Sunday, February 28, 2010

Journal H-Index

Tabulating journals' h-indices is a simple but effective way it seems of ranking them. At least this list makes a lot of sense to me. The ARC could just use that to rank journals, instead of asking for expert opinion. RePEc's ranking only includes citations extracted by the CitEc system. In my case, they only total about 1/6 of my total documented citations. But the resulting ranking seems to make sense, so maybe the sampling is pretty much random.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What Do Australian High School Economics Students Need to Know?

Peter Martin links to the most recent HSC and VCE exams in economics. HSC is the high school diploma level exam in New South Wales. Looking through it, it is largely comparable to the college level Intro Economics course I taught in the US with the following differences:

1. It's almost entirely macro-economics instead of a 50:50 balance of micro and macro

2. There's a very strong emphasis on international aspects by comparison.

3. There are fewer of the easy questions we'd throw in.

4. Less computation is needed to answer the harder questions.

No idea what an American high school exam in economics would look like. My high school in England offered economics but I didn't take it at either O or A level.

Australian Energy Efficiency in Context

Slides for a presentation I will be giving on Tuesday on putting Australia's level of energy efficiency into context. Here's a quick guide...

Slide 3 compares Australia's energy intensity (energy/PPP GDP) to 5 developed and 2 developing economies. Australia is mid-way between the US and Canada on the one hand which are relatively inefficient by this measure and Germany, Japan, and the UK which are relatively efficient. Energy intensity has declined in all countries over time but slower in Australia and Japan. Based on this measure, India and China are just as energy efficient now as Western European countries.

Slide 4 shows some of the variables people usually think of as important in this context and some I found to be important. Australia has a big mining sector but so do Canada and China. Unlike those two countries Australia is warm in the winter. More of Australia's fuel mix is made up of coal than is the case for the other developed economies. But the percentage is as high or higher in China and India. The other three factors here affect the choice of underlying efficiency after controlling for factors such as in the first three columns. In terms of total factor productivity and exchange rate overvaluation Australia isn't an outlier. It does have very high fossil fuel reserves relative to the size of the economy.

Slides 5 through 7 discuss the econometric model which I also presented at my presentations in Adelaide. Taking the above into account, I find Australia to be relatively inefficient.

Slides 8 and 9 compare my results to Filippini and Hunt (2009). They estimate relative energy efficiency across OECD countries while control for GDP and the price of energy as well as some of the same structural factors that I consider. In my model, countries with low energy prices will likely be less efficient. But Filippini and Hunt are estimating energy efficiency controlling for energy prices, which is a big difference. Also, in my model efficiency is a function of explanatory variables, whereas in their model it is just random. As a result it has a bigger variance in my model. They find the US and Canada to be relative inefficient. But I find Australia and Canada to be the two more inefficient countries.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Best University for Economics in Australia

It's either Melbourne or ANU. You'd have to think that good potential grad students are now using the RePEc ranking as a major input to decide where to go to study as as we all know economics is a discipline that is obsessed with rankings and pedigree. I know that several of my colleagues haven't registered in RePEc yet. If they did, it might help push ANU ahead of Melbourne. Of course, I haven't checked how many people there still need to register. If I was the head of an economics unit I would require everyone in the department to register and to be reasonably regularly updating their track record.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Why the ARC is not Counting Citations in Economics?

Check out the top Australian departments in RePEc's global ranking. All but QUT have lower ranks based on their citation scores alone than on the basis of all 31 indicators combined. The same is true of the individual Australians in the global ranking (they are harder to find as country affiliation isn't included in the table so you have to search for people by name). Not counting citations will make Australian economics look better relative to global benchmarks than would otherwise be the case.


