Academics write at a leisurely pace. Perhaps an upcoming NBER Summer Institute deadline or a January AEA Session date makes you pick up the pace to actually meet a deadline. In March 2008, Ed Glaeser and I released this report where we used a variety of data sets to measure a standardized household's greenhouse gas emission if this household lived in 66 major metropolitan areas (i.e Houston, Los Angeles, Boston etc). The Glaeser/Kahn Short Report on the Urban Greenhouse Gas Footprint
We continue to refine our approach and will pretty soon release our academic paper as an NBER Working Paper. This paper uses 10 different data sets to generate our estimates. We have micro data on transportation and gallons of gasoline, data on home electricity use, natural gas use, home fuel oil use, commercial building energy consumption, electric utility emissions factors etc. We need micro data to standardize the data. If rich people live in New York and poor people live in New Orleans, New York will look "brown" not due to urban form and climate but due to income effects. The poor do not have the resources to consume a lot and this shrinks your footprint.
Unknown to me, we had a rival on the "big think" points of our study. Brookings contracted with a talented team to write their own study on rankings cities with respect to their carbon footprint. Here is their report; Brookings Brief .
The New York Times has picked up the story based on the Brookings study and I am a pinch envious. In our defense, I bet that our study's core methodology is more rigorous and more accurate than theirs but their ranking looks a fair bit like ours. California's cities rank great because of the climate, that the electric utilities use natural gas rather than coal, and households consume relatively little electricity in California.
In hindsight, I wish that I had made a bigger public relations push with our study as we continued to refine it for academic reviewers.
I'll admit, I took the easy way out by just looking at the AP story--without digging further. And I'll agree that academics often do a poor job of promoting their own work. But I love this:
In our defense, I bet that our study's core methodology is more rigorous and more accurate than theirs but their ranking looks a fair bit like ours.
Academics hate to get scooped. And a good academic fight is always fun to watch--as long as I'm not in it. I fight dirty--and usually lose.