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Energy prices are in the news. The recent actions of some of the energy companies can plausibly be described as provocative, no matter how well founded their decisions might be. They run the risk of provoking the ire of both the Opposition and the Government.
One interesting aspect of the debate is that it has become even clearer that decisions taken by Ed Miliband himself in the Brown government are partly to blame for our high energy bills. The plethora of green taxes and subsidies has become very expensive for consumers.
But how effective have such policies been? Not very much, seems to be the answer.read more...»
UK nuclear energy is painfully burdened by regulation. Energy prices are at an all time high, so much so that politicians are desperately trying to find policy solutions to utilise this dissatisfaction for votes. There are widespread complaints that energy companies' profits are too large. The Prime Minister encourages us to look for a cheaper energy deal. Surely there could not be any clearer signals from the market and society that now is the time for suppliers to enter the energy market. But unfortunately this is not the case; a detriment to us all.
Surplus value is the difference in value between the product and the wages paid to the labourer who produced the product, as Marx defined it. Marx highlighted the huge difference and thus sizeable surplus value as an important problem with Capitalism in that the proletarian is taken advantage of, as Marx would argue. Surplus value is becoming more and more relevant today, but in this case we are the Proletariat and innovating corporations are the Bourgeoisie.
There are lots of resources out there for students and teachers wanting to cover the debate about HS2 - here is a brief selection of video clips on the debateread more...»
The Ethiopian government is ploughing up to 15% of her GDP into large-scale infrastructure development projects - will this kick start a renewed period of fast growth and development? The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa when completed, delivering 6,000MW. The cost and the potential impact of diverting the Blue Nile have created controversy in the region. This FT video looks at some of the issues. This BBC news resource is also useful: The dam that divides Ethiopiansread more...»
As part of our introduction to micro economics we have been looking at the shortage of housing in the UK. The chronic shortage of affordable and suitable housing raises many micro (and macro) issues and I find it a good example of an issue where different policy measures can be looked at in a non-technical way as a path into supply and demand analysis. It also covers the ground with topics such as scarcity, changing needs and wants, affordability, cost-benefit principles, opportunity cost and production possibilities.read more...»
Green was traditionally the colour of money, but with UK and EU energy policy, it is increasingly the colour of cost.read more...»
Prince Charles and eco-warriors rail against them, but genetically modified crops are becoming the superheroes of agriculture, and they have special powers. Some are being developed to be pest-resistant, potentially saving the 50 percent of crops destroyed each year by pests. This means less pesticides, less run-off and less river pollution; this limits soil erosion, pertinent in developing countries where over-farming poses a greater problem. GM crops have avoided 200,000 tonnes of insecticide and the multiple sprays of fungicide that potatoes need. One promising development is of crops that will host nitrogen-fixing bacteria instead of needing vast quantities of nitrate fertilizers.read more...»
Okay, hands up, how many of you economics teachers use cigarettes as one of your primary examples of a demerit good? Well, it does fit the bill and it gives you the opportunity to give teenagers a bit of a lecture about healthy living (if only the Ofsted inspector was there for that lesson).
The government's announcement today that they are to postpone the introduction of standardised packaging for cigarettes is bound to meet with some criticism - many will claim that they are giving in to pressure from a tobacco industry which feels that it is already heavily regulated. The concept is that a standard, plain package will put some people off from purchasing cigarettes as there is some research that says that people are attracted to the branding. Personally, until they put the phrase 'don't listen to your peers, they smell' on the box I'm not convinced the plan would have much impact anyway.
What intrigued me more about this story, is the fact that the government have postponed the plan until the impact of standardised packaging has been more closely studied in Australia (where the policy already exists). So there you go, not only is this a story about cigarettes as a demerit good but it is also an example of the government attempting to avoid policy failure. The government argues that it shouldn't spend money on implementing policies and then policing the tobacco firms and retailers if the impact of the programme is minimal. In a sense, the government are arguing that taking its time over this plan may save money in the long run or enable it to spend its scarce resources on a policy that has more impact.
There is far more uncertainty in economics and policy-making than many would have us believe, according to Professor Charles Manski of Northwestern University. This RES Short Video introduces us to some examples of uncertainty in policy decisions such as the incentive effects of tax changes.