The Economic Society of Australia put out its own list of ranked journals last year. Both this list and the ERA list have 37 journals ranked as A* but there are four differences between the two lists. The ESA list included the following four journals that are not in the ERA list:

Journal of Environmental Economics and Management
Journal of Business Economics and Statistics
Journal of Risk and Uncertainty
Journal of Financial Economics

Instead of these four respectable publications, ERA has:

History of Political Economy
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research
The BE Journal in Theoretical Economics
The Journal of Industrial Economics

I've never heard of the first two journals. History of Political Economy has an ISI impact factor of 0.169. It got a total number of 182 citations in 2008. It appears to publish about 40 articles a year. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research has an impact factor of 1.299 and total cites of 1161. It publishes about 55 articles a year. The former journal clearly should not be ranked A*. The latter journal does not appear to be an economics journal. The journal's website states:

"A groundbreaking forum for intellectual debate, IJURR is at the forefront of urban and regional research. With a cutting edge approach to linking theoretical development and empirical research, and a consistent demand for quality, IJURR encompasses key material from an unparalleled range of critical, comparative and geographic perspectives. Embracing a multidisciplinary approach to the field, IJURR is essential reading for social scientists with a concern for the complex, changing roles and futures of cities and regions."

The ESA list isn't perfect either, for example, ESA contains both "JEI" ranked C and "Journal of Economic Issues" ranked A! And it also doesn't include The Energy Journal in economics.


As Frank Jotzo points out in the comments, ESA, released a supplementary list of journals including another 16 ranked A* including the Energy Journal. None of these journals are ranked A* in the ERA listing of economics journals though most of the non-economics ones like Annals of Statistics and JASA are A* journals.

P.P.S. 25th February

Michael Ward pointed out in an e-mail to me that of these journals only JEEM was demoted from A* to A. The other three journals were reallocated to statistics and finance from economics.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Poverty and Progress: An Ecological Model of Economic Development

I remembered Mick Common mentioning this book and I saw that it was referred to by Robert Allen. I found that ANU's library had a copy but it was nowhere on the shelves and I put in a missing book search request. It couldn't be found. So I was surprised to get an e-mail while I was in Adelaide telling me to come pick it up from the library! You can see from the cover above that this book was published in 1973. Disappointingly, the copy I'm reading has a boring grey hardback cover.

The central idea of the book is similar to that of Ester Böserup - innovation and economic development are responses to the scarcity caused by increased population. This idea explains a lot, but I think that Wilkinson takes it too far. In his opinion economic development never increases welfare in the long-run. In his view all the innovations of modern industrial society are merely (often inferior) substitutes for goods that were lost in the industrialization process that was necessary to cope with increased population. If this were really true then why don't countries with low population densities relative to resources in today's world (New Zealand?) adopt a medieval way of life?

I think the idea does explain a lot about pre-industrial societies and the beginning of the industrial revolution. As Allen also documents, coal was an inferior fuel to wood, at least until innovations for using coal effectively came into play. Both authors agree that the scarcity of wood in England drove the increased adoption of coal for many uses.

Another important idea in the book is that many pre-industrial societies had various institutions to control population including taboos on sex at certain times or between certain classes of people, contraception methods, abortion, and infanticide. Some pre-industrial societies, therefore, managed to stay well within ecological bounds. Without facing the pressure of meeting subsistence needs there was little reason to innovate. When Christian missionaries arrived in many such places they tried to eliminate these institutions with a resultant take off of population growth.

The main methods in Christian Europe were delayed marriage in periods of reduced prosperity due to high population and (not mentioned by Wilkinson) monastic and priestly orders. These were less effective at maintaining the population within the carrying capacity for a comfortable lifestyle. England already reached carrying capacity in the 14th century. The Black Death then wiped out a large proportion of the population. Only in the 17th century was carrying capacity again approached. The eventual response was the agricultural and industrial revolutions. Would industrialization have started earlier if the Black Death plague hadn't happened?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Decarbonization in Australia?

