers and their expenses.

Here is the final product . It looks serious!

Now, all non-profits seek a sugar daddy and the potential "daddies" know this. While Mike Bloomberg has been a benevolent leader of New York City (using his billions to wisely guide his subjects such as my parents), we face an interesting issue with the rise of the public goods providers.

Do you remember Ronald Coase and his lighthouse? Sometimes public goods are provide by private citizens as they pursue their own agendas.

For years liberals railed that conservative foundations such as Heritage and AEI were funded by rich conservatives. So, this new venture is a repeat of an old theme.

Recall Hotelling's long narrow beach, will multi millionares of all political types chip in their millions to create newspapers that span the full spectrum of views? If yes, then internet surfers will have freedom of choice and can write a thanks tweet to these nice rich people.

But, if certain ideologies do not have a rich backer or face free rider issues such that no one rich member of the them wants to provide the "lighthouse", what happens next? In the ideological competition, their views will not be heard.

Should PBS seek to fill that gap?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Good Luck in the Big City

There are some selfless people in the Big City. Here is a very
nice story about good luck in a big city. A cynic would say that the cardiologist anticipated that she would get a nice write up in People Magazine but I don't believe this.

The "Treatment Effect" of Doctors

Are doctors good for you? When are they good for you? As they learn how to do their craft, could their treatment improve and become more cost-effective? Here is David Leonhardt's piece on health care and doctor's value added

For applied micro scholars, we can map this into the treatment effects literature's basic notation and focus on essential heterogeneity and the incentives and objectives of doctors.

First, some notation. Define Y = health of the patient (its units are noodles).

Patients differ on both observable characteristics (age, race, sex) and unobserved characteristics (diet habits, patience). Call the first set D1, and the second set D2

The doctor must choose to give treatment T1 or T2. They differ with respect to their cost, complications and ex-ante expected impact on Y.

Here is the linear health production function if treatment T1 is given:

Y1 = b1*D1 + b2*D2 + b3*T1 + b4*D1*T1 + b5*D2*T1 + U

here is the linear health production if Treatment T2 is given:


Y2 = b1*D1 + b2*D2 + b3*T2 + b4*D1*T2 + b5*D2*T2 + U


The statistical inference problem is to estimate b1, b2, b3, b4, b5. The doctors don't know the true health production function.

With these b1-b5 parameters, we would fully understand the benefits of a given treatment for diverse patients. The problem is that the assignment to treatment status is not randomly and we do not observe D2. How does this missing data issue affect the inferences that Doctors make based on "evidence based measurement"?

So, the relative benefit (measured in health) of treatment 1 is:


b4*D1*(T1-T2) + b5*D2*(T1-T2)


With a large enough data sample (and assuming that b5 = 0), an empiricist will know b4 (giving 65 year old blacks a blood pressure medicine versus giving the same medicine to a 47 white man etc) but how does the doctor know b5?

Intuitively, b5 represents how a patient person who is willing to comply with the regimen will respond to the treatment. My intuition tells me that modern medicine has more trouble being "effective" when b5 does not equal zero. b5 represents a random effect that the same treatment can have a different effect on different patients because the patients differ in ways that the patient is aware of but the doctor cannot know.

If D1 and D2 are uncorrelated, then one can recover b1 and b3 and b4 using OLS and this will help the evidence based guys offer better advice.

Now , here is the interesting part. Think of Bones on Star Trek. Suppose with his country doctor intuition he sees a subset of the D2 vector (the unobserved attributes of the patient). He may choose to violate the "treatment manual" that Leonhardt would have used. Bones is not crazy; he has more information than the manual --- so the manual only has information in D1 (there is a 46 year old black woman with hypertension and she should be assigned treatment x).

Bones has more information D1 and part of the D2 vector about the patient. He has an ethical duty to make a "better" recommendation but will be sued for violating protocal?

So, what is interesting here is the 2 way asymmetry of information. The doctor knows more than the Manual but the doctor knows less than the patient. The doctor is forced to take a gamble and is aware that he will be sued if the bad state of the world unfolds and he makes a choice far from the Manual would have suggested he do.

When there is a distribution on b5 and if patients know their type but the doctor does not know their type, then doctors will make more mistakes in assigning "optimal" treatment. Will The doctor who Mr. Leonhardt profiles be able to solve this problem?

