Economics should be open

May 21, 2009

Heavy variation in heating fuel — implications for electricity use analysis

Filed under: Uncategorized — howardchong @ 6:55 pm

As researchers, we try hard to be rigorous, but one of the biases we are most susceptible to is that our local world is representative of and similar to the rest of the world. This is untrue, except given homogeneity. If there is any variation, then at least somebody is “abnormal”.

Hence, I was surprised to learn that CA is not normal in terms of heating fuel use and that this non-normality is pretty significant. CA is extremely natural gas intensive, with the most credible reports (consider CA RASS 2004) saying that ~70-90% of homes heated by natural gas. Using a national data set, we can see the variation. In 1997 (RECS), 68% of households in CA used natural gas heating. Oregon and Washington, cooler climates with more heating load, had 20% of households using natural gas, and 62% heating with electricity. Part of this may be due to  the lower prices for electricity in the Pacific Northwest.

What does this mean? It means that I shouldn’t be comparing CA to OR and WA because it’s an apples to oranges comparison. I also shouldn’t be doing difference in difference analyses because whatever treatment we can think of will be polluted by these other state-specific factors.

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May 19, 2009

CO2 emissions of transit, redux

Filed under: Uncategorized — howardchong @ 8:57 pm

I had always thought that driving was way worse for the environment than taking mass transit. Just think of it; I’m lugging around 2 tons of metal to move me from one place to another. A motorcycle is much better, but a car is so dang convenient. And the road network is perfectly designed to work best with cars.

 

But out comes some studies with contradictory evidence that says that transit may actually be worse for the environment. The key here, is that a bus gets about 5-7 mpg; so you need about 6 people riding on average (for the whole line, not just the middle) to equal each person driving separately by car. Where this is true, it’s very carbon efficient. Where it is not, well, that may be what’s happening in Cleveland, OH.

 

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