So let’s acknowledge that college is not a commodity. It’s a challenging engagement in which both parties have to take an active and risk-taking role if its potential value is to be realized. Professors need to inspire, to prod, to irritate, to create engaging environments that enable learning to take place that can’t happen simply from reading books or watching films or surfing the Web. Good teachers “supply oxygen” to their classrooms, in the words of former Emory University president Bill Chace; they do not merely supply answers or facts. And good colleges provide lots of help to students who face challenges completing their degrees in a reasonable amount of time.
But students need to make a similar commitment to breathe it in and be enlivened by it. They owe this not only to their teachers but also to their parents and themselves. After all, the decision to go to college is a decision to make an investment in their future, an investment of time and money. And for many, a college education is expensive. Students have to play a major role in making sure it’s money well spent.
Students need to apply themselves to the daunting task of using their minds, a much harder challenge than most people realize, until they actually try to do it. To write a thoughtful, persuasive argument requires hard thinking and clear, cogent rhetoric. To research any moderately complex topic requires formulating good questions, critically examining lots of evidence, analyzing one’s data, and presenting one’s findings in succinct prose or scientific formulas.
For many students, being required to produce critical thought in front of a class is a new sensation, often a not very pleasant one. I remember too well my feelings when I had to read my first freshman paper in front of my classmates and English professor. It was a disaster, a sort of primal humiliation because it took only four or five sentences for the class to make it clear to me that I should not read any further. I learned more that day about the requirements of effective writing than in the previous 18 years of my life.
The ultimate value of college is the discovery that you can use your mind to make your own arguments and even your own contributions to knowledge, as do many students pursuing research in college. That too is a new sensation, and a very good one. Yes, it generally leads to higher career earnings. But it is the discovery itself that is life-changing.
Q: That becomes an ethical problem and also a political problem. The idea that if you tax an environmental “bad” people will use less of it has come into wide acceptance. But so often the response from policymakers is “You know, I love market-based approaches. Now if you can just do it without increasing the prices voters face, we have a deal.”
A: I think that’s true, and I think that’s why when you hear discussions about, say, a carbon tax, the conversation usually goes “Okay, great; we’re going to tax carbon. What taxes are we going to reduce?”
A carbon tax would have to be revenue neutral in able to make it politically palatable—certainly to almost all Republicans and maybe to some Democrats, too. If you want a carbon tax, for every dollar in carbon tax revenue that you expect to raise, you’re going to have to reduce other taxes—whether on labor or capital or corporate income—by just as much. So it’s definitely a challenge. My concern is if you look at the prospects for the US budget in the years ahead, we’re going to need some revenue “positivity,” not just neutrality.
The American Environmental and Resource Economics Association [sic] just held its Summer Meeting in San Diego. ...
Environmental economics features a very young scholar base. Most of the people at the conference were under age 40. I am optimistic that this crew will be less likely to opt out of doing research than similar aged scholars in other fields. The net effect of such research effort will (in aggregate) be a more vibrant research field that makes more progress and attracts the next generation of young people to enter the field.
Why am I optimistic about this sub-field?
1. Big Data ---- as electric utilities partner with economists there are all sorts of interesting issues that researchers can work on using observational and experimental research designs. Increasing energy and water efficiency through behavioral change will continue to be a major topic.
2. Passion for improving the lives of people in the developing world --- environment and development will only continue to rise as a key research topic; in the urbanizing LDCS, how do we set up incentives to allow for the benefits of free markets without unleashing the air pollution that Chinese and Indian urbanites have been exposed to?
3. Mitigating climate change ---- many many environmental economists are focused on cap and trade and carbon tax implementation to reduce global GHG concentrations.