In my speed read of the piece, there was no mention of liability. If doctors are risk averse and fear being sued then they will follow the leader and follow the cookbook in terms of what are "best practices". This should minimize the probability that they are sued but if b5 does not equal zero then the heterogeneous population of patients actually need different treatments that are tailored to them.

So, the liability lawyer would want to observe my (D1,D2) but only sees my (D1).

the "right" treatment hinges on (D1,D2) observables and unobservables; an intuitive doctor might be able to get an imprecise handle on D2 and assign the "heckman" correct treatment while the lawyer would say; "the book says if you have D1, you get treatment X1" but this assumes an independence of D1 and D2 and in the real world this won't always be true.

The lawyers and the empiricists have to be honest about the role that unobservables play here in producing health.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ken Caldeira's Congressional Testimony on Geoengineering

Ken Caldeira's opening remarks from his 11/5/09 testimony are reported here. Below, I provide some quotes from his remarks but first allow me to editorialize.

Wikipedia tells us that "Ken Caldeira is an atmospheric scientist who works at the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology. He researches ocean acidification, climate effects of trees, intentional climate modification, and interactions in the global carbon/climate system."

Now, I still wonder whether he is an expert on geoengineering. Is this a field in which you can get a Ph.D? I know how you become labor economist. In an analogous fashion, how do you train to be a geoengineer?

I looked up Dr. Caldeira's technical publications on geoengineering. To be honest, according to google scholar, he has only published two papers on the subject and their respective citation counts are real low.

Here is one of the papers . According to Google Scholar it has been
cited 52 times since 2000. That is not very impressive and his other paper is here:

Transient climate–carbon simulations of planetary geoengineering
HD Matthews, K Caldeira - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2007 - National Acad Sciences
Cited by 39 - Related articles - BL Direct - All 15 versions

So, I find it interesting that a serious scientist with less than 100 citations on geoengineering is "one of the world's leading experts" on the subject. This doesn't appear to be a real research field right now. I skimmed the first paper listed about and he modifies a computer simulation to predict what role geoengineering could play. That is okay but doesn't sound that serious.

With these caveats, he does say some quite smart things below; These are quotes from his 11/5/09 testimony to congress.


Quote #1:
"Climate change poses a real risk to Americans. The surest way to reduce this risk is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases."

Quote #2: "However, other options may also be available which could in some circumstances cost‐effectively
contribute to risk reduction. These options can be divided into two categories with very different characteristics: Solar Radiation Management (SRM) approaches seek to reduce the amount of climate change by reflecting some of the sun’s warming rays back to space."

Quote #3: " Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) approaches seek to reduce the amount of climate change and ocean acidification by removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"While there is some expectation that Solar Radiation Management approaches can diminish most of the climate change in most of the world most of the time, it is possible that there could be bad effects that would render this offsetting undesirable. These bad effects could be environmental, or they could be
socio‐political. With regard to environmental negatives, it is possible there could be adverse shifts in rainfall, or damage to the ozone layer, or unintended impacts on natural ecosystems. These unintended consequences should be a major focus of a Solar Radiation Management research program. Furthermore, we must bear in mind that Solar Radiation Management proposals do not solve problems associated with ocean
acidification (but they do not significantly affect ocean acidification)."


KEY JUSTIFICATION QUOTE FOR GEOENGINEERING RESEARCH

"What if we were to find out that parts of Greenland were sliding into the sea, and that sea‐level might
rise 10 feet by mid‐century? (Such rapid sea level rises apparently happened in the geologic past, even
without the kind of rapid shock we are now applying to our climate system.) What if rainfall patterns
shifted in a way that caused massive famines? What if our agricultural heartland turned into a perpetual
dustbowl? And what if research told us that an appropriate placement of tiny particles in the
stratosphere could reverse all or some of these effects?
Ken Caldeira Testimony before the House 5 Nov 2009
kcaldeira@carnegie.stanford.edu Comm. on Science & Technology page 8
That was a lot of “what if’s”, but nevertheless there is potential that direct intervention in the climate
system could someday save lives and reduce human suffering. Moreover, direct intervention in the
climate system might someday save lives and reduce suffering of American citizens. I do not know what
the probabilities of such outcomes are, but I believe that if we take the risks associated with climate
change seriously, we must investigate our options carefully and without prejudice.
We do not want our seat belts to be tested for the first time when we are in an automobile accident. If
the seat belts are not going to work, it would be good to know that now. If there is something really
wrong with thoughtfully intervening in the climate system, we should try to find that out now, so that if
a crisis occurs, policy makers are not put in the decision of having to decide whether to let people die or
try to save their lives by deploying, at full scale, an untested system.
We need the research now to establish whether such approaches can do more good than harm."

