Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Year in Review 2014

I've been doing these annual reviews since 2011, they're mainly an exercise for me to see what I accomplished and what I didn't in the previous year. It is now a full year since I ended my term as research director at the Crawford School. As a result, it has been a really productive year research-wise :)

I published five articles in the following journals: PLOS ONE, Biomass and Bioenergy, Energy Economics, The Energy Journal, and Climatic Change, and we have a paper in press at The Energy Journal. We also released three working papers that aren't yet published: "Modeling the Emissions-Income Relationship Using Long-run Growth Rates", "Substitutability and the Cost of Climate Mitigation Policy", "Global Energy Use: Decoupling or Convergence". There are four more papers that we have sent for review but have not yet posted as working papers.

We also published our edited book of classic papers on the economics of climate change with Edward Elgar. There is also Chapter 5 of the IPCC Report on trends and drivers of emissions and a small piece on the environmental Kuznets curve and there is an updated review of the EKC, which will be published in the Elsevier Online Resources.

The release of the IPCC 5th assessment report in April was of course a big event and I appeared on TV and radio several times - first on the release day and then in some follow-up coverage on the supposed cover up in the Summary for Policymakers.

ABC News24

This was the final year of our ARC grant (actually, March 2015 is formally the end of the project). Astrid Kander visited Sydney in February to work with researchers at UNSW and Jack Pezzey and I went to meet up with her and work on our project. She rented a house for her and two other Swedish researchers close to Coogee Beach (and to UNSW), so it was a very nice research trip :) The weather wasn't quite as good when I visited Lund in November for a week!

Coogee Beach, Sydney

I also visited England and Germany on my October-November trip giving seminars at LSE, Lund, and University of Kassel. That was my third international trip of the year. In June-July I did a round the world trip including the IAEE conference in New York City, the Atlantic Workshop in A Toxa, and the World Congress of Environmental and Resource Economics in Istanbul. In September I attended the IAEE Asia meeting in Beijing as well as a workshop at Tsinghua University. The AARES Conference in Port Macquarie, NSW rounds off the conference list and I also gave a couple of seminars in Canberra in the first half of the year.

 Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Two researchers visited me to collaborate - Zsuzsanna Csereklyei in January and February and Chunbo Ma in April. I wrote an ARC Discovery proposal with Zsuzsanna, which wasn't funded but we were in the top 10% of the unfunded proposals and so we'll give it another go. Chunbo came to work on the current ARC grant. We have now submitted a paper on substitution elasticities in China, which I presented at the Tsinghua workshop in September.

The special issue of Energies on "Energy Transitions and Economic Change", which I guest edited is now completed with fourteen papers are already published including the final paper by Astrid Kander and colleagues.

It was my last time teaching the introductory micro-economics class The Economic Way of Thinking 1. This course was great for the positive feedback I got from some of the students on the course. All the students are from developing countries and many are a bit "scared" of math and economics. After going through this course a lot of students feel much more confident dealing with this kind of material. In the coming year I will be teaching quantitative methods to environmental studies students instead. I also taught my energy economics course again and will continue to teach it in the future. It is being rebranded next year as an economics course, IDEC8029, instead of a general Crawford School course (CRWF8017).

It's hard to believe, but I posted more than 100 blogposts this year. The most popular was this one, a close runner-up is the post on the animated gif of energy use and growth, which we produced at James Hamilton's suggestion. I met Hamilton at the IAEE meeting in New York. I also got much more involved with Twitter this year. Mostly, I tweet my blogposts, but also tweet short items, which don't really need comment or analysis, that in the past I might have blogged about.

Energy and Growth: The Animated GIF

As always, it is possible to predict some of the things that will be happening in the coming year. I expect a couple more papers will get completed over the summer. Also, we are going to resubmit the ARC proposal, hopefully this time successfully. There will also be a couple of book chapters surveying the energy and growth topic. One for Palgrave. I've submitted abstracts to a bunch of conferences in Rotorua (AARES), Perth (at Curtin U), Leeds (ESEE), and Antalya (IAEE) and will likely submit to the EAERE conference in Helsinki. Not sure how many of these I can actually go to. Maybe my coauthors will present at some of them. Hopefully Donglan Zha will get funding to visit Crawford from the middle of next year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Energies Special Issue Update

There are now thirteen articles in the special issue, which I edited. The latest two are by Peter O'Connor and Cutler Cleveland and Juliana Subtil Lacerda and Jeroen van den Bergh. There is only one paper still to be published, which is by Astrid Kander and coauthors. P.S. Astrid's paper was published two days after I posted this!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Global Energy Use: Decoupling or Convergence?

I have another new working paper coauthored with Zsuzsanna Csereklyei out titled: "Global Energy Use: Decoupling or Convergence?". This paper follows up on our paper on the the stylized facts of energy and growth using the methods from our paper on modeling the emissions-income relationship using long-run growth rates.
In particular, we focus on the stylized facts that there is a stable relationship between energy use and GDP per capita over time and that there has been convergence in energy intensity over time.

The following graph shows the relationship between the long-run growth rates of energy use and GDP per capita from 1971 to 2010:
As we saw in our previous paper, higher economic growth rates are associated with higher rates of growth in energy use, though there is quite a lot of variation in individual countries. As the intercept of the regression line is zero, on average there is no time effect that is reducing energy use across all countries in the absence of economic growth. On the other hand, many developed countries like the UK, Sweden, or even the United States have seen declines or little increase in energy use per capita in recent decades. So, what can explain that?

