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Showing posts for "Economics"

FiveThirtyEight’s Data Problem

by Michael Levi

Nate Silver’s new FiveThirtyEight has been catching a lot of flak since it launched last week. Perhaps the harshest has been directed at the site’s retention of the often-contrarian climate analyst Roger Pielke Jr., with everyone from Paul Krugman to the Center for American Progresspiling on. The onslaught is disturbing. I’ve disagreed with Roger often, but he is genuinely well intentioned. People who care about getting good policy should want more thoughtful voices, not fewer, proposing options – and organized campaigns to run heterodox thinkers out of town are awfully ugly. Read more »

Is the Ethanol Mandate Pumping Up Gas Prices?

by Michael Levi

An esoteric fight of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2), which mandates that the United States use an increasing volume of ethanol each year, has become a bit more prominent in recent weeks, with some accusing the mandate of contributing to rising gasoline prices in new and troubling ways. I remain perplexed as to what exactly is going on – more on that a bit further down – but I do find the defense from the Renewable Fuels Association, published last week in the form of a white paper commissioned from Informa Economics, hugely unpersuasive. Read more »

Three Graphs That Resource Pessimists Don’t Want You to See

by Blake Clayton

My last post noted that inflation-adjusted natural resource prices—even for exhaustible resources—tend to fall over time. This trend surprises people who think that prices are doomed to rise indefinitely because it gets more and more expensive to mine/grow/pump these resources in larger volumes over time. So what’s behind the downtrend? Read more »

Bad News for Pessimists Everywhere: Malthus Was Wrong

by Blake Clayton

There is a tempting intuition to the idea that the real prices of non-renewable goods like coal, iron ore, or oil should rise, more or less, forever. It’s an easy argument to make, and it sounds right: The world’s population is getting bigger and bigger, so more and more goods like metals and hydrocarbons are being consumed. Every year, the sum total of what we’ve taken out of the ground mounts, never to be replaced. Supply of the stuff is limited—once it’s gone, it’s gone. So, this argument goes, as we exhaust our resources, we’ll have to mine, drill, or otherwise get our hands on it somehow but it will get more and more expensive to do so, because we’ll have exhausted the best stuff. Left to exploit ever-greater quantities of ever-more-marginal deposits, prices will rise indefinitely into the future. Read more »

Could the North American Shale Boom Happen Elsewhere?

by Blake Clayton

The dramatic takeoff in oil and gas production in the United States and Canada over the last half decade has left many people asking whether a similar boom will happen in other countries. It’s a good question. To answer it, you have to start by identifying what critical factors enabled the boom to happen here, then figure out whether these same enabling factors exist elsewhere. Read more »

Asking the Right Questions About Changes in Derivative Markets

by Blake Clayton

As part of a book I’m working on, I’ve spent some time wading through the econometric literature on speculation in commodity markets, oil in particular. This body of research tries to shed light on how the inflow of investor money into commodity derivatives over the last decade has affected these markets. I’m skeptical of a lot of what’s out there on this topic, though there is also some excellent work, too, like from Bassam Fattouh at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. Read more »

A New Study on Oil Taxes

by Michael Levi

Dan Ahn and I have a new energy brief out that takes a fresh look at oil taxes. From the introduction:

“Policymakers are confronting difficult choices [regarding tax hikes and spending cuts]…. In this context, it might be possible to reconsider oil taxes not only as an unwelcome burden, but as an alternative to something worse. We have modeled the potential consequences of substituting taxes on oil consumption for either higher non-oil taxes or reduced government spending, both as part of a larger deficit reduction package. [We show that] doing so can improve economic performance while reducing oil consumption if done right.” Read more »