Saturday, May 25, 2013

Fuel efficiency standards and holiday travel

Here is a link to an interesting article by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Note the highlighting of opportunity costs as well as the projected impact of new fuel efficiency standards.

These CAFE standards are a type of performance standard.

These standards set the minimum fuel efficiency for a fleet of vehicles. They are not without controversy. Improving fuel efficiency means a lower marginal cost per mile driven, which may induce people to drive more (at least partially offsetting the intended effect). Further, it can be argued that the same result can be achieved with a gasoline tax, but at lower total cost to society. A gas tax is of course the classic Pigouvian solution to negative externalities.

Here is more detail on the research noted above.

Here is more on the issue from Resources for the Future.

And even more RFF reading here.

If you have not yet been exposed to RFF, I highly recommend that you explore their website.

Monday, May 20, 2013

What do natural resource economists do?

This is an edited re-post from an earlier semester.
As students begin to study the discipline of natural resource economics, there is often confusion about what the topic is really about. This is especially the case when students are coming from backgrounds with only limited exposure to economics (e.g. EVS, where you've only had one or two econ classes before this one).

Generally speaking, economists try to solve problems using a combination of theory, empirical analysis (data, statistics, math), and intuition. For example, macro economists try to address issues such as how to keep an economy growing without significant inflation.  Micro economists might try to find the best way to maximize profit for a particular firm or industry. Natural resource economists try to solve problems associated with scarce natural resources.

Some examples from my work include: How to maximize fishery value while balancing the competing needs of commercial and recreational fishers and maintaining a biologically sustainable stock?  How can Caribbean tourism grow without harming coral reef quality or marine turtle populations? What hunting regulations would maximize the net gains to society from white tailed deer populations? In the face of depleted stocks, will a nation's supply of seafood increase or decrease with financial incentives to curtail fishing effort?

Obviously, these are complex issues that require interdisciplinary effort. One of the things that I really love about what I do is that I work side-by-side with biologists, policy makers and resource users to address these problems.

Here are links to two excellent essays that provide a nice perspective on the economic view of the environment.

The second essay covers non-market valuation, which we will cover in detail later in the term. It makes a good read now however, as it sets the stage for much of what we're covering at the beginning of the class (e.g. the economic view of value).

How do Economists Really Think About the Environment (Fullerton and Stavins, RFF, 1998)

Economic Values without Prices (Loomis, Choices, 2005)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Welcome summer school students

Hi everyone.

Welcome to the ECN/EVS 330 blog.

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussion of class issues. I will post topics and links to readings as often as I can. I hope that you will find the resources useful and that you will contribute to the discussion. Please note that I am not interested in personal opinions or political rants. I am looking for objective, research-based contributions. Cite your sources when possible or provide links to further reading.  Posting questions is good too.  If you find topics, articles in the news or have a suggestion for a blog post, please send it to me via email.