Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Green Vocational Training in Future California High Schools?

I don't own a TV so when I stay in a hotel I try to watch it. This morning I was watching the 12/17 confirmation hearings of the California PUC's Michael Peevey . He is a very important guy on all energy issues for the state.

During the hearings, a Democrat pushed him that the Public Utility Commission (PUC) should be using its budget to encourage the development of new green human capital at high schools. Similar to Bill Clinton's 1992 love for the European vocational skills education, this vision would have California high schools train students (in shop class?) with practical skills for the new green economy. So, avoiding engineering details, these young people would be trained in installation and maintenance of wind and solar panels and perhaps the art of maintaining plug in hybrids and other energy efficient durables.

This harkens back to an old labor economics literature; namely on the job training versus general human capital. In one scenario, firms would hire young people and would train them. This would be attractive if there is specificity to the specific task that the firm wants done. For example, if Burger King has an exact way of making their Whopper. The firm will only invest in a worker's green skills if they expect the worker to remain with the firm and if there is a demand for the final product.

I wondered if there is a "field of Dreams" logic behind what the Democrats are arguing for. If California has a thick pool of "skilled" relatively cheap green labor, will more factories locate in California or will China still be more attractive?

Does this create a new interest group who supports AB32 (anti-carbon) legislation?
Typically, carbon mitigation has been an elite issue but this would nudge the union rank and file on board.

If high schools embrace an even "greener" curriculum what gets pushed out? economics?
If it is trigonometry then I support this.

The big issue here is the "tipping point" --- wise strategists are moving on several levels to build support to keep carbon mitigation going strong. Al Gore and other people in Malibu and Berkeley will always support this legislation but how do you get Joe the Plummer on board? He needs to believe that there is something in it for him.

Does supply create demand? This green jobs push may offer a good test but I do believe that we also need the Copenhagen Success to send a world wide signal that the future is low-carbon. If there isn't credible demand then such supply side subsidies will fail to deliver "good green jobs at good wages".

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Predictions for 2010

In his last NY Times column of each calendar year, William Safire always made gutsy predictions for the new year. Now that he has passed away, somebody needs to take his place. Below, I will fail at this but I hope that my failure raises your hopes that you can do better.

I am sitting in a hotel in downtown Sacramento. I have lived in many places and traveled widely and I must report that downtown Sacramento is not the place to be. I am excited though that I will spend tomorrow at my favorite electric utility. If you are on the 440pm Amtrak train tomorrow heading to Berkeley, please look for me in the bar car.

Predictions

1. The DJIA will stand at 11,250 on December 23rd 2010. The national unemployment rate will be 9% and the price of gasoline will be $3.20 a gallon.

2. UCLA, UC Berkeley will be allowed to earn some revenue from their national brand names. Rather than having only 5% of students from out of state, these schools will have 25% of students from out of state and 75% from in state. The out of state students will pay the midpoint of the tuition paid by in state students ($10 grand) and the tuition paid at elite private schools $40 grand); so each out of state student will pay $25,000 a year.

If UCLA has 32,000 undergrads; this will yield (in steady state) an extra 8,000*$15,000 a year = $120 million per year and the school will start to recover from the recent extreme pain. With this extra revenue, my concerns about the future of the UC vanish and I will stop complaining (that's a conditional prediction).


3. I have trouble making a prediction about the 2010 Midterm Election. Nobody likes the Republicans. They are not a party of ideas or leadership. Still, there will be a backlash against this growth in government. The marginal tax rate on upper middle class people is soon going to look quite high.


4. Basic Books will publish a new book of mine in fall 2010 and I will drone on and on about its merits.

5. A resolution and a prediction: Dora and I will have a happy and productive 2010 and I will try to be a more productive, less negative person.


SWITCHING subjects: I suggest you read this NY Times article about UCLA's Hospital
here . A fascinating debate on heterogeneous treatment effects is brewing. The Dartmouth Atlas guys have had a good run aiding the Obama Team with their "empirical finding" that a free lunch can be had such that health outcomes improve and we reduce the cost of care. UCLA appears to be a counter-example offering high value added care at high cost to a subset of recipients. What are your rights? Do you get to make health choices while facing a hard or soft budget constraint?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Proof that There are Free $20 Bills on the Ground

This breaks my Chicago heart but take a look at this unclaimed checks website at Sacramento's SMUD. Now some of you smart economists will say that this must be low stakes stuff. You like data my fellow "Super Crunchers"? Here are the micro data. Go write a JPE paper with it. I see one person who has not claimed a $1200 check. What does this prove? Sharp diminishing marginal utility of income?