Every year billions of dollars in aid go to the world's poorest countries. But does it help these countries to grow out of poverty? The question is as old as foreign aid itself. In this RES short video, Michael Clemens of the Centre for Global Development presents award-winning research that offers a new way of answering this question
Miners made redundant from Maltby Colliery in Yorkshire many of whom with decades of experience faced years on the unemployment register when the mine closed earlier in 2013. But some have been thrown a lifeline with the rising demand for miners in the UK potash industry.
This morning's news stories include an implied threat to close MOSI (The Museum of Science and Industry) in Manchester, in order to keep the Science Museum in London open.
Should museums charge admissions fees or not? Is a museum a merit good or not? If entry is free, are you tempted to avoid placing money in the transparent collection box as you go in? If is free, how should the museum fund its activities - encouraging donations, marketing guidebooks, souvenirs, themed gifts, or reliance on government grants? This begs questions about how a government allocates scarce funds?
Florence's Uffizi Gallery does not charge children or pensioners, amongst others. Can you identify which museums have more price inelastic demand, and face a smaller drop in visitor numbers should charging be reintroduced? Why would visitors pay €18 to climb Pisa's famous leaning tower?
mind that AQA had set a question on this topic in 2004. "Using the data and your economic knowledge, assess the case for and against providing free entry to museums."
MOSI is supposed to be one of Manchester's biggest visitor attractions, but would there be a negative multiplier effect if it closed? Should the cultural heritage be preserved? This clip from Yes Minister helps focus a debate.
The High Speed 2 rail project is under fire on many fronts. The Nimby protests in the affluent Home Counties have been augmented last week by more weighty criticism by the National Audit Office (NAO) of the scheme. At least, this is how the NAO’s work has come across in the media.
But the NAO review of the HS2 project is in many ways much more a criticism of the Department of Transport than it is of the high speed rail link itself. According to the NAO, ‘the Department’s methodology for appraising the project puts a high emphasis on journey-time savings, from faster and more reliable journeys’. Surely this is a sensible thing to do? Faster mean less journey time. It seems obvious.
Redsands CBA is a substantial teaching resource which allows students to examine and then present back the costs and benefits of various possible projects that could be implemented within a derelict part of a city centre.
This resource is designed to enable students to understand and analyse the concept of Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) at both AS and A2 level of Economics.read more...»
This blog entry links to some of the significant UK infrastructure projects that are current or planned - all of which cover many aspects of economics including cost benefit analysis, public and private funding, the macro effects of major capital projects and regional / industry implications.read more...»
Fantastic interactive website here lets you check out migration flows both inward and outward from any country you care to look at.
Here is another film to add to our collection of films with an economic dimension. Promised Land from Oscar-nominated director Gus Van Sant stars Matt Damon and is an anti-corporate thriller that centers on the controversial natural gas process of fracking.read more...»
AS Micro students will be gearing themselves up for a key period of intensive revision over the coming days and weeks. For most, being able to analyse and evaluate government intervention in markets is crucial to scoring well in exam questions and reaching those top grades.
Evaluation is not a skill that can be learnt overnight. It requires plenty of attempts to get the evaluative style and approach working well.BTW, if you are revising market failure I highly recommend Matt Smith's Scoop.It Board - full of great applied examples on this big area for the Unit 1 economics exam! Click here to view it read more...»
It’s not often you read such a clearly set out, even-handed article on macroeconomic policy, so this relatively lengthy piece was interesting in itself as its writer appears to deal relatively equally with both sides of the big austerity debate. But you really have to take notice when the writer is the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable.
Today's announcement of routes for the HS2 project highlights the importance governments ascribe to public works projects.
Many of the world’s poorest countries are saddled with high levels of external debt owed to other governments, institutions such as the IMF and foreign companies and individuals.
There is increasing interest in the use of
"smart aid" - aid
programmes that use experimentation and focus on bottom-up projects in order to increase the effectiveness of each £
or $ given in aid
Does aid help or hinder economic growth and development? This is the subject of a fierce debate in the development economics literature
Flooding has been consistently in the news in recent years and examiners have already started to set questions about the costs and benefits of flood defence projects and the public good nature of flood defences. These investment projects invariably invite an evaluative cost-benefit approach. Here is a look at a controversial defence scheme for Venice - one that raises many environmental and economic issues.read more...»