Roger Pielke has a working paper about the potential or rather the lack of potential for decarbonization of the Australian economy. He says it would be very hard to achieve the Government's targets given historical rates of decarbonization in both Australia and other countries. Penny Wong has reacted that this ignores international trade in permits or offsets. She is right, Australia doesn't plan on actually decarbonizing to this extent in this timeframe. All the Treasury scenarios show Australia buying a lot of permits in 2020. Our research shows that Australia is still rather inefficient compared to other developed economies and even (adjusting for the differing levels of development) China. Just as China saw a rapid improvement in energy efficiency in the 1980s and 1990s, I believe Australia has considerable potential for efficiency gains (though not as great) if carbon pricing gave the incentive (or command and control forced change I suppose).

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I think that John Tisdell (now at U. Tasmania) and myself are the only two people who attended both the ANZSEE meeting in Darwin and the AARES meeting in Adelaide. There may be others. Sorry, if I forgot about or didn't notice you, but there is certainly not much overlap in participants. Similarly, we found that there was some overlap in topics covered and journals cited by ecological and environmental economists but down at the level of the individual articles of interest there was less commonality.

ERA Ranked Journal List is Out

The ARC (Australian Research Council) has finally released the ERA (Excellence in Research for Australia) ranked journal list that will be used in this year's research assessment exercise. As I've commented that the assessment of economics will not count citations and so the ranking of journals is all that counts in measuring research outputs. All journals are ranked as A*, A, B, and C. A* is best. There are some anomalies - journals ranked surprisingly low and some journals ranked surprisingly highly. For energy and environmental economists, key issues are that Environment and Development Economics and Review of Environmental Economics and Policy are both ranked at only B. Among interdisciplinary journals, Energy Policy, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (who publish Ecological Economics Reviews), Journal of Environmental Management, and Ambio are only ranked B. It's not surprising that Journal of Environment and Development is ranked B as it isn't in the ISI database.

Most of my articles have been published in A journals with four A* publications in Nature, Journal of Geophysical Research, and Trends in Parasitology and B publications in JED, EDE, Energy Policy, Policy Studies Journal, Applied Economics Letters, Professional Geographer (this is another anomaly), and Geoforum.

And I just noticed that Journal of Economic Issues doesn't even appear to be on the ERA list! If you are looking for The Energy Journal, it is classified under Resources Engineering and Extractive Metallurgy. This is despite it being published by the International Association for Energy Economics.

This is already influencing our decision about where to send the paper that I presented here in Adelaide.

I've found the Journal of Economic Issues. It's listed as JEI and ranked C. So I have published one paper in a C ranked journal. As it is an ISI journal I would think B is more appropriate.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

AARES 2010 Paper

Greetings from Adelaide! My first time in South Australia. I just put up a draft paper for our presentations at the AARES meeting here in Adelaide. Papers were meant to be submitted by January 15th to get on the "Conference CD". We ignored that deadline but didn't completely forget about producing a paper :) I'm presenting today, Tuesday, on this topic as part of the annual Environmental Economics Research Hub workshop and on Thursday as part of the general conference.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

ERA 2010

Detailed information is now available for the ERA (Excellence in Research for Australia) 2010 exercise to be carried out by the ARC (Australian Research Council). This is similar to the research quality assessment exercises carried out in the UK. The only social science where they will use citation analysis is psychology. I can see no reason not to use citation analysis in economics except for the field of economic history where books are important and citations in journals are low. The main tools, therefore, will be peer review of nominated work (20% of your outputs) and assessment of the quality of journals in which researchers have published. The list of ranked journals for economics is not yet available it seems.

In Press

My paper on energy quality was accepted by Ecological Economics. Since returning to academia in November 2008 I've been trying to get published, so it is nice to finally have a success. I probably could have two more if I worked harder to get my other two "revise and resubmit" papers revised and resubmitted.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Long-run Elasticity of Demand for Energy?