Our model adds additional explanatory variables to the regression illustrated above. To test whether there is decoupling, so that growth has less effect or even a negative effect on energy use at higher income levels we include an interaction term between the growth rate and level of income per capita. This is the same idea as the test for the environmental Kuznets curve in the Anjum et al. paper. We find that the regression coefficient for this interaction term is actually positive! So, actually growth has larger rather than smaller effects on energy use in higher income countries. However, we find that the level of income has a negative effect on the growth rate of energy use. This means that at higher income levels there is an improving energy efficiency effect so that energy use declines over time ceteris paribus. We call this "weak decoupling". The following graph shows the contribution of these and other effects to the growth in energy use in different groups of countries:
Though, as shown by the black dots, the growth rate of energy use  per capita is highest in upper middle income countries, the contribution of economic growth is greater in high income countries. But this positive effect of growth is offset by "weak decoupling" and other effects.

The most important of these other effects globally is convergence. Countries that had high energy intensities at the beginning of the period saw declines in energy intensity, ceteris paribus. But, this effect was most important in the low income countries, some of which were the most energy intensive in our sample in 1971. In the high income countries, convergence raised energy use on average. But in the US and Canada it contributed -1.0% and -0.9% p.a., respectively, to reducing energy use. So, there is a lot of variation across countries.

Projections and forecasts of future energy use should not, therefore, assume that economic growth will be associated with decreased energy use in the future. Instead, the scale effect seems to be alive and well. On the other hand, there appear to be improvements in energy efficiency across high income countries irrespective of their growth rates or their initial level of energy intensity. These would tend to moderate the growth in energy use as countries get richer at the upper end of the income continuum. At the lower end of the income continuum the same effects serve to raise energy intensity. But, some of the major reductions in energy intensity in countries, such as in the United States and China, have probably been the result of convergence towards the global mean, and so are unlikely to be reproduced in the future.

On the more technical side there are a couple of innovations in this paper too. We extend the method we used in the growth rates paper to allow for a spatially correlated error term. If there are omitted variables which are spatially correlated and the explanatory variables are also spatially correlated then it is likely that the two are correlated and regression coefficient estimates will be inconsistently estimated. To deal with this problem we use an approach called spatial filtering. This removes the spatial autocorrelation by adding additional variables to the regression which model the spatial process. These are in fact the eigenvectors of a transformation of the spatial weighting matrix. With 93 countries there are 93 eigenvectors, so the tricky part is deciding which of these eigenvectors to include in the regression. Tiefelsdorf and Griffith (2007) developed a procedure to do this, which we use.

Another issue is that if we want to give our model a causal interpretation, then we have to assume that GDP growth causes growth in energy use and not vice versa. Obviously changes in energy use might also cause GDP. We argue though that the latter effect is probably quite small compared to the effect of GDP on energy and so the estimated effect of GDP on energy is only biased upwards by a relatively small amount. The income elasticity of energy is likely to be close to unity whereas the elasticity of GDP w.r.t. to energy might be only 0.05. This is possibly one reason why it has been so hard for researchers to find robust signs of Granger causality from energy use to GDP. On other hand, this is maybe why a simple naive regression of GDP on energy use appears to find a very large effect of energy on GDP. The estimated regression coefficient is biased upwards by the effect of income on energy demand.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New Research Shows that Release of Carbon in PETM was More Gradual

Following up on my post last year on research that the PETM was probably caused by an impact. Latest research, published in Nature Geoscience, shows that, no, the release was much more gradual. I wonder how these two pieces of research can be reconciled?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How Ambitious is China's Proposal to Peak CO2 Emissions by 2030?

A few days ago China and the US jointly announced emissions targets for 2030. China proposes that their carbon emissions will peak by not later than 2030. How ambitious is this goal? In our 2010 paper in Energy Policy, Frank Jotzo and I asked how ambitious China's 2020 target to reduce emission intensity by 40-45% between 2005 and 2020 was. We concluded that it represented significant effort beyond expected intensity reductions under business as usual.

In a recent paper Xiliang Zhang and coauthors project Chinese emissions under three scenarios. Under a no policy scenario, emissions rise to 16.5 billion tonnes (Gt) in 2030 and continue to rise throughout the century. Under their "continued effort" scenario where current policy initiatives are continued, emissions rise to 11.8 Gt in 2030 and peak in 2045. Finally, under their accelerated effort scenario, emissions rise to 10.2 Gt in 2030 where they peak. So, on this basis, China's proposal does constitute a new accelerated effort.

Another way of looking at these scenarios is in terms of the rate of reduction in emissions intensity in 2030. The rates are -1.9%, -3.4%, and -4.1% respectively. China's 2020 emissions intensity target represents a 3.6% annual rate of reduction in emissions intensity from 2005 to 2020. So, by this metric the new target represents an increase in effort over the current policies.

Monday, November 17, 2014


I just signed up for Figshare. In case you haven't heard about it yet, it is a site for sharing all kinds of research data. I uploaded the citation data I used in my 2013 article in the Journal of Economic Literature. This was a lot easier than adding data to my university's data repository so, in future, I think I will use Figshare exclusively for larger datasets I want to make public. The service is free and you get a DOI for your dataset.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Article Published Today in PLoS ONE

My paper "High-Ranked Social Science Journal Articles Can Be Identified from Early Citation Information" was published today in PLoS ONE. For background on the paper, check out my blogpost or this story on the Crawford School website.