I should add that this will be my last blog post for 2 weeks. I am returning to my second favorite city. I'll give you a hint. It is liberal and its name begins with a "B" and it isn't Boston.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Interview Published in the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland's New "Forefront" Magazine

In October 2009, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Francisca Richter. The interview is presented below. Doug Campbell was kind enough to arrange this. I had a great time and I hope this new magazine is as well read as the Federal Reserve of Minneapolis' publication.

Here is the first issue in pdf format.

Here is another link

Here is the video . I apologize for my odd look

and here is the web link.

For those of you who know me, you will see that I tried to be funny and to be interesting.

One Example from the interview:

Kahn: "I started this blog because my wife wanted me to stop telling her all my ideas, and this was a cheap way to communicate with all my friends in academia. Many of them read it and then send me rude remarks. But to your question, UCLA has been suffering from high local real estate prices! A sign to economists of great quality of life is high real estate prices, but UCLA is having trouble recruiting faculty because of it. Faculty at an Ohio State or a university in Boston say, "UCLA is a great school, but I can't afford the housing nearby." I'm talking about a $1.3 million, 2,000 square foot house, not the Playboy mansion, that is affecting the ability of UCLA to recruit."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Climate Change Research Cash (but Not for Clunkers)

Are you an economist who has been thinking about climate change research topics? Are you eager to raise some research funds? Well, then please take a look at this . Prof. Charlie Kolstad and I have worked to encourage the California Air Resources Board to devote some of its research money to encouraging new work on the broad topic of the "Economics of Climate change". We hope that such research funds will catalyze important new research that helps California design its innovative AB 32 carbon mitigation legislation.

We hope that there are a few active research scholars who are sitting at their desks and suffering as they devote effort to pushing the research frontier.

I view this as a great opportunity for economists to show that we are useful people whose innovative ideas can help society achieve its goals in a cost-effective manner.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Proof" that California has a Bright Future

Here is photo of my backyard taken on 12/15/2009.



Note the blue skies, the palm trees and the blooming plants. Last week I gave a talk attended by some local business people. Several of them were quite concerned that the state is not "business friendly". They predicted that the state's fiscal problems will cause a future brain drain. This photo represents my response and why I'm not as concerned as they are.

What Happens Next If Copenhagen Flunks?

Never forget backwards induction. Whether you are playing chess or arguing with somebody, don't forget about the sub-game you are trying to get to. In the case of carbon mitigation, we are trying to initialize a domino effect. Rather than the rise of communism through some continent, we are trying to cause the decline of carbon. But, Jeff Frankel's blog post depressed me.

Have the fast talking delegates considered; "what happens if no deal emerges?" Will there be a "next Copenhagen"? How does position convergence take place? If the delegates think about the challenge if no deal emerges, then does this affect their negotiating now? Do expectations of failure and the cost of failure raise the probability of compromise and "success"?

The Coase Theorem would say that the international "winners" from carbon mitigation will offer a nudge to the "losers" but in this case the "winners" have little to offer the USA and China except for a hearty handshake. If these nations would volunteer to help us in Afghanistan perhaps the Republicans in Congress would take this issue more seriously.

If Copenhagen unravels, will Al Gore need to pray for a true climate disaster to push back the skeptics back to the international negotiating table? Will venture capitalists stop investing in green tech because of their uncertainty concerning the timing and the extent of coming carbon pricing?

Put simply, Dick Cheney would consider investing in "green tech" if he was sure that the price of carbon would be $50 a ton starting in 2012 and rising year after year after that. But, nobody is sure about the distribution of this random variable.

