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Influences on the way to 10,000 Tweets

Today, I will hit a milestone that I never would have imagined – I will send out my 10,000th Tweet. When I started using Twitter, I saw it as a way to provide a real-time reading list for my students, but I have since found it to be so much more than that.  I decided to reach the 10,000 tweet level with a 5 tweet series of works that have influenced my thinking about energy and climate policies and politics, and a thank you with #10000.  Here are the items I chose:

1. The Canadian Oil Sands: Energy Security vs. Climate Change by Michael Levi.  I first read this piece while I was teaching a course in our Fort McMurray MBA program.  Seldom has one piece of work led me to re-write an entire lecture for a course, but this one did. Levi’s CFR blog is also one of my go-to sources on US energy markets and policy.

2. 1000 Barrels a Second by Peter Tertzakian. I read Peter’s book in advance of one of his now-frequent visits to the University of Alberta a couple of years ago, and I now list it at the top of my must-reads for energy-interested people.  With so much attention focused on energy transitions, Peter does a better job than any other author I have read in defining the elements that drive energy source break points and transitions to new sources of energy.

3. The effect of health risks on housing values: evidence from a cancer cluster by Lucas Davis. In textbook environmental economics, the optimal solution is to allocate resources to reduce damages or risks up to the point where the incremental increase in the cost of abatement is equal to the incremental decrease in harm resulting from that increase in abatement.  Sounds easy.  Of course, when you start trying to put values on impacts, it’s nowhere near that easy.  I can’t imagine a harder problem in economics than asking how much money we should devote to mitigating the harm from pediatric cancer. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world with infinite resources, so at some point you do have to decide how much is enough. Davis, a professor at UC Berkeley, asks this question in a great study (published in the American Economic Review), which I used to use as the introductory example in my “Why economists are going to hell” lecture in my environmental management classes.

4.Understanding Crude Oil Prices by James Hamilton. There are many topics for which there seems to be no link between the economics that I know well and what I would describe as conversational macro – the type of economics that you hear on the nightly news. Discussion of world oil markets is definitely at the top of that list. Hamilton does a great job of linking the two, and reminding everyone that, in all transactions involving oil, there are buyers and sellers, and trade only happens when there is a double coincidence of wants.

5. The Coal Question by William Stanley Jevons. “Coal in truth stands not beside but entirely above all other commodities. It is the material energy of the country—the universal aid—the factor in everything we do. With coal almost any feat is possible or easy; without it we are thrown back into the laborious poverty of early times.” Those words, first published in 1865, were key in the Peak Coal discussion around the turn of the century.  There are so many parallels in this book to the discussions we hear about peak oil today, and I tend to refer to it a lot.  For example, do you think the question of intermittent renewable energy is new? Jevons wrote that, “windmills were tried for draining mines; but though they were powerful machines, they were very irregular, so that in a long tract of calm weather the mines were drowned, and all the workmen thrown idle.” Some things, it seems, change very little.

10,000th Tweet – Globe and Mail’s Economy Lab, Worthwhile Canadian Initiative, and Stephen Gordon.  WCI and Stephen Gordon, along with Rob Gilroy and others at the Globe and Mail’s Economy Lab were the most important influences in pushing me to become more engaged through Twitter and this blog, and helped me to build an audience very quickly.  WCI brings good economic and statistical analysis to issues of the day in Canada, and the last federal election was a sign of how important the voice of a few academic economists can be. While the Economists’ Party of Canada may be a long way from coming to power, engaged economists like Gordon, UBC’s Kevin Milligan, Ivey’s Mike Moffatt, are moving the goal posts.

Thanks to all of you for reading and engaging in discussion.

One response to “Influences on the way to 10,000 Tweets”

  1. Stephen Gordon

    I’m *so* pleased you’re doing this. As we have all become painfully aware, when economists absent themselves from public debates, non-economists feel free to pretend that we don’t exist.

    This is doubly – or triply – true for environmental economics.

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