I'm travelling tomorrow to Kassel where I will be working with Stephan Bruns on what we think is a really awesome (Stephan's words :)) extension to this paper. We are also hoping to finish an econometric theory paper we are writing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stylized Facts Paper Accepted for Publication

My paper with Zsuzsanna Csereklyei and Mar Rubio: "Energy and Economic Growth: The Stylized Facts" has been accepted for publication in the Energy Journal. I've already blogged quite a bit about the paper so won't repeat that here. What is new is that we also now have a working paper version available. The working paper version has color figures, which I think are prettier and easier to understand in some cases than the black and white ones we had to use for publication.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Odds of Becoming a Professor

This graphic is from a 2010 UK report and is based on UK data. Only 0.45% of PhDs eventually become a full professor. I didn't think the odds were quite that low. Of course, as in Australia, full professor is a higher rank than it is in the US as we have 4 rather than 3 academic ranks. Another interesting report I recently saw on Australian PhDs. Apparently in 2011 Australia graduated about 7000 PhDs which is about 1/7 of the US figure, even though Australia has 1/15 of the US population. And the number of students starting PhDs in the year was 11,000.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Five Minute Paper

You may have heard about the Three Minute Thesis. Now we have the Five Minute Paper. Actually, it's called Elsevier Audioslides. Authors of articles in Elsevier journals are invited to create voiced over slide presentations about their papers to be hosted on Elsevier's website. The maximum length of recording is five minutes. As my presentation at LSE next week will cover my recent paper with Astrid Kander (as well as current work), I thought I could use some of the slides I made for an audioslides presentation on our paper. I didn't bother writing a script and just made it up as I went along. But that's the way it goes in a conference presentation too and, of course, in the Three Minute Thesis competition.

Here is the result.

I've also got an invite to do one for my paper in Biomass and Bioenergy. But as I've never presented that paper, I would have to make up the slides from scratch and I'm not sure it's worth the effort. I think I'll ask my coauthor if he wants to do it :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Seminar at University of Kassel

I promised more details on my seminar at University of Kassel: here they are. I will present our paper on modeling the emissions income relationship using long-run growth rates. My presentation will be at 2pm on 18 November in Sitzungsraum K33/FB07. If you need more details about location, ask Stephan Bruns who is organizing the "Empirical Workshop on Energy, Environment, and Climate Change" of which this talk is part. The workshop starts at 10 am and there will also be presentations by Heike Wetzel, Andreas Ziegler, Astrid Dannenberg, and Stephan.

New Dimensions in Ecological Economics: Elgar E-Book

Our edited book New Dimensions in Ecological Economics: Integrated Approaches to People and Nature is now available as an E-Book from Edward Elgar. This book was based on the 2000 ISEE international conference in Canberra that Mike Young and I organized.

Environmental & Resource Economics Acceptance Rate 2013

Just got an e-mail from the journal noting that they got just over 600 submissions in 2013. They have already reached that level at this point of 2014. Back in 2004 they got less than 200 submissions. This is a common trend at many journals including Ecological Economics, where I am an associate editor. The email from ERE also notes that their impact factor is now 1.7 and this too has risen over time (0.6 in 2005). One of the reasons for that is the increased coverage of economics journals in the Journal Citation Reports. The number covered doubled in the last decade and that increases the opportunity to get cited in outlets covered by the JCR. One thing, ERE don't report on is their acceptance rate, but it is easy to calculate. According to the JCR they published 83 articles in 2013. Therefore, the acceptance rate is 13%.

I previously reported that the acceptance rate at ERE was 21%. So, this is a big drop. This is also a common trend.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Interested in Graduate Study at ANU?

Come along to the information evening next week at University House. At 6:30pm in the Common Room, Frank Jotzo, Amanda Smullen, Paul Burke, and Sue Thompson will talk about what you can study and why at the Crawford School.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Update on Energies Special Issue

We now have nine papers published in the special issue of Energies on energy transitions and economic change and there are more to come. The latest paper is by Robert Kaufmann on the end of cheap oil and the implications for the United States and the former Soviet Union. This was one of the invited papers. The other published so far was the paper by Steve Sorrell. Also recently published is a paper by James Kahn et al. on Brazil's plans for expanding hydropower and by Rodriguez-Molina et al. on the smart grid.

Upcoming Seminars

I am giving three seminars in Europe in October and November. First up is 28th October at 1pm at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics. I will talk about "Energy Transitions and the Industrial Revolution." Then on 12th November at 2:15pm I will talk at the Department of Economic History at Lund University. Topic: "Energy and Economic Growth: The Stylised Facts"  - a topic that blog readers should be pretty familiar with by now.

Finally, I will be presenting at the University of Kassel in Germany on 18th November. More details to come.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fuel Choices in Rural Maharashtra Accepted for Publication

My paper with former masters student Jack Gregory was just accepted for publication in Biomass & Bioenergy. Jack is just starting his PhD at University of California, Davis.

This paper went through one of the more tortuous paths to publication, largely because we didn't have any sort of price data, which made the paper less interesting to economics journals. This is where we sent it: World Development (submitted 27 Jan 2012, desk reject, too narrow case study), Environment and Development Economics (referee review), Energy Policy (referee review), Energy (desk reject, too economics focused), Biomass and Bioenergy (revise and resubmit and accept). More than 2.5 years to get it published. But that's not very unusual...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Workshop on Research Metrics

I submitted one of the 152 responses to HEFCE's call for evidence on research metrics. BTW, my paper was just accepted by PLoS ONE :) Anyway, HEFCE and the University of Sussex are holding a one day workshop at SPRU on the potential for metrics in research assessment. Register here and see the program here. As I am in Australia, unfortunately I can't attend - I'm actually going to be in England in late October and early November - but maybe some of you can.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New Professorial and Research Positions at SPRU, University of Sussex

SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit) at the University of Sussex, UK is embarking on an ambitious new research strategy, focused on long-term transformative change and innovation. As part of this strategy, we are looking to recruit three dynamic, innovative and highly respected academic leaders to join the SPRU team as Professors. In addition, we are seeking to appoint two experienced research staff to join the Research Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (CIED), led by the Sussex Energy Group at SPRU. The posts are as follows:

Professor of Energy Policy: This person will lead the Sussex Energy Group and will have an outstanding background in energy and climate policy, preferably with an emphasis on innovation and transitions.

Professor in Sustainability Transitions: This person will have an outstanding background in sustainability transitions, history of technology and/or science and technology studies.