4. Adapting to climate change --- a growing cadre of scholars (including myself) are working on this topic.
Better data, important (policy relevant) questions, and idealism create a formidable combination that leads to a rising sub-field. While in the past environmental economics was viewed as a quirky subfield of mainstream economics, I am optimistic that this impression will fade. My only slight concern with the subfield is self-selection. I sometimes have the feeling that the field tends to attract scholars with some suspicions about free markets. Milton Friedman's books and videos could be handed out to all scholars at the 2016 conference as a registration gift! I will pay for them.
I have absolutely zero concern about the problem of self-selection. There is a very good reason that environmental economics attracts scholars with some suspicions about free markets. It is likely that early on in their training, say chapter 5 of the introductory textbook, they learn that pollution is an example of negative externalities, many of the benefits of environmental quality are public goods, overfishing is an example of the common-pool resources problem and et cetera. In short, the field of environmental economics has a solid foundation of market failure economics.
I pulled my copy of Free to Choose off the shelf and read the section on the environment in the "Who Protects the Consumer?" chapter (pp. 203-208). Rather than a description of Coasian free market environmentalism, it is a description of mainstream Pigouvian environmental economics. For example, on page 207:
Most economists agree that a far better way to control pollution than the present method of specific regulation and supervision is to introduce market discipline by imposing effluent charges.
I wish I had my ECO 2620 (introduction to environmental and resource economics) students read this in the Spring. I certainly followed the Friedman text.
Here is the same message from Jeff McMahon writing at Forbes in the context of climate change.
Leading economists at the “Mecca” of free-market economics, the University of Chicago, evoked their most prominent predecessor, Milton Friedman, last week [Oct 2014] in advocating a price on carbon to address climate change.
At a forum called “What Would Milton Friedman Do About Climate Change?” former U.S. Rep Bob Inglis (R-SC) opened the discussion by playing a 1979 clip of Milton Friedman on the Phil Donahue Show:
Phil Donahue: Is there a case for the government to do something about pollution?
Milton Friedman: Yes, there’s a case for the government to do something. There’s always a case for the government to do something about it. Because there’s always a case for the government to some extent when what two people do affects a third party. There’s no case for the government whatsoever to mandate air bags, because air bags protect the people inside the car. That’s my business. If I want to protect myself, I should do it at my expense. But there is a case for the government protecting third parties, protecting people who have not voluntarily agreed to enter. So there’s more of a case, for example, for emissions controls than for airbags. But the question is what’s the best way to do it? And the best way to do it is not to have bureaucrats in Washington write rules and regulations saying a car has to carry this that or the other. The way to do it is to impose a tax on the cost of the pollutants emitted by a car and make an incentive for car manufacturers and for consumers to keep down the amount of pollution.
Two current economics professors elaborated on Friedman’s view and applied it to the 21st Century problem of human-induced climate change.
“What’s happening when we turn on the lights, when the power is derived from a coal plant, or when we drive our car, is that carbon dioxide is emitted into the air, and that’s sprinkling around damages in Bangladesh, London, Houston,” said Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and the director of the Energy Policy Institute of Chicago. ...
According to Greenstone, who came to the University of Chicago last year from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, economists agree broadly on the benefits of a carbon price.
“The media always reports that there’s near consensus among scientists about the effect of human activity on the climate. What gets less attention is that I think there’s even greater consensus, starting from Milton Friedman and going to the most left-wing economist you can find, that the obvious practical solution is to put a price on carbon. It’s not controversial.”
So, I totally disagree that the youngish economists at the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (AERE, not AEREA) conference should read Friedman in order to enhance their appreciation of free markets. To the contrary, some of the 45+ economists might do well by rereading pages 203-208.
It was another rough winter for Barry Conrad’s bees. For the second year in a row, he had to
replace nearly 50 of his 75 colonies — about 2.5 million bees.
Conrad, owner of Canal Winchester-based Conrad Hive and Honey, has been in the business for 30
years. Keeping his bees healthy is getting more difficult every year, he said. “We’re definitely
losing more all the time.”