Don't forget irreversible investment under uncertainty --- it is rational to wait and delay making a decision now but if each individual investor delays then the aggregate economy ends up "less green" than if we could commit to the big push now.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Transition to Smart Meters as a Test of our Love for the Status Quo

Economists and engineers have celebrated the coming installation of $200 real time electricity meters in our homes. This real time inflow of information will allow households to be sophisticated consumers of electricity. When electricity prices are high (like at peak times) we will use less and substitute off-peak. When we see the salient real time price signal (rather than the monthly uninformative current electricity bill) we will be more likely to demand energy efficient durables if we realize that we are "hogs". Given that most households spend around $1,000 a year on electricity. These meters could quickly pay for themselves. But, today's NY Times reports of a brewing rebellion. Some households are complaining that they "prefer" the good old days. They say that the technology is flawed because the smart meter says that they owe the power company more than under the old measurement system. Who is to blame? Energy auditers should diagnose the issue to see if the households were getting a good deal and didn't know it or whether the 1st generation technology is flawed.

This raises 2 issues. How do we transition to a new technology? Should it have been piloted first with voluntary opt-in and a subsequent randomization across that subset of volunteers? Will this new technology be regressive as the educated and skilled reduce their electricity consumption more (think of Captain Kirk) than the less skilled? Past research has documented that information is regressive because the educated are more likely to respond to it. There could be significant heterogeneity here. The old and out of the work force may have more time to babysit their smart meter and respond "optimally". The time pressed may not have the same freedoms for restructuring their days around the non-linear pricing system. Is that fair?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Environmentalism Embraced at an Early Age

Has your child ever lectured you on the importance of recycling? This LA Times article highlights a new set of children's books with a green edge to them. Perhaps the Cato Institute should commission a sociologist to study whether the modern elementary school curriculum is ramping up the next generation to become Al Gore to the third power.

Given that I have no memories at all of anything I learned at the vaunted Scarsdale School System, I have no problem with my son being taught some righteous ideas about what is good and moral behavior. But, the economist in me keeps thinking about tradeoffs. Somehow the broad concept of "tradeoffs" is not a major topic in elementary school curriculum. My son has also pointed out to me that his classmates are happy to redistribute other people's stuff but are not very generous with sharing their own stuff.

An interesting line of research has examined children's consistency of preference orderings. Do children make "rational choices"? Bill Harbaugh has some important work on this topic . If we extend the right to vote to children, would we be more likely to have carbon pricing? My guess is that health care wouldn't be such an exciting issue to these 8 year olds. There would be a large "Cash for Lego" program and President Obama would easily win a second term.

But, anticipating that today's deficits will lead to higher future taxes for their birth cohort --- the young today might act like tough Bob Barros and vote for fiscal discipline.

Vin Diesel Just Jogged by My House

Maybe I need to start "tweeting"? Most economists neither have anything to say in real time nor discrete time! But, hear me out. The movie star Vin Diesel just jogged past my Little Holmby house. I was walking out to pick up the newspaper and he was moving fast enough that I didn't have time to say; "Yo Vin". So, in the last few weeks my street has been visited by Warren Christopher and Vin Diesel. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. For all I know, Brittney Spears may play ping-pong down the street.

For those who expect substance from this blog, I refer you to this Copenhagen blog. Rob Stavins will be posting there.

What am I doing? Nothing. I just finished grading my exams and I have been sick with a cold. Dora and I have been working on our electricity project. The comments we received at the Berkeley conference last week have made us change our project in several key ways.

2010 is shaping up to be a very productive year. My resolution in the new year is to be productive.

UPDATE: Like a Simpson's episode, permit me to change themes. The NY Times has a nice piece on Mike Bloomberg's big carbon footprint . The article points out a "paradox" in many facets of his life, big mike is quite green -- he "walks the walk" on energy efficiency at his buildings and in his NYC public policies that are pushing NYC to be a "green city". I don't believe that the NY Times is calling him a hypocrite but they are getting close to saying that. The ask; "why doesn't he fly commercial first class rather than having his own jet?" The answer is obvious; this guy's scarcest asset is his time and he is rich enough to be able to fly when he wants to fly.

As many of you know, the "internal consistency" of choices by greens has been a big theme of my recent research. See my paper with Vaughn 2009 in BE Press 2009 and my paper with Morris in JAPA 2009. Liberals both vote green and live green but few have Bloomberg's money or high value of time.