Professor in Innovation and Evolutionary Economics: This person will have an outstanding background in evolutionary economics, economics of innovation, institutional economics, economic history and/or development economics.

Senior Fellow in Innovation and Energy Demand: This person will have a strong track record in innovation studies and/or energy and climate policy and will be expected to help shape the Centre’s research programme and design and lead research projects.

 Research Fellow in Innovation and Energy Demand: This person will have a background in innovation studies and/or energy and climate policy and will be expected to design and lead research projects and conduct empirical research.

 Full details of the jobs can be found here: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/newsandevents/apps/jobs

Monday, September 1, 2014

Citation Data for Citation Prediction Paper Now Available

The data underlying my recent working paper: "High-Ranked Social Science Journal Articles Can Be Identified from Early Citation Information" are now available from the ANU Data Repository. The data set includes most journal articles in economics and political science published in 2006 and included in the Web of Science and the number of citations that received each year through 2012. There is also a worksheet with all economics articles from 1999 too. That's not mentioned in the working paper but is mentioned in the revised version of the article I just resubmitted to the journal. The journal's (PLoS ONE) data policy requires all data to be made available with DOI's if possible. This is definitely the current trend and looks like becoming the norm. For example, Energy Economics requires both data and code to be submitted prior to publication. I have mixed feelings about this. Obviously I am in favor of replicability but putting together datasets costs time and/or money and so it seems a bit unfair to force authors to make their data freely available as the price of publication.

P.S. 9th September
My paper was accepted at PLoS ONE! :)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"Economic Growth and the Transition from Traditional to Modern Energy in Sweden" to be Published in Energy Economics

We started working on this paper when I visited Sweden in September 2010. It took a while till we were both happy with the paper. Then we submitted it to what I think is the top economic history journal. We got a revise and resubmit. I worked hard to do exactly what the referees wanted but the editor rejected the paper. I think this was a first for me. Of course, I had declined to resubmit papers in the past because I thought the chances were better elsewhere. Then we submitted to another economic history journal who gave us a revise and resubmit too. But this time we decided to not resubmit as it seemed unlikely we could please the referees. So, then I submitted the paper to Energy Economics and got a "minor revisions" and now it is accepted. This is a fairly typical story I think in terms of time taken and submissions made.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jakob et al. (2012) Revisited

A recent paper by Jakob et al. (2012) finds that there is decoupling between growth in energy use and growth in GDP in developed countries. The authors regress the first differences between five year period means of log per capita energy use on the same transformation of GDP per capita separately for panels of OECD and non-OECD countries. They have 21 OECD and 30 non-OECD countries between 1971 and 2010. They estimate that the elasticity in developing countries is 0.631 (standard error = 0.167) and in developed countries -0.181 (0.343).

I was curious why these results are very different from those in our stylized facts paper where we find a stable monotonic relationship between energy use and PPP GDP per capita over the 1971-2010 period for 99 countries (75 non-OECD, 24 OECD) with an elasticity of around 0.70. Obviously, Jakob et al.'s method is different, their sample is smaller, and they also use market exchange rates. So, I re-estimated their model using our dataset. I find that the elasticity in developing countries is 0.395 (0.081) and in OECD countries 0.479 (0.078). This is in line with our stylized facts results. The numbers are lower probably due to using differences and country and time fixed effects.

In supplementary material, Jakob et al. report that when they use PPP GDP data from the World Development Indicators the elasticity estimates are 0.626 (0.180) and -0.353 (0.474) for non-OECD and OECD countries respectively. I would have doubted that the differences are mostly due to the different source of PPP data  - we used the Penn World Table - but our OECD sample only includes three countries omitted by Jakob et al. So, this will need further investigation.


Jakob, M., M. Haller, and R. Marschinski (2012). “Will History Repeat Itself? Economic Convergence and Convergence in Energy Use Patterns.” Energy Economics 34: 95–104.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax with Global Temperature Indexation

The Climate Colab at MIT is running a competition for innovative climate policy proposals. Richard Hobbs is a local contender in this competition. You can support his proposal or make comments here. The winner will get to fly to MIT to present their proposal to US politicians, policy makers, economists, business executives and NGOs. Richard's proposal is a revenue-neutral carbon tax meant as a policy platform for the Republicans to bring forward to the next US election. It is revenue-neutral (cutting capital gains taxes and corporate taxes) and it is temperature indexed (so if climate sceptics are right the price trends to a low level).

Monday, August 4, 2014

Online Accessibility of Scholarly Literature, and Academic Innovation

Kevin Staub presented this paper today at ANU. They download data on all papers in fifty core economics journals over the decades of the 1990s and 2000s during which academic journals gradually went online. They test the effect of the fraction of references cited in article being online on the diversity of references cited. Diversity is measured by the average citation difference between articles in the reference list. Imagine I write an article and in the reference list I cite this paper by Kevin Staub and Martin Weitzman's article on recombinant growth cited by Staub then the distance between those two articles is 1. If I also cite Paul Romer's article "The Origins of Endogenous Growth" cited by Weitzman then the distance between Staub's paper and Romer's is 2 and between Weitzman and Romer is 1. Controlling for time and journal fixed effects and some other control variables they found that there were significant increases in the share of references with distances of 3 or greater the more of the reference list was available online. This seems expected to me as people find it easier to search for literature beyond the reference lists or even the forward citations of articles they have already seen as more of the literature is searchable online.

But the paper contains another result which I found much less expected and much more interesting that I think deserves a paper of its own. They found that papers with higher average distances between items on their reference lists received higher numbers of citations 20, 30, or 40 years down the track than papers with less diverse reference lists. So, this supports the notion that papers that bring together articles that were not previously cited together are more innovative. One might expect papers with more eclectic references to be produced by less professional more dilettantish authors. Of course, these papers were all published in the fifty core economics journals, so that probably acts to filter out the more outlandish papers or papers written by "outsiders" that are doomed to be ignored.