It is hard to disagree with this. The policy issue here is marginal analysis. If we have a fixed budget for addressing climate change; do we focus on mitigation measures, adaptation measures or geoengineering measures?

Is Brooklyn a "Green City"? New Cement Production in Red Hook

Cement Factories are part of the "old economy". Do they have any place in a "consumer city" such as Brooklyn?

"But Red Hook, a western Brooklyn peninsula known for its rough-hewn docks and their denizens, has been cultivating a gentler, more genteel image for years now, becoming a magnet for artists looking for cheap space, homesteaders longing for views of the Statue of Liberty and foodies craving organic vegetables grown in the neighborhood.

So the plant, which is nearing completion, has spurred protests in this split-personality neighborhood. The clouds of dust stirred up could be quite literal: What mostly worries opponents are the airborne particles they say the plant will scatter to the yellow-and-blue Ikea next door, heavily used baseball fields across the street, and a 2.75-acre farm nearby on a former playground."

Cement is heavy to ship so you want production close to final place of use. Cement is needed in Brooklyn and in NYC, so where should the Cement be produced? The problem is that producing cement is a dirty production process. If you are Coase, where do you site the noxious facility? Would you put it in the middle of Central Park?

A point in my research has been that the reduction in transportation costs of shipping final goods has allowed dirty production to move away from big cities and this separation of production and consumption has reduced the urban population's exposure to manufacturing production. Globalization critics would say; "Matt keep going"; The nasty production has moved to China not merely to Alabama. That is going too far.

Keep in mind that dirty factories do not walk away from old cities. They shut and a new lower emitting factory is built somewhere else. The nation's regulatory rules will determine how clean the new factory will be but new capital is cleaner than old pre-1970s vintage capital. For recent work on globalization's consequences for the pollution content of production see this paper and this paper by Arik Levinson.

But, in the case of cement and other costly to ship (per $ of value of output) products, they will continue to be produced near final consumers --- in order to minimize transportation costs --- so , as Manhattan's boroughs become yuppie --- where should the nasty production activity take place? Where is the path of least resistance? Does this community "like" pollution? No, they are probably a renter; poor; low voice community who faces transaction costs to organize to oppose the entry of such a production facility. NIMBY politics causes this search . The issue is a property rights issue. Do communities have the right to not face such noxious facilities? Does the cement plant need to make a transfer to the community it enters and how large should that transfer be to compensate the "victims" for the quality of life damage its production causes.

One final point -- an economist would say that there is no negative externality here in the following case; if the land where the Cement Plant is about to open has been zoned "nasty industrial" then property next to it should sell for a price discount to reflect the pollution damage that is likely to be caused by their neighbor. If I can buy a cheap house because the house is next to a dump, I can't complain that I live next to a dump. I picked it and I was compensated for living there. So, my question here is "what is the new news?" Is the cement factory nastier than was expected? In this case, the neighbors have not been fully compensated for the damage they are now feeling. Alternatively, the neighbors want a free lunch of low land purchase price and no pollution.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Good Life: A Harvard Case Study

Tournaments feature a skewed payoff distribution. Tiger Woods wins much more cash than the runner up. This creates strong incentives to devote effort. Academic Economics can be viewed as such a tournament. Our superstars do the profession a service by opening up their homes and showing what a good life they really have. This signals to the rest of us (especially young people) what the best of the next generation may be able to achieve with some hard work and perhaps a little luck.

As a guy who lives in a 1700 square foot house (with 2 other people), I do wonder why a person "needs" 6500 square feet. Assuming CRS production of happiness, Dr. Mankiw must have 12 people living in his house.

