Nottingham has become the first major city in the UK to introduce a compulsory workplace parking levy (WPL). Businesses in Nottingham with more than 10 parking spaces will have to pay an annual charge to the council of £288-per-space.
Critics of the scheme argue that the levy will add to costs and damage profits at a time when the local economy is struggling to drag itself out of recession. They believe that the levy will be an unfair extra charge for people who work shifts or live in areas without adequate public transport have to drive. The Taxpayers’ Alliance which is a fierce critic of what they see as inefficient local government opposes the WPL and say that 96% of Nottingham businesses in the area oppose the charge, with 62% of those businesses claiming that they would now consider relocating their interests.
The council’s defence is that the revenue from the levy will be hypothecated - that is the money will be earmarked to help fund improvements to Nottingham’s tram system, infrastructure with long term economic benefits. Other transport projects will be allocated funding from the tax.
Pricing to ration scarce parking space is an attempt to manage demand for car use within the city centre and to tackle congestion particularly at peak periods. Other cities are said to be interested in launching similar schemes and Nottingham’s experience may well tell us how quickly it will be rolled out in the years to come. A key decision for many businesses is whether to pass on the charge to their employees.
How will the charge be likely to affect:
1/ Demand for city park and ride schemes?
2/ Demand for Nottingham’s tram system?
3/ Demand for tele-working among Nottingham’s businesses
4/ Profits for businesses with more than 10 workers inside the parking levy area?
5/ Demand for public car parks
It is over five years since the publication of the Stern Report and much has happened in the intervening period. Stern however was at pains to emphasise that his core message remained undimmed, namely that the costs of inaction are enormous but the costs of early action to cut emissions are manageable. We have seen in recent years rapid technological change much of which is hugely encouraging in taking us closer to de-coupling the relationship between production and consumption and carbon emissions. But more is needed, Stern is arguing in these three lectures for a new industrial revolution, a deep set of changes to production processes and technologies that happens across every sector. The economics and politics of how progress might be made in moving towards a new revolution will be the focus of the second and third lectures.
LECTURE 1 - Tuesday 21 February 2012
What we risk and how we should cast the economics and ethics
LECTURE 2 - Wednesday 22 February 2012
How we can respond and prosper
LECTURE 3 - Thursday 23 February 2012
How we can get there: building national and international action
Most governments have used a combination of policies with varying levels of success. One policy option is the use of variable rates of Excise Duty. The March 2011 budget resulted in a rise in the duty on strong beers (above 7.5% alcohol) of 25%, and the duty on weak beers (below 2.8%) cut by 50%.read more...»
The crucial issue of how best to tackle climate change and make significant progress towards a low-carbon economy is one that gives students tremendous opportunities to hone their analysis and evaluation skills. A few weeks ago the Australian government was successful in getting through the Senate proposals for a new carbon tax and in this blog we link to some excellent video reports on the background to this decision.read more...»
Justin Rowlatt from the BBC has been investigating some of the remarkable progress being made in controlling deforestation in Brazil. The battle focuses on an area known as the “arc of destruction” and the video reports here show the impact of a government making a clear commitment to tackling the issue and backing it up with force and with incentives.read more...»
This blog provides a link to a new prezi presentation on the economics of solar subsidies - I have been using it as part of my teaching on aspects of environmental economics for Unit 3 AQA but it might also be useful for unit 1 market failure. I have kept theoretical diagrams out of it and plan to build up relevant analytical concepts such as economies of scale, consumer subsidies, economic and social welfare, government failure et al on a normal whiteboard rather than embed them into the Prezi. I hope it is useful.
Follow the tags at the bottom of the blog entry for more recent articles on solar subsidies such as feed-in-tariffs and other environmental economic resources.read more...»
I do my level best to avoid the processed meat aisles in the supermarkets - or at least the lower end of what is on offer (I remember once the 5pence sausage that was a guaranteed 2 per cent pork!). But perhaps excessive consumption of processed meats - much of which finds a way into the traditional Full-English might be doing people much more harm than good? Follow this BBC news report for more details.read more...»