Frank Jotzo Responds to Danny Price

Frank has an op ed in today's Australian Financial Review - responding to Danny Price's op-ed last Wednesday which I also commented on, on this blog, last week. Here is a non-paywalled version of Frank's op-ed.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Follow Me on Twitter

I'm planning on tweeting all my blogposts from now on, so you can follow me on Twitter. My username is sterndavidi. I've had a Twitter account since 2009 but never really used it much until now.

Friday, August 1, 2014

New ANU Open Access Policy

ANU researchers are now required to submit all published research outputs to our institutional open access repository. Details of the policy are here. Material should be submitted here. Previously, this was on a voluntary basis. Holders of ARC grants would have needed to justify why outputs of their project were not available on an open access basis. As in economics we have a very strong working paper culture this seems unnecessary. But that isn't the case in other disciplines and I guess a one size fits all policy is easier to implement and enforce.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Direct Action vs. Carbon Pricing

There was an op-ed in yesterday's Australian Financial Review by Danny Price criticising the 59 economists including me who agreed to sign a statement in favour of carbon pricing and praising direct action. First, a clarification. By signing that statement we were not endorsing the previous Labor government's Emissions Trading Scheme. We were simply endorsing some pricing mechanism on carbon. Price criticises carbon pricing because of the "cost to the broader economy of any tax". Here he seems to be referring to the tax interaction effect. Where there are existing distorting taxes,  a new tax interacts with these and increases the costs of the new tax beyond the amount of the direct costs involved with abating pollution. The advantage of a carbon tax is that the revenue from the tax can allow the government to cut existing distorting taxes and reduce of offset this effect. This is known as a "green tax reform" and was much discussed in the so-called "double dividend debate". But imposing a regulatory cap on emissions (and issuing free tradeable permits) results in the same increased costs in the presence of existing distortionary taxes. So, this is why economists generally recommend auctioning emissions trading permits rather than giving them away.* This raises revenue allowing other distortionary taxes to be cut. Direct action is effectively a cap on emissions where the government subsidizes firms reducing emissions through a reverse auction. But this uses government revenue and doesn't allow the cutting of other taxes unless the government budget is cut drastically, which doesn't look like happening. If other spending isn't cut at all then the government will have to increase the existing distortionary taxes. So, direct action is worse than a carbon tax or traded permits on this basis. However, Price says that under direct action the government only imposes one dollar of costs on the economy for every dollar spent. This seems to be incorrect.

On top of that are the problems of the incentives for firms to inflate the baseline from which they claim they will reduce emissions.

So, I'm still in favor of carbon pricing of some sort though I think there are also important problems with emissions trading schemes that only provide a very volatile short-term price signal. The article by Ottmar Edenhofer in the latest issue of Nature Climate Change discusses some of these issues.

* I've argued that the Australian scheme failed because due to objections by the Greens, not enough free permits were given away allowing the scheme to be characterised as a "huge tax". The Australian scheme was less generous than the European scheme. But any such giveaway should be a transitory policy that would be replaced by more auctioning of permits over time.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Environmental and Resource Economics Journals

There aren't that many field journals in environmental, resource, and energy economics in the Journal Citation Reports:

REEP and JEEM are clearly the top journals in terms of article influence scores but Ecological Economics dominates the field as measured by Eigenfactor Score or total citations because it is a much bigger journal. JEEM is also ranked 48th among economics journals by Article Influence, so this whole field is not that highly ranked.

2013 JCR Released

The 2013 edition of Journal Citation Reports has been released. I don't like the new interface that was recently introduced and it wasn't obvious how to download data easily but then I discovered there was a button at top right to download everything you had results on at that point without selecting journals individually. So, now I figured that there will be more analysis coming. Anyway, here is the report for PLoS ONE, which is the journal visitors to my blog seem most interested in :)

Yes, the journal lost ground again on all impact metrics as has been expected. It still does fairly well for a journal that publishes so many papers. I have an article under review with submission number 40332 submitted on 16th July. So, using those numbers and last year's number of published articles we get an acceptance rate of 42%, which is likely to be an underestimate if the number of articles published is still rising.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ed Prescott to Speak at ANU

Ed Prescott (Nobel Laureate in Economics) will give the Trevor Swan Distinguished Lecture at ANU on 13th August. The lecture will be titled: Neoclassical Growth Theory: From Swan to Now. The blurb says:

"The Swan 1956 growth model is the cornerstone of secular growth theory. To broaden the model to encompass aggregate business cycle fluctuations Kydland and Prescott added an aggregate household to explain investment- savings and labor-leisure decisions. With this addition, neoclassical growth theory came into existence. Extensions of this theory have proven successful in the study of stock markets, growth miracles, prosperities and depressions, alternative tax policies, and differences in aggregate labor supply across countries and time. Deviations from the predictions of this theory are puzzles to be resolved and their resolutions have advanced neoclassical growth theory."

Unfortunately, I have to teach at that time, but I am hoping it will be recorded and some people will ask some good questions. Some of Prescott's work on growth is pretty fundamental to our current research on economic growth and economic history.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Future of Solar

At the workshop in A Toxa I attended in late June, Richard Schmalensee presented findings of a yet to be released MIT report on the "Future of Solar". This will be part of their series on the future of energy. He was skeptical of how much of a role solar can play any time soon in addressing the climate issue. It's not clear that the costs of solar can come down a lot more when most of the costs are now in the non-silicon components. There is also the issue of rare materials needed for alternatives to silicon. Then there is the intermittency / storage issue. Yes, we keep hearing about storage breakthroughs, but they aren't yet commercial products. And even when they will be they will add further huge costs to the cost of solar. There is a need for new transmission infrastructure to the renewable locations. Electricity markets may need to be reformed again to handle the intermittent new renewables effectively.  Back in April, I noted that Ottmar Edenhofer stated that there was an increasing realisation of the difficulties of integrating renewable energy on a large scale into electricity supply systems. These are some of the issues alluded to and the reason that CCS and other alternatives are getting renewed consideration.