Cost Overuns and the Denver Rail System

I am not surprised that the Denver rail's FasTracks is vastly over budget. I am often "railed" against the rising total cost of such public works projects. Voters do have a right to know the final cost of a project before they vote on it. Unfortunately, this type of thing does not help in generating "trust in government". In the middle of this NY Times article , there is a quote from Arthur Nelson who optimistically says that all else equal that if a home is closer to rail transit that its probability of going into foreclosure is lower. So, he is positing that new urbanist homes are less risky investments. Is this true?

Arthur, have you read my 2007 Real Estate Economics paper on community gentrification near new rail transit lines? The largest home price gains are near new "Walk and Ride" stations. Think of Davis Square on the Boston Red Line.

My question for Dr. Nelson is what is his control group? To tease out a causal effect of proximity , he needs to answer what would these homes' foreclosure rates have been if they had not been close to rail transit. Is he simply looking at homes equi-distant to the city center that are not near rail transit (so looking at a common radius around a city's center)?

When we make causal claims to the media, I'd ask us to be clear about what is the comparison group. How do we know that what we are telling the reporters is "true" versus is wishful thinking?

Nelson has made an interesting claim that merits further research.

Will LeBron James Move to the Knicks? A Test of Whether the Internet Substitutes for Big Cities

An open question in urban economics is whether information technology is a complement or substitute for living in a big city? Does the Internet and the fax machine increase or decrease the demand for living in New York City or Los Angeles? In a well known paper, Glaeser and Gaspar 1998 argue that it increases the demand for big city living.

So if Lebron James is a $ maximizer, will he move to New York City?

The NY Times says no. A famous agent says that 20 years ago it would have been a wise move to go from small Cleveland to big NYC. But now with the Internet 24 hour news feeds his fame will not be magnified in NYC. In fact, he will just be one of 100s of celebrities. If he has relative preferences and prefers to be the King of a Small Pond then Cleveland may offer him the same nominal salary, lower home prices and more fame!

The King should not forget Moretti's paper on real wage inequality that the high home prices in NYC will eat into his real pay. Cleveland's very low home prices offer some real consumption benefits.

A final point: the King's income = price per unit of skill*quantity of skill.

Unlike a software writer, a NBA player's skill is not augmented by being in a big city. There are no learning effects a la Jane Jacobs or Marshall. This article's point is that the Internet is creating a law of one price per unit of skill. In the past before the Internet, Skilled players earned more from Advertising and fame when the played in major cities because of the PR and fame amplication effect. But, the Internet can generate equal buzz regardless of where you play.

The King should talk to us urban economists! LeBron; call me.

The big question here is whether the King is a special case or whether this example foreshadows that the Big City premium will soon fade because of the Internet. In this case, the only reason to pay the big city real estate price premium is "Consumer City".

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Take Your Son to Work Day

My wife has a full time job. Apparently, we have a son. This sometimes has consequences for my routine.



Last year, I was invited to speak to a crowd of roughly 250 people at the UCLA Opportunity Green Conference. Grist's Russ Walker was kind enough to share the stage with my son and I. My son looks a little stiff here but he has strong views on the environment and wants you to recycle more.

I have not been invited back to this year's Opportunity Green 2009 Conference . So, some combinaation of my son and I must have stunk.

Some Thoughts on the Superfreakonomics Carbon Controversy

I just took the superfreakonomics global warming quiz and as usual scored a B+. Steve says that carbon mitigation will cost us a $1 trillion dollars a year. He is well aware that there is a confidence interval around that number but let's think about that number.

There are 7 billion people on the planet. I believe in equal pay for equal work so let's share that equally so 1000/7 = $142 per person per year. President Obama has reminded us that a postage stamp costs .42 dollars. Suppose each person in the world gave up one of these precious stamps each day = 365*.42 = $153. So , a few lucky people could even keep their stamp rather than giving it to Al Gore.

Point #1: My first point is a shout out to my liberal/green friends --- while the aggregate price tag looks nasty --- this is a big planet --- when we place costs in per-capita terms --- this doesn't look serious relative to bigger bills like paying for health care reform.

Point #2: Where did this $1 trillion dollar number come from? Does Steve believe in Computable General Equilibrium models where not a single parameter in the model is estimated using micro data and modern applied econometrics techniques? I doubt it.