This autumn the world’s biggest solar plant power station opened in Spain. Comprising 600,000 parabolic mirrors, the Andasol 3 CSP plant is the size of 70 soccer fields and has 88km of piping. The economies of scale are huge and if solar power is going to work and be viable anywhere it is probably here or in North Africa.read more...»
From tsunamis to tornadoes, from droughts to floods, 2011 was a particularly nasty year for natural disasters in many parts of the world. These natural disasters inevitably have demand and supply side effects affecting not just those countries affected but ripple impact across regions and in the broader global economy.
The Al Jazeera news video report below provides a clear overview of some of the major natural climatic shocks of 2011 and could easily be used as an introductory resource to discuss what are some of the micro and macroeconomic effects in both the short and medium term.
* Effects on the stock of physical capital / infrastructure
* Impact on a country’s human capital
* Effects on commodity prices, export revenues
* Effects on agricultural output, profits, investment, productivity
* Ripple effects on manufacturing industries and energy supply/cost
* Impact on state tax revenues and the costs of re-building and providing emergency financial support
* Effect on the movement of population following extreme climatic events
* Natural disasters and changes in the distribution of income / risk of poverty
This Economist graphic (published in Jan 2012) looks at the human cost of natural disasters and claims that “the world has succeeded in making natural disasters less deadly.”read more...»
If you are a fan of laminate flooring, wood panelled walls or neat wood-based fencing for the garden, the chances are that you will be paying higher prices in the years ahead. Despite the Britain offering a temperate climate for a plentiful supply of wood and a well organised system of land registry and plantation management, the UK market price of different types of timber has shot up over the last two years.read more...»
It seems those fortunate enough to live next to Hyde Park are increasingly bothered by the negative externalities arising from the concerts put on there. This BBC article is a good illustration of the difficulties involved at arriving at a socially-optimal level of production.
British Petroleum has decided to exit the solar energy energy industry claiming that the business has become unprofitable because of excess supply and falling prices. In 2011 a number of solar firms have gone out of business including California’s Solyndra and Germany’s Solon. BP will focus instead on investing in other renewable energy sectors including wind power and biofuels.
Whilst the decision by BP to exit the industry appears significant, infact total global investment in solar power continues to rise. MidAmerican Energy Holdings owned by Warren Buffett have agreed to purchase a $2 billion solar project under development in California and a 49 percent stake in a $1.8 billion plant in Arizona.
Google Inc. and KKR & Co have announced a joint venture to pump money in four California solar power plants with total capacity of 88 megawatts. The powerful search engine business uses a huge anount of energy every year and has committed itself to large scale investment in renewable energy supplies to help power their server farms.
The Human Development Report 2011 reported that deforestation is a severe problem. In the last two decades, Latin American and Sub-Saharan Africa have experienced severe forest losses, especially when compared to the rest of the world.
For economists the economic and social costs of rapid deforestation represent a telling example of the tragedy of the commons where the pursuit of individual self-interest can risk a permanent destruction of natural resources that undermines the sustainability of communities and societies for current and future generations. The United Nations calculates that deforestation and degradation is responsible for nearly 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Will the REDD programme make a difference?
REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries and is designed to provide financial incentives funded by advanced nations for developing countries to preserve their forests and instead invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.
The UN estimates financial flows of up to $30bn could come from REDD and related initiatives - the scheme effectively allows rich countries to offset their carbon emissions from domestic industries and consumers by funding clean low-carbon development projects in developing countries. But it is highly controversial and opposed by many organisations such as Friends of the Earth and the World Rainforest Movement.
In this blog we have put together some web resources on the issue of deforestation - focusing on causation, consequences and also on some of the policy approaches that might work to bring about behavioural change.
When is electricity demand highest in the UK? The answer comes at the end of the blog!
The UK government is committed to the rolling out of smart energy meters between now and the end of 2020. Millions of homes will have smart meters installed which track how much electricity you use and when you use it - the installation cost is approximately £350 per unit although this may come down with the utilisation of economies of scale. Smart meters will give consumers and the utility businesses minute-by-minute information about energy consumption and this could fast-forward the launch of time of use pricing tariffs for us all in the years ahead. It will mark a move away from flat-rate tariffs towards fully-fledged peak and off-peak pricing.