Essential Concepts of Global Environmental Governance Now Available

This book, which I contributed an entry on the EKC to, is now available from Routledge. There are some nice blurbs from well-known people:

"This volume provides an essential glossary of critical terms and concepts in the field of international environmental politics for diplomats, analysts and students. The interdisciplinary array of expert authors provide terse and authoritative overview of the key concepts and debates that have defined the field of international environmental governance over the years. The entries carefully survey the intellectual ecosystem of the concepts applied to understanding and managing our global environmental crisis." –Peter M. Haas, Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

"In a truly unique way, this book helps to connect the dots and navigate between the concepts, ideas and schools of thought in global environmental policy today. As environmental issues climb higher on the global agenda, I would highly recommend this book to all who wish to better understand the insights of sustainable global governance." –Connie Hedegaard, European Union Commissioner for Climate Action

"The global community is at a crossroads in respect to addressing climate change. A solid understanding of global environmental governance empowers people to better shape positive democracy that determines a safer future. This book makes a valuable contribution to societal understanding and societal change. Those who care about the world we leave to our children should take inspiration from its many and varied contributors drawn from so many disparate but interlocking disciplines." –Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 

Henriques PhD Dissertation on the Energy History of Portugal Now Available on the Web

Sofia has posted her dissertation to Academia.edu. It includes the data. She studied in Lund with Astrid Kander and is now at the University of Southern Denmark.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Latest Journal Metrics Released

Elsevier have released the latest edition of their journal metrics - SNIP and SJR. There is also a new metric - Impact per Publication (IPP), which is just a simple three year impact factor. This time the Energy Journal has an SJR (1.533) but still no SNIP. That makes it the 120th ranked journal in economics. Energy Economics ranks 89th with an SJR of 2.025, and Resources and Energy Economics at 151st with an SJR of 1.274. There are 890 economics journals. Ecological Economics is 98th (SJR=1.91). The QJE is the top ranked economics journal (SJR=25.2), Econometrica is second (18.9), and Journal of Political Economy is third (18.5).

A Toxa Meeting Website

The website with links to recordings of all the presentations at the 6th Atlantic Workshop in A Toxa is now up. I presented our paper on modelling the emissions-income relationship using long-run growth rates. There are also a few pictures. I'm somewhere in the back row in this one:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Call for Papers: 2015 IAEE International Conference in Antalya

The call for papers has been released for the 38th International Conference of the IAEE in Antalya, Turkey in May 2015 (25th-27th). The conference will be held at a golf resort. Deadline for abstract submissions is 19th December.

Global Growth Rate of GDP and Energy Use

Another slide from Wednesday's opening lecture. It shows the tight correlation between the annual global economic growth rate and the growth rate of energy use. In all but one year, energy use grew more slowly than GDP implying a decline in energy intensity. That year was 2010 - the year of strong rebound growth in the global economy and energy use following the Great Recession in the US and Europe. We analysed these movements in our short 2012 paper in Nature Climate Change.

Top Twenty Carbon Emitters, Coal Consumers, and Coal Producers

Some slides from my upcoming introductory lecture for my Energy Economics course:

This slide uses CDIAC data on the top twenty countries by emission of carbon dioxide globally in 2010. Carbon dioxide emissions here include only those from fossil fuel combustion and cement production. I also have summed up the emissions from the European Union and added it as if it was a single country (as the EU negotiates as a bloc) in addition to including all its member countries in the ranking. The three big emitters stand out clearly from all the rest. Emissions are measured by mass of carbon. To get carbon dioxide multiply by 3.66.

Of course, coal use is a big driver of CO2. This chart shows how China consumers so much more coal than any other country and after the US and India, the rest look pretty inconsequential.
On the whole, coal is consumed where it is produced with two important exceptions - Indonesia and Australia - the two biggest coal exporters. China produces the overwhelming majority of the coal it uses despite large imports. The majority of Australian exports are coal for iron smelting, so-called "metalurgical coal".

Malthusian Trap

Some interesting blogposts from Nick Szabo on the Malthusian trap and the breakout to economic growth. Follow the link in the post back to previous blogposts.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Big in Japan

I don't think our book will be big in Japan even, but it's nice to see a flyer for it in Japanese :)

I am now back in Canberra finally and catching up with teaching prep and looking at the books that Elgar sent us as payment :P An interesting one is The Art and Practice of Economic Research, which Shuang selected for me from Elgar's catalogue. Twenty five leading economists were asked almost exactly the same questions about various aspects of their career and worklife. It's reassuring to read that many top researchers confess to bad time management and feeling overwhelmed, for example: "What I am doing is not even feasible let alone optimal".

In other news, we have quite a few new CCEP working papers on RePEc. I hope to do a bit more blogging in the near future if only based on material from revising my energy economics lectures.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Economists Statement on Carbon Pricing

My name is included in the list of economists supporting a statement on carbon pricing released by WWF Australia. The statement is a little vague I think to maximize the number of people who would be willing to sign up. I think a price on carbon is a very useful part of a climate change policy. It can provide an incentive for finding cost-effective solutions, which otherwise might not be found. I favor a carbon tax now over emissions trading but the statement leaves that open. This seems to be where mainstream opinion is now heading.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Help Fund a Cool Research Project

Pun intended :) A bit off the beaten path for this blog, but I did warn you it would be a random walk. Faruk Kececi is an online friend who unfortunately wasn't in Istanbul the week we visited. You can contribute money on Kickstarter.