The Italians have been talking about building an airplane whose fuel economy is much higher than current jets. I bet that Big Mike will buy one in the year 2050 (when it is released) and the NY Times will endorse him for a 15th term as Mayor.

As I have mentioned before, the funny part of guys like Big Mike being good Mayors is that the NY Times and other opinion leaders have to grudgingly admit that they prefer benevolent dictatorship rather than messy interest group democracy.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Can Economic Analysis Inform the Carbon Mitigation Policy Debate?

In this piece , Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee has been quoted saying "that mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions would result in dramatically higher energy costs as industry was forced to shift away from fossil fuels or pay for carbon-capture technologies".

Is this statement true or false? My fellow academic economists, isn't it our job to answer this question?

The good news is that Gib Metcalf and his co-authors have made progress answering this key issue. Here is the Metcalf paper. To get a sense of his results take a look at Table 3 of this paper by Rob Stavins .

The energy price increases he presents are fairly large (even for a carbon tax or permit system of "only" $25 per ton).

As a profession, we need to debate the following;

1. What is the right economic model for predicting these price changes? Are we confident in these predictions or is there a fair bit of uncertainty underlying them?

2. Are these short run or medium term effects? (Meaning --- will the vaunted induced innovation hypothesis be proven correct and the cost of meeting co2 mitigation goals will be lower than we expect today?)


To provide some concrete sense about my own confusion here, Let's do a very simple case. We know that natural gas has 1/2 the carbon emissions factor as coal. So if every electric utility in the U.S could "easily" convert to natural gas then we could half our emissions from power generation. That would almost get us to Obama's 17% reduction by 2020.

Can we scale up natural gas to that degree? Is the supply curve of natural gas elastic or would it "go vertical" as we scale up production? Do you know the answer to this? I don't.

As politicians make claims, I would love to live in a world where economists provide the "best" honest analysis of what we know and what we don't know. Ideally, when we identify key gaps in our knowledge we are smart enough to come up with ways to fill in these holes using pilot projects and field experiments. The problem is that this methodology won't work in the case of carbon pricing. This is a general equilibrium issue and us partial equilibrium guys are not equipped to answer this question .

There is a CGE crew armed with models for predicting policy counter-factuals (such as the introduction of a carbon tax at $50 a ton) but I must admit that I don't fully believe the confident predictions that emerge from their coherent models.


So, what is a politician to do? The partial equilibrium applied micro economists say that we do not know the answer to their tough questions such as ; how will carbon policy affect energy prices? The CGE crew offers an answer but their answers should be interpreted with a degree of caution about their precision. How does a bayesian update in this confused case?

The politician is smart and recognizes that given that the nerds span the full set of policy spectrum -- they can pick a nerd whose findings support the politician's ex-ante world view --- so the bayesian politician never updates her prior. If I'm right about how the world works, then do economists matter?

As I've yelled many times; I want to live in a world where we do our analysis and the politicians update their priors based on what we have taught them.

Unexpected Costs of Geothermal Power and the Art of Seduction

A setback for geothermal power generation is reported in the news today. The NY Times is saying that venture capitalists were sold on a promising idea where the geothermal boosters "over sold" the ease of drilling down to the energy source and under-estimated the annoyance to nearby property owners. Whether such drilling could trigger earthquakes remains an open scary question. While I'm optimistic that smart engineers can come up with better ways to drill down;

"Geothermal enthusiasts asserted that drilling miles into hard rock, as required by the technique, could be done quickly and economically with small improvements in existing methods, Professor Schrag said. “What we’ve discovered is that it’s harder to make those improvements than some people believed,” he added."

This raises several economics questions. New technologies are risky both in terms of time it takes to perfect them and in terms of money and potentially liability in perfecting them. This "Knightian Uncertainty" (under which we do not know where we are going --- sort of like the Star Trek Enterprise going into deep space) -- raises fundamental challenges.