I just realised that the elasticity reported in my slides for the Hub workshop for the effect of the purchasing power parity variable on energy intensity is kind of a global price elasticity demand for energy in the long-run. Because it is estimated on averages for the 1971-2007 period it averages out all fluctuations in prices over time except countries' relative price levels compared to the United States. It also holds constant GDP and the level of overall technology (TFP). The only downside I can think of at the moment (but there may be many more) is that it holds the mix of fuels constant. I think you'd really want that to be variable. Anyway the elasticity is about -0.74 - inelastic but not that inelastic.

Slides for Hub Workshop

Here are the slides for my presentation at the Environmental Economics Research Hub 2010 workshop in Adelaide on Tuesday. They have a lot of overlap with my presentation to the China forum we just had at ANU, but there are a couple of new things. There's a slide of global energy intensity. There's also a slide of the most important effects on energy intensity. The yellow highlighted boxes are the effects that are largest and significant. These are "important effects". The most important that we are clear about their impact are probably total factor productivity and the exchange rate. Countries with higher TFP, ceteris paribus, are more energy efficient. This makes sense. Countries with more undervalued exchange rates by the PPP criterion are also more energy efficient. This is presumably because oil (and other energy perhaps) is more expensive in these countries, certainly relative to the cost of labor, and therefore, they use technologies that require less energy. Anyway, that's why I included the variable in the model. As a result some poor countries like India are quite energy efficient as are many wealthy countries though they are probably using different technologies to achieve that goal. And, yes, there may be to some degree an inverted U shape relationship between underlying energy efficiency and income per capita.

Finally, there is also a slide at the end with a global decomposition of energy use and carbon emissions. You need to multiply the factors together to get the total change. I'll only use this slide if someone asks about this.

My presentation slides nowadays are very minimal on wording as I think this gives a better presentation than people reading my points off of the slides while I talk. But they are a lot less useful as a document if you don't see the presentation. Maybe we need to produce two sets of slides in future - one for the presentation and one for people who missed it :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

China’s Emissions Intensity Target: BAU, Feasible, or Infeasible?

I've put up some slides that I'm planning on using at a forum with some people from the Chinese government here at ANU this week that are a preview of where I'm heading for my presentations at the Environmental Economics Research Hub Workshop and AARES Conference in Adelaide next week. There isn't much text on the slides. The basic story is that I use a model of energy intensity to extract the underlying energy efficiency in each economy controlling for the mix of fuels, the structure of the economy etc. These time paths are shown for China and India and a group of developed and developing economies. China has converged with the other countries over time, which is probably the main reason that its rate of improvement in energy intensity slowed down dramatically in the noughties. If we combine projections for energy efficiency under various scenarios and projections for fuel mix we can come up with projections for energy intensity. If we assume that the average rate of improvement in underlying energy efficiency for 1971-2007 continues in the future, China can just achieve its goal of a 40-45% reduction in emissions intensity between 2005 and 2020. But that is equivalent to all new investment in China being made with average German levels of energy efficiency. China's 15% non-fossil energy target can reduce emissions intensity by another 2%.

If the more recent rate of improvement in underlying energy efficiency prevails in the future then the emissions intensity reduction is only 23%. This could be a more realistic appraisal of business as usual. If the rate of improvement going forward is the same as in the US we reach 29%. As China has converged with other economies it is unlikely to able to progress faster than them in the future. At least, that is, without a concerted policy drive in that direction.

It's not feasible to bridge the gap between 23% and 40% by appealing to increased use of renewables unless the share of electricity in Chinese energy consumption is greater than that predicted by the IEA World Energy Outlook. Some combination of increased renewables and increased efficiency can do the job. Therefore, China's intensity target is feasible but definitely not BAU.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Energy Quality

I just got a "revise and resubmit" for my paper on energy quality. I think the comments should be easy to deal with by putting in a bunch of caveats. I now have three paper resubmissions to deal with but have been so busy with everything else (Environmental Economics Research Hub project, ARC proposals etc). After the Adelaide conference I really need to get to these...