Monday, June 30, 2014

World Congress of Environmental and Resource Economics

I am, like almost 1200 other participants, at the WCERE in Istanbul. Yesterday there was an interesting panel session on climate change with Jeffrey Sachs, Ottmar Edenhofer (who is apparently meeting the Pope today), Marianne Fay from the World Bank,  Laurence Tubiana - the new French climate change ambassador - and Carlo Carraro as chair. All the participants agreed that the new framework for climate change policy that will be established at Paris next year must make a break from previous agreements and pledges in consisting primarily of designing long-term transformation pathways rather than primarily short-term targets. Obviously, short-term steps will still be needed. The thinking behind this was best expressed by Marianne Fay. She showed a slide with a picture of the Freedom Tower in New York and a small cottage side by side. She asked: "If you wanted to build this tower, would the house on the left be a reasonable first step?" Similarly, we could ask whether shifting to natural gas is a reasonable first step to decarbonizing the economy. A long-term perspective is needed. Jeffrey Sachs made a point that spot carbon markets aren't an appropriate tool for long-term climate policy. The short-term price keeps fluctuating and there is no long-term futures market. Instead a predictably rising carbon tax is needed. Technology policies are also needed to complement the carbon price. The consensus is that this is where we should head.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Canberra is the Best Place to Live in the World According to the OECD

Australia is the best country and the ACT is the best region in Australia. I checked the OECD website, and giving equal weight to each of the criteria the OECD ranks, the ACT is the highest scoring region in the world. Of course, that is not how most Australians see it. I met an Australian woman at JFK airport last week while waiting to take the train and she asked me where I lived. When I answered: "Canberra", she said: "Why would you do that to yourself?"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Follow Up on "Energy and Economic Growth: The Stylized Facts" at Econbrowser

James Hamilton has a new post on Econbrowser based partly on our paper Energy and Economic Growth: The Stylized Facts which I recently presented at the IAEE meeting in New York. I'd add that oil use has been flat in recent years but that was compensated for by increases in the use of natural gas, coal, and renewables. So, recent data don't substantially deviate from our stylized fact.

Today, I arrived at A Toxa, an island in Galicia, in the northwest of Spain. It is really beautiful here. Tomorrow the 6th Atlantic Workshop on Energy and Environmental Economics
starts here. I am giving a presentation in the final session tomorrow on our paper on modeling the emissions-income relationship using long-run growth rates.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

High-Ranked Social Science Journal Articles Can Be Identified from Early Citation Information

I have posted a new bibliometric working paper , which investigates how well we can predict future cumulative citations from the first citations received by a paper in the disciplines of economics and political science.

It is usually assumed that citations accumulate too slowly in social sciences apart from psychology to be useful for short-term research assessment. For this reason, the Australian Government’s Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) exercise, which attempts to assess the research quality of universities in the previous 5 years, uses peer review in social science disciplines apart from psychology for this reason but uses citation analysis for psychology and all natural sciences. This peer review process seems to me to be a wasteful duplication of effort to review research outputs that have already passed through a peer review process once.

I show that, surprisingly, citations received by journal articles in the social sciences in the first one to two years after publication are strongly predictive for citations received in future years. By contrast, I show that journal impact factors are mostly useful in the year of publication and their contribution to predicting citations declines rapidly thereafter.

If it is actually possible to predict citations fairly reliably in social science disciplines, then it should also be easy to predict them in the natural sciences. This means that it should be possible to expand bibliometric analysis in research evaluation exercises to all disciplines apart from the humanities and arts. It also means that we should pay attention to the early citations received by papers when we evaluate individual academics for hiring and promotion. Impact factors are reflective of journal selectivity, which we frequently do not have easily available data on. But they only explain about 16-17% of the variation in rankings of papers six years later conditional on the citations already received in the year of publication. The latter explain 13-14% of the variation. But at the end of the year following publication, accumulated citations explain 52-53% of the variation in cumulative citations after 6 years and 73% at the end of the second year after publication.

These models could be improved by adding information on the characteristics of the articles themselves and their authors, but that was much too time consuming to do for the almost 12,000 articles in my sample.

I have submitted a copy of my paper to the HEFCE inquiry on the use of metrics in research assessment.

Energy and Economic Growth: The Animated GIF

It seems that everyone loves the animation of energy use per capita and GDP per capita that I am showing as part of my presentations on Energy and Economic Growth: The Stylized Facts. So, at James Hamilton's suggestion and with Zsuzsanna's help I have made an animated GIF of this slide sequence:

The graph is for the 99 countries that have data in both the Penn World Table (7.0) and the IEA Energy Balances. The line is the best fit log-log regression computed by Excel. As you can see the relationship between these two variables has been very stable over the last forty years globally.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

World Energy Use Increased 2.3% in 2013

The annual BP Statistical Review was just released. It shows that world energy use increased by 2.3% in 2013. According to the IMF, the world economy grew 3% in 2013. World population is growing at about 1.1% p.a. Therefore, there was a 1.2% increase in per capita energy use for a 1.9% increase in GDP per capita - a ratio of 0.63 - which is a little below our stylized fact that energy use tends to increase by 0.7% for a 1% increase in GDP.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Environment and Development Economics is 20 Years Old

And there is a special issue to celebrate. You can find the introductory article from the editors here. One of my tasks as a post-doc at University of York was helping my boss, Charles Perrings, with the administrative tasks for the new journal like sending invitation letters to the editorial board members. It's also 20 years since I got my PhD - my defence was in April 1994 - I started the post-doc at York as an "ABD" in September 1993. Time flies!