We must be honest about what we know and what we don't know in the case of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. As folks know, I have talked about this knowledge gap before in the context of figuring out the true costs of California's AB 32 regulation.

The CBO has come out with its report on its predictions concerning the costs of the June 2009 ACES Waxman/Markey Bill. They did not look large to me but I also do not fully understand how they did their analysis.

Economists are not doing a great job here providing a sophisticated analysis or explanation of how in the heck we generate these numbers that the naive public takes as "the truth".


Point #3: Geoengineering options should certainly be explored but the likely lulling effect it will cause ---that voters will rebel against carbon mitigation because they will anticipate that ex-post geo-engineering will save us --- should not be discounted.

Ex-Post insurance does create ex-ante risk taking --- every Chicago economist will agree on this point!

I have now read Ken Caldeira's 2007 PNAS paper and he recognizes the challenge of the "lull". Here is a direct quote from the Master.

"It is equally critical that
efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions do not become
hampered or slowed by the specter of false certainty in our ability
to geoengineer the climate change problem away."

http://dge.stanford.edu/labs/caldeiralab/Caldeira_research/pdf/Matthews_Caldeira_PNAS2007smaller.pdf

How Do You Generate Demand for a Home Priced at Over $10 Million?

Real estate agents have to earn their 3%. They have to live with Levitt's and Syverson's view of them and in the midst of this ongoing economic trouble, it takes some work to sell a $10+ million dollar house. To generate some buzz about these shacks, the real estate agents are opening up the homes to the proletariat and letting people use the pool, the bathrooms and look for nearby celebrities. Anything to generate a potential offer. In the good old days, you had to prove that you had the $ in the bank to actually purchase the house before they'd let you in to run around it. Whose nearby home would I like to see? Perhaps Arnold S's Brentwood place, Dusten Hoffman's Santa Monica shack would be of interest. I'd like to see what books Brittney Spears has in her library. There would be more trust in our society if there was more contact between the rich and people like me. This real estate broker's attempt could offer some social benefits in the long run!

The City/Suburban Carbon Footprint Differential and the Implicit Subsidies in the Tax Code: How Do OP-ED Readers Respond to Economic Logic?

Ed Glaeser makes some excellent points about the suburban subsidy implicit in our tax code: "Yet the tax code encourages Americans to live in big, energy-guzzling homes, instead of thrifty apartments, and Congress seems intent on further unbalancing the federal budget to egg on home buyers."

As many of you know, I wrote one of the first empirical papers on the city/suburbs energy consumption differential back in 2000! Here is a free copy. I did not explore how government incentives affect the city/suburb locational choice.

How have the readers of his Boston Globe Op-Ed received this wisdom? Let's hear from the comment gallery. The comments are very funny. You have to admit that there is a certain wisdom (or at least humor) in crowds. Take the best hate from 2 billion connected Internet users and you will have some great stuff.


shumirules wrote:
If you live in a home smaller then Al Gore then dont worry about your carbon frontprint.
11/4/2009 10:14 PM EST Recommend (10) Report abuse Permalink

JeffreyHooooop wrote:
Yes, carbon emissions could be reduced by reducing home size. But, they could also be reduced by castrating all breeding aged males, or legislating a legal limit on the number of times one can visit their grandmother in a year. All carbon reductions come at some cost, and while you may be happy living in a little apartment in Boston, there are parts of this country where apartments don't even exist.

The tax credit is available for the purchase of an apartment (or house boat...). The fact of the matter is, that when most people are able to purchase a place to live in, they want a place that is pleasant to live in, not someplace like the apartment they lived in in their poverty.

In the end, any consumption inducing policy has a negative carbon footprint, but, there are other things that matter other than carbon emissions.
11/4/2009 10:51 PM EST Recommend (8) Report abuse Permalink

yokosuka wrote:
Can't these green types just leave us alone?
11/5/2009 3:58 AM EST Recommend (7) Report abuse Permalink

biotechlawnerd wrote:
The global warming hoax is the greatest boon for politicians. It gives them the ability to severely regulate or tax any and every aspect of our existence.
No one can drive.
No one can eat meat.
No one can eat produce that wasn't locally grown.
No one can live in a single family home.
No one can have more than one child.