At the moment around one in ten households are on Economy 7 tariffs which offers lower prices for electricity used during off-peaking times in the late evenings and early mornings. Economy 7 seems to have been around for as long as CEEFAX and if you understand that you are giving your age away!read more...»
Thames Water has plans for a super sewer running 20 miles from Hammersmith to Beckton but the plan has come up against intense opposition from many local resident groups. It is a good example to use of cost-benefit analysis in action with a project that will directly affect millions of people living and working in the capital. There is an almost unending list of stakeholders involved in the debate.read more...»
To promote the expansion of renewable energy sources, many governments have introduced subsidies for consumers who install solar panels.
In April 2010, the Labour government introduced generous feed-in tariffs to encourage households to install solar photovoltaic systems. Anyone spending £13,000 up front to fit a system to their home was paid 41.3p per kilowatt hour (kWh) generated – enough to earn them a typical annual income of £900 a year in payments, on top of a £140-a-year saving in reduced electricity bills. The big six energy companies are required by law to pay householders who generate their own energy.
It looks like the days of generous subsidies for solar panels are coming to an end and there is a rush on to install them before the feed-in-tariff system is changed.read more...»
This short video report from Will Ross for the BBC from the island of Lamu, considers a number of economic concepts.read more...»
A hat tip to Mark Seccombe for spotting this fine piece of economics writing from the New York Times economics blog.
Casey Mulligan explores the question of whether the US coast guard should enforce that boats install safety beacons as a way of cutting the number of incidents they are required to attend. Does providing a safety-net regardless of whether participants have covered the cost of providing themselves with basic safety equipment lead to a problem of moral hazard? Has mandatory safety belts in cars led to a reduction in the quality of driving? Would compulsory air bags do the same? When is the state justified in applying and enforcing stringent safety requirements on people and businesses as they go about their daily lives?
Here is a super short transport cost benefit analysis example regarding plans to re-open a rail link between Oxford and Milton Keynes could generate millions of pounds for the economy. In total it would cost £178m and then £11.6m a year to run, but Oxford Economics says it would bring an economic benefit to the area which it estimates at £32m a year. This BBC news video would make for a good short introduction to the example, and here are some other links to coverage of the Oxford Economics research in the local papers.
Oxford Mail: Rail link could be worth £38m a year
Official web site East West Rail
A hat tip to John Wilson from New Zealand for spotting this superb article which looks at smarter consumer spending and using opportunity cost as a concept to put some of our many choice in context. Some great examples here that might be used at the start of an AS Micro course.
A controversial motorway extension in Scotland is set to open. Glasgow’s new £657m M74 extension set to open (BBC News). The 6-lane elevated M74 extension is over-budget at a cost of £657m, which works out at £131m per mile or £75,000 a yard (£80,000 a metre). How can road extensions cost so much? Can the costs be justified by the suggested economic benefits? The BBC article provides a good mini-case study in transport cost-benefit analysis. Here are some other supporting links:read more...»
The tragedy of the commons and the grave consequences for the state of marine ecology are highlighted in this new report. Covered with passion in this blog. Climate change, pollution and over-fishing are two fundamental problems for the oceans. More details here from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) website.
The report identifies a number of important policy approaches to tackle the problems - The scientists say that the ‘precautionary principle’ must be used in terms of oceanic impacts, in other society shouldn’t don’t proceed with activities unless they are proven to be largely safe for marine ecosystems. And they argue for much stringer use of property rights by widening the size of international marines of the sea.
TED Talk: Jeremy Jackson: How we wrecked the ocean
Helpful revision notes provided by a new government report yesterday, attempting to put a financial value on Britain’s ecology. The ‘National Ecosystem Assessment’ attempts to give a standard valuation on ‘ecosystem services’ like pollination by insects, water and air purification by soils and plants, the flood alleviation provided by woods and marshes upstream of towns and cities, and the value of living close to a green space; for example the value of living near a green space is calculated as £300 in terms of savings to the NHS. The first of 6 key findings of the NEA is:
“The natural world, its biodiversity and its constituent ecosystems are critically important to our well-being and economic prosperity, but are consistently undervalued in conventional economic analyses and decision making.”