Right now I'm at the IAEE meeting in New York City, will be going on to the Atlantic Workshop in Spain next week and the World Congresss of Environmental and Resource Economics in Istanbul the following week. Not surprisingly, the main talk here is about shale oil and gas and their implications. Flying over Pennsylvania on Sunday I saw quite a few drilling sites...

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Environmental Kuznets Curve: A Primer

I've updated my article on the environmental Kuznets curve that appeared in the Encyclopedia of Energy in 2004. The revised version will be available as part of Elsevier's Online Reference Database: Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. I've also posted a working paper version of the article titled: The Environmental Kuznets Curve: A Primer. Despite all the papers that have been published on the topic in the past ten years, I don't think my main messages have changed much. Increases in income tend to increase emissions per capita but time related and other effects can reduce emissions. On the other hand concentrations of some local pollutants are reduced by income increases. The section on theory is a bit more optimistic than I was in 2004 but I think there is still opportunity to develop a comprehensive theory of how income and emissions evolve. I also write in the conclusions that recently developed econometric methods have also only been applied to analyze a couple of well-known pollutants. Therefore, I expect that in coming years this will continue to be an active area of research interest. The emerging issue of how emissions evolve over the business cycle is also likely to be an area of expanding research.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Energy and Economic Growth: The Stylized Facts

I contributed an article to the IAEE Energy Forum as part of their report on the New York City conference of IAEE. The topic of our paper that I will present in New York on 16th June is "Energy and Economic Growth: The Stylized Facts". The full paper is available as part of the conference proceedings. This has been a project under development for a while, being the subject of my "foundation seminar" (=inaugural lecture) here at Crawford School. Things progressed further once Zsuzsanna Cserekylei put a consistent dataset together for the 1971-2010 period and did the analysis. Then Mar Rubio contributed historical data and analysis. Anyway, this is the text of our article:

What overall patterns, or stylized facts, characterize the relationship between economic growth and energy use both across countries and over time? Energy economists and economic historians have investigated these issues, but existing research has either looked at how energy use and economic development vary across countries at one point in time or how they evolve over time in individual countries or groups of countries. Researchers have not linked together the cross-sectional and time series behaviors despite their obvious dependence on each other.

We investigate the links between the time and cross-sectional (or income per capita) dimensions using two datasets. One is a dataset for 99 countries from 1971 to 2010 that uses IEA and Penn World Table data. The other comprises historical data for the U.S. and a number of European and Latin American countries that extends back to 1800 for the U.S. and some Northern European countries and to later dates in the 19th and early 20th century for the other countries.

In recent years, economic historians, including one of the authors of this paper, Mar Rubio, have been working to reconstruct the energy history of many countries in Europe and the Americas for the years before the Second World War. Some of the historical data we use was prepared for the recently published Power to the People, authored by Astrid Kander, Paolo Malanima, and Paul Warde and published by Princeton University Press. Mar Rubio collaborated with Kander et al. on the Spanish data for that volume and led a team that developed historical data for Latin America. Though these data are obviously much more uncertain than those for recent years, they can provide insights into the long-run relationship between energy and economic development.

Our key finding from the recent data is that there has been a fairly stable relationship between countries’ GDP per capita measured in purchasing power parity adjusted Dollars and their per capita energy use over the last 40 years. A 1% increase in income per capita across countries is associated with a 0.7% increase in per capita energy use. This implies that energy intensity (energy use/GDP) is lower in richer countries and that on average a 1% increase in income per capita is associated with a 0.3% decrease in energy intensity.

The relationship is also stable in the sense that the average energy use per capita associated with any given level of income per capita has not changed over the four decades. This means that the typical country only managed to reduce its energy intensity by increasing its income per capita. A different way of looking at the same data is to compare countries’ average GDP per capita growth rate from 1971 to 2010 to the rate of change in their energy intensity over the same period. This relationship is shown in Figure 1:

The graph shows that higher rates of economic growth are associated with higher rates of decline in energy intensity. The graph also shows that if a country’s economic growth was zero then not only did its energy intensity not decline, but actually it increased on average.

Figure 1 also indicates that there are many countries where energy intensity rose despite economic growth. Our second main finding is that there was convergence in energy intensity over time and that the countries whose energy intensity rose typically had low energy intensity at the beginning of the period. Countries that were very energy intensive typically saw declines in energy intensity. There is now a tighter relationship between income and energy use than there was forty years ago.

In other words, though there has been some degree of “decoupling” of energy and growth in some formerly energy intensive economies, this has not been the common experience. Rather, there has been a homogenization, with countries increasingly resembling each other, while energy intensity globally has declined, but not by enough to reduce energy use.

This picture is borne out in the historical data too. Figure 2 shows the evolution of energy intensity and income over the last two centuries for four representative countries. Energy intensity appears to have declined the most in the United States, which was the most energy intensive economy in the 19th Century. On the other hand, energy intensity has been fairly stable in Spain, which was a very low energy intensity economy in the 19th Century. These time-paths are superimposed on the global distribution of energy intensity and income in 2010. This shows that in the past the United States was more energy intensive for its income level than any countries are today but that in the last few decades it has ceased to be remarkable in that way. On the other hand, the time paths of Sweden, Brazil, and Spain are mostly within the present day energy intensity distribution.

Our paper in the online proceedings also covers other regularities in the data. Specifically, there is some evidence that the share of energy in costs declines over time. But this “stylized fact” is still more of a prediction than a proven regularity. As is well known, the quality of energy increases over time and with income as countries have transitioned from traditional biomass, to fossil fuels, to primary electricity over time. We also find that the energy/capital ratio, which is an alternative to energy intensity as an indicator of overall energy efficiency, behaves somewhat similarly to energy intensity.

Future theoretical models of the relationship between energy use and economic development will need to take these stylized facts into account and make sure that their predictions match the facts. The stylized facts might also be useful for developing simple business as usual energy use scenarios.