11/5/2009 5:27 AM EST Recommend (6) Report abuse Permalink

MiketheForester wrote:
For those "warmers" who worry about carbon footprints, what about the huge carbon footprint caused by the tsunami of illegal aliens? In the 1980's Reagan and Kennedy gave amnesty to 3 million lawbreakers and promised this would solve the problem. But now we have 12-15 million illegals that have greatly depressed wages, stolen jobs, and caused huge amounts of pollution. If the Democrats give amnesty to these lawbreakers, it really means 50 million more as they bring in their next of kin, etc. Then this will spur another tidal wave of illegal aliens. If nothing is done, US population will grow to at least 1 billion by the year 2100.

So next time one of these "warmers" start crying about CO2 ask them their position on illegal aliens. More than likely they will say "well I don't want to be xenophobic".
I'll call them for what they really are: hypocrites!
11/5/2009 5:39 AM EST Recommend (4) Report abuse Permalink

billyb2 wrote:
Since when did electrical appliances and lights start emitting greenhouse gases? The only place where the use of electricity would have any affect on the enviroment is at the source of production i.e. your local Edison plant. Even there with all the enviromental safeguards already in place in place there is negligible impact. This is just more hokum on top of hokum.
11/5/2009 6:00 AM EST Recommend (5) Report abuse Permalink

WJ wrote:
Mr. Glasser, where is your appartment located? Oh, you live in a house!
11/5/2009 6:20 AM EST Recommend (4) Report abuse Permalink

RJG33 wrote:
Mr. Glaeser: how large is YOUR abode? It would have been instructive if you showed all of us planet-wrecker who seek "to live in big, energy-guzzling homes, instead of thrifty apartments"... that you wlak the walk, not jsut tlak the talk. Methinks, much like those who bleat for increased state spending and taxes but refuse to say if they pay @ the optional higher rate, you are great at telling others what they should do but do not exercise the courage of your- stated- convictions. Do YOU live in a tiny, tidy studio apartment? Put up or shut, Ed- talk is cheap!

Global warming- er, um, excuse me, "climate change"- hysteria is SO 2004! I second shumirules assertion:
"If you live in a home smaller then Al Gore then dont worry about your carbon frontprint."
11/5/2009 6:42 AM EST Recommend (8) Report abuse Permalink

sweetlandoliberty wrote:
Well, finally an article showing the ridiculous hysteria about "global warming".

First time home buyers need that tax break in this lousy economy, and the "green loons" want to take that away from them?

We all seemed to have gone to sleep last November, and woke up to the realization that, indeed, the loons had won. Thank goodness most Americans have finally awakened from that drunken stooper, except the "greenies".
11/5/2009 6:53 AM EST Recommend (5) Report abuse Permalink

sizmo55 wrote:
The writer lives in the city, and believes in the superiority of city life, of higher population density. I don't buy it. I wouldn't live in a city if you paid me. Cites are meant to be visited and worked in, not lived in.

He wants to reduce the mortgage interest deduction for EVERYONE, whether they take advantage of the tax credit or not. Either he lives in an apartment or, being a Harvard professor, he can afford the reduction. I don't like deductions either, but get rid of them ALL and go to a flat rate. How's that Mr.Glaeser?
11/5/2009 7:40 AM EST Recommend (4) Report abuse Permalink

deltachild wrote:
Another Harvard loonie wanting to create the perfect life for everyone. Mr. Glasser, how about trying to sell your crap to Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria etc and I promise that when they come on-board I'll join. Wow
11/5/2009 8:42 AM EST Recommend (2) Report abuse Permalink

Douglas4517 wrote:
"Edward L. Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard University, is director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston"

Once again, the elitists wish to impose upon the masses, the One True Way. Not a way that the Ruling Class will have to live, mind you, just the way the peasantry should accept as their ordained lot in life.

I am sick and tired of these idiots.