The Green Economy is based on the optimistic notion that we can easily solve these logistical problems. I hope this is true but in terms of cost/benefit analysis --- economists need to come up with ways to quantify the ex-ante risk that "renewable power" poses. We know how to "do" coal and natural gas powered electricity generation --- we have a lot of learning to do about renewables such as geothermal. How do you write down the "risk premium" for such risky (but green) energy sources? At the heart of my critique of the original AB32 economics plan was my point that the associated uncertainty with new technologies had been ignored. This is wishful thinking (to implicitly assume that there is no uncertainty associated with them). As today's NY Times piece shows, this is risky stuff. Huge sums of irreversible investment are now being made. Do the venture capitalists now regret their investment? I hope not but there are lessons to be learned here in how we make optimal policy in the presence of fundamental uncertainty.

Turning to "seduction". The NY Times is very concerned about recruiting practices at the University of Tennessee. Teenage "men" who play football are choosing to enroll at UT after meeting pretty young ladies who strongly encourage them to attend there. Given that these universities cannot pay $ for talent, there is an interesting question of how talented prospects are supposed to identify their "favorite" program? Should they meet the economics faculty at each school and base their decision on that attribute of the university? This case raises the fascinating question of who is at the margin and what attribute of a differentiated product tip the balance in making a choice (in this case where to play football and attend a few classes).

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Not Cool! Facebook Doesn't Lie About One's Past

Fred Raudat, an old friend from Hamilton College's class of 1988, has been posting photos of the "good old days" to his Facebook page. In the pictures, everyone looks cool; playing rock & roll and drinking brew. I finally found a picture of myself in the set and what am I doing? I'm reading a linear algebra text. Nerd.




Robert Frank has taught us that we must "pick our pond". Relative to my graduate school classmates at a certain mid-Western school, I was pretty cool. I challenge other economists to start posting some photos of their past to their blogs. History should not be left to the historians.

Six Members of the British Parliament Visit the UCLA Institute of the Environment

These are exciting days at my Institute. We just met for 1.5 hours with six MPs from the British Parliament. We had a good talk about energy policy issues. Here is photo of me with my new friends.



I had a good talk with MP John Robertson (MP for Glasgow North-West) . We agreed on the future prospects for nuclear power generation. Overall, I thought that the MPs were quite smart and I wondered whether their counterparts in the U.S Congress are equally impressive. I once met NY State Senator Al Damato in a Washington D.C elevator and I wasn't impressed with him.

Tiger Woods Offers Economists a Test of Our Theory of Labor Supply

Professor Mankiw should consider incorporating the following income effects case study into his next edition of his textbook. Based on the simple labor supply theory of substitution and income effects, I predict that Tiger Woods will play in more tournaments in 2010. In 2009 (pre-discovery of his prowling) Tiger didn't play much golf . He earned "only" $10 million playing golf. If his flow of endorsement income falls from $100 million a year to $10 million year, then this loss of $90 million per year is a negative income effect. Ignoring any alimony bills (which simply compound the income effect), this income effect should cause him to work more. Note that the wages of winning a tournament do not change. The shock is to his flow of income from his endorsements. This is equivalent to losing the lottery and having money taken from you.

The bottom line is that Jacob Mincer was a more important dude than Tiger Woods. At the end of the day tapping a ball into a hole in a minimum number of strokes just isn't that important.

UPDATE: At least in the short run, Tiger Woods' announcement suggests that I'm wrong. But, the long run will offer a better test of my claim. Some have said that he has banked enough $ for the income effect to be small. But, if one's flow of endorsement income falls from $100 million to $10 million a year --- this must have real effects on time allocation.

Now, I'm aware that the basic static labor supply model can be augmented to explain Tiger's decision to play less golf in the short run. We can introduce a desire for "home production" (i.e. reconcile with wife) but this is a pinch of a cheat.

In the past, economists have used exogenous income increases such as winning the lottery to study income effects see this paper . If Tiger Woods views Kobe Bryant as a redemption role model here then he will foresee that his endorsement income will return if he returns to golf and wins. This would reinforce the "income effect" of playing more golf.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Copenhagen and International Carbon Politics

I have been trying to follow the Copenhagen news stories such as this LA Times piece but I must admit that I do not have a good grasp on how nations actually negotiate with each other on such carbon mitigation issues. Nations know their current carbon emissions (so the USA is at 20 tons of co2 per year per-capita) and we know how to multiply numbers. If carbon dioxide has a price of $35 a ton then the average American will face a $700 a year bill to continue to live his "status quo" lifestyle while the average person in China would face a $140 bill. Now, what we don't know is what would be the medium term and long term effects of this pricing on economic growth and carbon mitigation technologies.