This could have a severe impact on an agriculture industry that, nationwide, relies on honeybees
to pollinate $14 billion in crops every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s
estimated that bees play a role in the production of one-third of our food.
Bees and orchards are a classic example in principles of econ classes of a positive production externality (part of the benefits of beekeeping accrue to fruit farmers and vice-versa). So there are benefits to joint production--or at least co-location--of orchards and honey.
ONE late summer afternoon when I was 17, I went with my mother to the local bank, a long-defunct institution whose name I cannot remember, to apply for my first student loan. My mother co-signed. When we finished, the banker, a balding man in his late 50s, congratulated us, as if I had just won some kind of award rather than signed away my young life.
By the end of my sophomore year at a small private liberal arts college, my mother and I had taken out a second loan, my father had declared bankruptcy and my parents had divorced. My mother could no longer afford the tuition that the student loans weren’t covering. I transferred to a state college in New Jersey, closer to home.
Years later, I found myself confronted with a choice that too many people have had to and will have to face. I could give up what had become my vocation (in my case, being a writer) and take a job that I didn’t want in order to repay the huge debt I had accumulated in college and graduate school. Or I could take what I had been led to believe was both the morally and legally reprehensible step of defaulting on my student loans, which was the only way I could survive without wasting my life in a job that had nothing to do with my particular usefulness to society.
I chose life. That is to say, I defaulted on my student loans.
Nitrate levels at a Columbus water treatment facility increased overnight, according to city officials, who said the no-drink advisory for pregnant women and infants younger than 6 months has been continued.
The defensive expenditure model predicts that in the presence of an adverse event the demand for substitute goods will increase. In this case, we would expect the demand for bottled water to increase in reaction to the increased nitrate levels in Columbus drinking water. The demand increase should increase the price of bottled water.
We would also expect farmers to deny they have anything to do with nitrate levels in drinking water.
Feeling soggy? Last month was the wettest on record for the contiguous United States, according to federal meteorologists.
On average 4.36 inches of rain and snow - mostly rain - fell over the Lower 48 in May, sloshing past October 2009 which had been the wettest month in U.S. records with 4.29 inches. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration records go back to 1895.
NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch calculated that comes to more than 200 trillion gallons of water in May.
Recognizing the critical importance of benefit transfer and the breadth of associated scholarly and policy work, this book has been designed to provide a comprehensive review of transfer methods, issues, and challenges, covering topics relevant to both researchers and practitioners across different continents. Among the primary themes of the book is the availability of a range of rigorous transfer methods suitable for broad application, choices between these methods, and implications of these choices for transfer validity and reliability (or accuracy). We target a wide audience, including undergraduate and graduate students, practitioners in economics and other disciplines looking for a one-stop handbook covering benefit transfer topics, and others who wish to apply or evaluate benefit transfer methods. Early chapters provide accessible introductory and “how to” materials suitable for those with little economic training. These chapters also detail how benefit transfer is used within the policy process. Later chapters cover intermediate and advanced topics better suited to valuation researchers, graduate students, and those with similar knowledge of economic and statistical theory, concepts, and methods. While no single volume can provide all relevant information on a topic, our intent is for this book to provide the most complete coverage of benefit transfer methods available in a single location.
"This blog aims to look at more of the microeconomic ideas that can be used toward environmental ends. Bringing to bear a large quantity of external sources and articles, this blog presents a clear vision of what economic environmentalism can be."
Don't believe what they're saying
And allow me a quick moment to gush: ... The env-econ.net blog was more or less a lifeline in that period of my life, as it was one of the few ways I stayed plugged into the env. econ scene. -- Anonymous
... the Environmental Economics blog ... is now the default homepage on my browser (but then again, I guess I am a wonk -- a word I learned on the E.E. blog). That is a very nice service to the profession. -- Anonymous
"... I try and read the blog everyday and have pointed it out to other faculty who have their students read it for class. It is truly one of the best things in the blogosphere." -- Anonymous