James Barrett

James Barrett is Chief Economist at the Clean Economy Development Center

Renewable Energy

Can the Keynes notion of ‘spontaneous optimism’ help U.S. investments in clean energy?

This post originally appeared on the Great Energy Challenge blog, in partnership with National Geographic and Planet Forward.  John Maynard Keynes, a giant in modern economic theory, famously wrote, “Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as the result of animal spirits.” This notion, laid out in his seminal book, The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, was meant to push back on the notion that people behave in an purely economically rational manner, that many of our decisions …

Snake oil

Drilling down on oil

It may be true, but domestic oil drilling won’t help.This post originally appeared on the Great Energy Challenge blog, in partnership with National Geographic and Planet Forward.  It’s an unfortunate fact that stress has a way of making people crazy. At the moment, rising oil prices are creating a lot of stress. One of the problems with our deep dependence on oil is that oil prices can (and do) swing wildly in relatively short periods of time. Between January 2007 and July 2008, the average price of crude oil paid by U.S. refineries went from about $51 to $129 per …

Life is hard, and then you subsidize

What Obama should know about ending oil subsidies

This post originally appeared on the Great Energy Challenge blog, in partnership with National Geographic and Planet Forward.  Despite my seriously mixed feelings about the State of the Union speeches, I tuned in to this year’s speech for the first time in several years. Like many, I was disappointed if not surprised that President Obama didn’t mention climate change even once. Climate policy is hard sell in a down economy. I hope Mother Nature understands. Less disappointing, and less surprising, is that he called for the economy to reduce our oil consumption. I’m sorry to be unimpressed, but when a …

Silly Season 2.0

To those with more than a casual interest in politics, “Silly Season” is a common term used to indicate the time running up to an election when the logic of Capitol Hill, such as it is, gets crazier than usual. Votes are scheduled or canceled depending on how much they would help or hurt the opposition in their home districts rather than on the merits of the bills in question. Silly Season used to start in late spring or early summer before an election and ran right up to election day, though you could argue that it now starts earlier …

Jevons to betsy

Rebounds and Jevons: Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded

My last post on David Owen's piece in the New Yorker and on the Jevons effect stirred up some interesting questions and discussion that I want to follow up on here.

arguing over efficiency

Rebounds gone wild

David Owen's New Yorker article about energy efficiency misses the point.

greening requires a lot of green

The messy side of energy efficiency: finance

If we want to make a dent in household energy efficiency, we will need to move large amounts of private capital.

The problem with a green economy: economics hates the environment

Cross-posted from the Wonk Room. Economics is critical to getting decent climate legislation passed, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman discusses in a extended piece for the New York Times. Economists like me have always suspected that this was true, but then we also suspect that economics is critical to pretty much everything. The problem is that economics hates the environment, or at least environmental policy. In the real world, environmental policy has been very good for the economy. But economic analyses of climate legislation find that pollution limits slow economic growth and increase costs. The Waxman-Markey climate bill — …

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