Don't count on the economists to have a good "Computable General Equilibrium" model to yield valid estimates of how each nation's economy will evolve in the presence of a carbon tax. If we introduced uncertainty into our models the confidence intervals would be huge. But today a group of economists are getting rich peddling their "scientific" models as truth in predicting very difficult policy counter-factuals.

The modern economics profession has made great progress estimating partial equilibrium relationships. See almost any NBER applied micro paper to get a taste of this. We have made much less progress on multi-sector dynamic general equilibrium models with endogenous innovation, irreversibilities, learning and uncertainty. Introduce all of these bells and whistles and you have the issue of climate change. Now economists like to be quoted and we are self confident but if we currently do not have good answers to policy questions should we follow the Nobel Laureate Robert Lucas and modestly say; "I don't know"? If we follow this path, we are well aware that some bozo out there will fill our place offering the politicians an even sillier answer. So, we must pick our poison.

The politicians want to believe that the scientific economists have a kosher model for predicting carbon policy counter-factuals but at least as of right now, we don't. So how do we identify and rank "good public policies" in the face of such modeling uncertainty?

I would prefer a more modest approach in which we economists admit what we currently do not know but suggest a series of statistical indicators for benchmarking how our evolving economy is adapting to climate pricing.

UPDATE: Here is Tom Friedman in today's New York Times

"If we prepare for climate change by building a clean-power economy, but climate change turns out to be a hoax, what would be the result? Well, during a transition period, we would have higher energy prices. But gradually we would be driving battery-powered electric cars and powering more and more of our homes and factories with wind, solar, nuclear and second-generation biofuels. We would be much less dependent on oil dictators who have drawn a bull’s-eye on our backs; our trade deficit would improve; the dollar would strengthen; and the air we breathe would be cleaner. In short, as a country, we would be stronger, more innovative and more energy independent.

But if we don’t prepare, and climate change turns out to be real, life on this planet could become a living hell. And that’s why I’m for doing the Cheney-thing on climate — preparing for 1 percent."

Will our life on this planet become a living hell? In 2010, I will publish a new book that will take a close look at this claim. Beware the conventional wisdom.

The End of the Era of Academic Free Agency?

Recent experience has shown that loyalty to one's home university is admirable but costly in terms of wages. Is this about to change? In academic economics, we have seen a rise in pay inequality. Wall Street deserves some credit for this as do some rich ambitious departments that have sought a Big Push into "the top 20". Can a department really rise in the rankings by hiring a couple of superstars? The Tom Sargent case study would say yes but there are other data points that suggest that Winner's curse and adverse selection lurk. Not all scholars over the age of 50 are active researchers. Some guys have great vitas but are not intellectual leaders. The willingness to invest the time and effort to mentor junior faculty is a rare attribute in our business.

This quote in the Chronicle suggests that the good times are over for now. Is this temporary? Our colleagues in other fields believe that economists collude to generate offers for each other to drive up each other's pay. We need the FBI to go under-cover to catch us "in the act" using videotape and funny disguises.


A quote from the Chronicle of Higher Education

"The formerly robust star system of faculty hiring at the nation's elite universities has cooled down. Harvard plans to hire almost no senior faculty members in arts and sciences this year, and to make fewer than two dozen hires at the junior level. "In general, people who are here aren't leaving, and other people are not coming," says Claudia Goldin, a professor of economics.

Indeed, the job market for the country's most prestigious professors feels almost moribund, faculty members say. "The free-agency system, where one rich place tried to raid faculty from another and the faculty member could go or stay put with a big boost in salary, those gravy days are probably not over but will be less frequent," says Andrew Delbanco, director of American studies at Columbia."

Monday, December 07, 2009

Coda Automotive Visits UCLA's Institute of the Environment

Coda Automotive CEO Kevin Czinger gave a presentation today at the UCLA Institute of the Environment. Several of my undergraduates and PHD students attended. "Green" companies in the Greater Los Angeles area are welcome to visit our Institute. We are eager to meet the next generation of "leaders in sustainability". Given my Andy Warhol like talent for taking photos, I took this picture of Kevin (with the macho umbrella) as my student Victor prepared to go for a spin in the Coda.