11/5/2009 8:42 AM EST Recommend (1) Report abuse Permalink

ludviko wrote:
Ah, the fanatics of the secular religion strike again. Agree with the first poster - as long as your home is smaller than Gore's, you're OK.
11/5/2009 8:54 AM EST Recommend Report abuse Permalink

Celticpole wrote:
According to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey, per person energy use in owner-occupied housing is 39 percent higher than in rental units. Energy use, per household member, is 49 percent higher in single-family detached houses than in apartments in buildings with more than five units.
Well that sounds pretty accurate. Once the absentee landlord doesn't repair the heating system; the city suts off the water for non-payment; and residents are reduced to by their wits the carbon footprint is indeed reduced so that some of us can use more in a cap and trade kind of way. If the residents die from exposure that's even better as they will be subtracting themselves from the causal side of the equation.
Come to NYC, Newark NJ, KCMO, or Denver to see life's laboratory in action.
Carpe Diem and two sticks.
11/5/2009 8:59 AM EST Recommend Report abuse Permalink

realitybiter wrote:
I appreciate that the fantastically more intelligent academics have an enormous mental advantage over the rest of us.......but, puleeeeeez.

I will give a rip about my carbon footprint when private jets are made illegal. I will give a rip about my carbon footprint when academics stop traveling around the world, spewing 20 lbs of carbon per gallon burned of jet fuel, all in the name of attending this conference or that....it is a long list.....you get the idea. "Some pigs are more equal than others"

I know my graduate degree in engineering is far less worthy than a phd in sociology or some other social "science" study, but my little pea brain says you folks are unwilling to eat your own cooking. Until you are, please reduce your carbon footprint by not blowing so much hot gas, through hare-brained notions like these.

My sister is an academic, tenured professor, dept chair...married no kids. I have done the math. She and her husband burn up more jet fuel and create a carbon footprint 2 times larger than me, my wife, my 3 kids, two dogs, three cars( we don't drive much...20k mi total), and mini mcmansion. All based on the fact that we live in a suburb, close to our school, house ran office, close to stores...and rarely fly. Them planes create a massive amount of carbon when you are traveling 100,000 miles a year... Do the math.

And just what do academics produce? Couldn't it be argued that their mere existence should be questioned since they create carbon and produce next to nothing? Just saying...you step on that slope and gets slippery in a hurry.
11/5/2009 9:03 AM EST Recommend (2) Report abuse Permalink

Huhh wrote:
Overly simplistic. And having lived in city apartments and the suburbs ... well I'll take the place where I own more that cubic air space and I can actually fit my family.
11/5/2009 9:37 AM EST Recommend Report abuse Permalink

PSRyan wrote:
Ahhhh, the beautiful concrete sterilized utopia of Cold War era Moscow apartment buildings. Squat, square concrete cubicles, about 150 sq ft of living space, low carbon footprint. How could I have been so foolish to want more?

Can I get the bread lines too?

MiketheForester brushes a key issue, but doesn't quite nail it in that the influx of immigration has moved these people from an agrarian, and therefore much lower carbon footprint lifestyle, to a more modern suburban lifestyle. Instead of living in a small home, likely built out of materials available nearby, built practically on top of the fields upon which they work; they now live in a city, often driving older, less efficient cars (both in emissions and gas mileage) longer distances to work in more industrialized fields using higher amounts of commercial fertilizers.

So how is it then that both policies can be supported if by supporting unlimited immigration we actually place more harm upon the environment? Shouldn't the policies be mutually exclusive?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. All the greenies want is a FULL return to an all agrarian lifestyle for everyone (well, except themselves). Being flippant I bet zombies are a greenies best friend as they consume the most evil being on the planet - humans.

I fully support recycling, wind, solar, and nuclear power. Interestingly, all of these things are actually opposed by, you guessed it, environmentalists. They infringe on natural beauty, threaten habitats of the desert toad, or migratory birds and therefore must be stopped (according to them).

So put on your reedskin loincloth, get your hoe (no oxen - that's cruel) and start farming (no hunting - just farming- you're not allowed meat either) - anything else doesn't meet the environmentalist agenda.
11/5/2009 9:56 AM EST Recommend (1) Report abuse Permalink

Hammer02 wrote:
My goodness ... the globe throwing stones at the moonbats in their big houses out in the burbs ... i am shocked?
11/5/2009 10:07 AM EST Recommend Report abuse Permalink

RJG33 wrote:
Worth noting:
A Google search did turn up an Edward L. Glaeser living on Ripley Lane in... Weston. Wonder if that is a tiny, cramped studio apartment?