Are highly competitive markets most likely to lead to outcomes that achieve economic efficiency? The common characteristics of markets that are considered to be “competitive” are:read more...»
Thought-provoking quotation from astronaut Alan Shepard, who became the first American in space in 1961:
“It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realise that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.”
Here is a selection of this week’s TV (and a bit of radio) that seems to have some good economics content and might provide a welcome, yet useful, break from revision.
Sunday 15th May: BBC4 8pm, ‘The Secret Life of the National Grid’ - could be worth a look in terms of economies of scale, network externalities, economic growth and the importance of infrastructure
Sunday 15th May: Radio 4 8pm, ‘The Bankers and the Bottom Billion’ - possibly some useful bits in terms of development economics
Monday 16th May: BBC1 8.30pm, ‘Panorama’ - this week’s investigative documentary looks at the illegal trade in waste electronic products following the introduction of regulations governing how we can dispose of such things - probably very good in terms of analysing a type of government failure
Monday 16th May: BBC1 9pm, ‘The Street That Cut Everything’ - looks rather entertaining as well as providing a bit of an insight into topics such as government spending on public goods and goods that generate positive externalities
Monday 16th May: BBC4 9pm, ‘The Golden Age of Canals’ - whilst at first glance this may not seem too appealing, I suspect there are some interesting nuggets in terms of networks and infrastructure spending, as well as a look at why canals fell into obsolence due to the invention of the combustion engine (some creative destruction here!)
Tuesday 17th May: BBC3 9pm, ‘Secrets of the Superbrands: Technology’ - a good look at how monopolies put up strategic barriers to entry in terms of branding and smart use of technology to achieve consumer loyalty
Thursday 19th May: ITV1 7.30pm, ‘The True Cost of a Car’ - a look at the impact on motorists of rising fuel prices and insurance premiums, which will bring in cross-elasticity of demand in a roundabout way
Thursday 19th May: Radio 4, 8pm, ‘The Report’ - a closer look at the operation of supermarkets and why there is opposition to their expansion (useful for looking at the impact of rising market power)
Friday 20th May: BBC2 7pm, ‘Wind Farm Wars’ - probably very useful for those sitting AS Unit 1 this summer in terms of negative and positive externalities of production, and the ins and outs of cost-benefit analysis
Hopefully there’s some light relief in there for everyone! All of the BBC programmes will be available on iPlayer for several days after they’ve been broadcast.
Should we screen for signs of disease or change the default and provide drugs as a default option beyond a certain age? In a fascinating new study, medics from the Wolfson Institute at Barts and the London Medical School have put forward the case for offering everyone statins over the age of 55 preventative as treatment for blood pressure and cholesterol - they claim that offering relieving drugs might prevent as many as 100,000 heart attacks and strokes each year in England and Wales alone. It is an interesting example of a cost-benefit approach when allocating health service spending.read more...»
What should the state sector of the economy provide? How much should be left to the private sector allocating scarce resources through the incentives of the price mechanism? Is the provision of public goods the most important reason for accepting the existence of government involvement in the economy? These questions revolve around the idea of public and private goods – please understand the key characteristics of public goods and why they might not be provided optimally by the private sector – giving government a role in financing them for our collective (social) benefit. A one page revision note on public and private goods designed for AS (Unit 1) micro economics can be downloaded here. Revision_Public_Private_Goods.doc
Roger Harrabin reports on fresh research on the impact of air pollution on Europe’s natural habitats. A classic example of negative externality effects - already targeted by the EU natural habitat directive, but a regulation that appears to be ineffective.
“Earlier this week, the European Nitrogen Assessment - the first of its kind - estimated nitrogen damage to health and the environment at between £55bn and £280bn a year in Europe, even though nitrogen pollution from vehicles and industry had dropped 30% over recent decades.”
I am grateful to Tom Whitmey and Leo Barnes for heading over to the lecture and discussion headed up by Lord Nick Stern at the LSE last night. Their notes from the talk are below. I have also added in some new videos from OU learn on policies to cut carbon emissions.read more...»