My students were impressed with the ride. I was impressed with the Coda business plan and with their attention to detail focused on maintenance, production, recharging this electric car and anticipating all of the possible concerns that first time guinea pigs might have about buying an electric car. Its price per mile (around a penny) is pretty low. In comparison, if gas is $3 a gallon, then a car that gets 30 miles to the gallon costs you 10 cents a mile.

Coda is determined to open up some production facilities in the United States. I respect a patriot who seeks to create new green manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

In other news, I learned about an unforeseen cost of moving to the Pacific Time Zone. With this Copenhagen Climate Stuff going on, I was called by a leading TV show on the east coast to appear at 630am EST tomorrow morning. I pointed out to the young lady that this corresponds to 330am PST and that I am usually asleep at that hour. I was hoping that she would say that there would be a $10,000 payment for my waking up early but when this was not offered I was forced to say "no". I now realize that I should have remained on the east coast. I would have been discovered as a true public media treasure and would have had an easy life debating other talking heads on the morning media shows. Al Roker and I could have shared some chuckles together as Matt Lauer and I debated who was losing his hair at a faster rate. Kate Couric would have found me to be a charming interview. My old classmates now on Wall Street would have kicked me stock tips in return for the opportunity to appear on my show.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Return of a Minor League Blogger

I'm back after 5 days at UC Berkeley. We love Los Angeles but it appears that our fridge is broken. I'm hoping that President Obama will use stimulus $ to buy me an energy efficient fridge for -$500. Whenever I go to Berkeley, I learn. Like the New York Times Sunday Styles Section, I will name some Bold Face names. If I don't name you (and if we talked over the last week), I apologize. This list is not in any order at all.

My new friends;

1. Piet Eichholtz
http://www.fdewb.unimaas.nl/hoogleraren/default_en.asp?mode=single&userid=24

2. Dirk Brounen , http://www.erim.eur.nl/ERIM/People/Person_Details?p_aff_id=405

3. Nils Kok


The number of excellent Dutch economists who I know just keeps doubling.



My old Friends who greatly improved my work this week

4. Randy Walsh

5. Matt Turner

6. Chris Knittel

7. Lucas Davis

I owe these guys. They thought hard about an "ambitious" new paper of mine (joint with Dora) and made a huge number of valid tough comments. We now see how to write 3 papers based on what they told us to do. We should name them as co-authors on our project and I am grateful to them.

More Old friends;

8. Matt Kotchen, 9. John Quigley, 10. Bob Helsley, 11. Nancy Wallace, 12. Dwight Jaffee, 13. Catherine Wolfram, 14. Severin Borenstein , 15. Max Auffhammer, 16. Karen Notsund, 17. Stefano D (who was kind enough to tell me that he didn't hate a new idea of mine related to behavioral economics).

I twice had the chance to sit down and chat with Brad Delong. He was blogging so I didn't want to bug him but we had a chance to talk and I enjoyed it.

I have a feeling that I'm not mentioning 10 other people like my new friend Don Moseley at Walmart.

Perhaps life is just one big social network. We need to connect to the network to learn and to not be forgotten but if you work the network too much , you never actually get anything done and you start to wear out your welcome.

So, I will stop dropping names. My point is that one can attend a conference and actually learn from talking to people. At the tender age of 43, I am still learning. I listen to what people say and I write it down. Say something smart to me and I will write it down.

I will tell one funny story. On friday night, we were at Chez Panisse for dinner. Surprised? I am classier than you may think. As the 5 of us were sitting there to celebrate my mother in-law's birthday, we were sitting next to two guys were eating dinner and one of them kept taking photos of the food. I figured out that he must work for a food magazine. We started talking and he told me that the two of them are from Hong Kong and that they work for a well known food magazine there. Dora and I mentioned some of our other favorite restaurants in the Berkeley area. He then asked us to gather around so that he could take a photo of us as a "typical American family" out to dinner. He said that the picture will appear in his Magazine and that 150,000 people in Hong Kong actually read this thing. I will post it after I send it to photoshop.