There has been plenty of discussion in recent weeks about whether Britain might seriously start to consider leaving the European Union? Here is a selection of news pieces and discussion videos on the vexed question of UK membership.read more...»
Corporation tax is very much in the news. Starbucks is merely the latest to be in the spotlight, having paid no corporation tax on more than £1billion of sales in the past three years . This became noteworthy when the Prime Minister himself declared he was unhappy with the level of tax avoidance by big corporations working in Britain.
The plain fact is that if corporation tax did not exist, it would be madness to introduce it. The tax plays to the ignorance not only of the general public, but of almost all politicians. It encourages the fantasy that there is a free lunch, that someone else will pick up the bill for the welfare state and bloated state bureaucracy.read more...»
Every cloud has a silver lining! News reports out today confirmed that the original decision to award the next 15 year franchise of the West Coast Rail line to FirstGroup instead of the incumbent Virgin Rail has been rescinded and the bidding process re-opened at a potential wasted cost of £40 million (by the way, have they fixed that leaky roof at your school yet?). This may seem like a fiasco to train users and the general public alike but to us Economics teachers it's a super example of government failing to intervene correctly in a market.read more...»
Former Labour Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was once (perhaps) quoted as saying: "The Green Belt is one of Labour's greatest achievements, and we intend to build on it!". Danny Boyle's dramatic and wonderful London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony "Isle's of Beauty" began with an unforgettable rural landscape which was soon to be transformed by an altogether harsher industrial landscape during the pandemonium.
For many years we have regarded our greenbelt protected land as a bulwark against urban sprawl and over-rapid commercial and industrial development. But this is about to change with a change in planning laws and regulations that will make it easier to turn farmland into business parks and new housing?read more...»
Using agrichemicals is directly correlated to infant mortality in India. This is the central finding of research presented by Nidhiya Menon (Associate Professor of Economics, Brandeis University) at the International Growth Centre’s Growth Week 2012.
This six minute news video report from CNN is superb, it focuses on pilot programmes to extend micro-insurance schemes for some of Kenya’s smallest and poorest farmers in a country where the agricultural sector is at high risk from the effects of drought. Kenya is the largest economy in east Africa but less than 4% of Kenyans have access to insurance. Many do not understand the concept of insurance, others cannot afford it or choose not to take it out when there are school fees to pay (opportunity cost writ large).
These pilot schemes offer hope for the future but insurance on its own is no panecea. Savings and access to credit are of equal significance in reducing vulnerability to extreme weather events.
The micro-insurance programmes embed mobile technology - for example the Kilimo Salama programme — Swahili for ‘safe farming’ — launched in 2011 provides small-scale farmers in Kenya with crop insurance by combining mobile phone payment with the data from automated weather stations.Kilimo Salama uses data from these stations to calculate the severity of droughts — or excessive rainfall. Eligible farmers then receive payouts via their mobile phones.
More here: Kenya pastoralists get insured for lossesread more...»
This blog provides an updated Storify on videos featuring development economist Esther Duflo, co-author of the best-selling book Poor Economics. Poor Economics maps out a third way between those experts who believe aid does more harm than good, such as William Easterly and Dambisa Moyo, and those who believe the reverse, like Jeffrey Sachs.
Banerjee and Duflo say the three main reasons aid is ineffective are “ideology, ignorance and inertia”. “Precisely because [the poor] have so little,” they write, “we often find them putting much careful thought into their choices: They have to be sophisticated economists just to survive.”
The two authors are part of a group of economists known as the “randomistas”. They have used randomised control trials across five continents to test the impact of policies aimed at beating poverty, from the provision of free anti-malaria bed-nets to education subsidies.read more...»
Here is an example of a fast-growing developing country in Africa making important investment to help meet ambitious targets for supplying energy from renewable sources. Katrina Manson films and reports for the Financial Times from the Great Rift Valley on Kenya’s latest plans to exploit geothermal energy to produce electricity.
The fixed costs of finding geo-thermal sources, build the turbines and then connect to Keyna’s energy grid are huge. But a move towards smaller geo-thermal energy plants provide a more cost efficient approach. Successful investment will help to reduce energy imports, provide a viable alternative to uncertain hydro-electric power, create new jobs and contribute to Kenya’s search for sustainable growth.read more...»
There is growing interest among policy makers about the importance of protecting and enhancing natural capital to support sustainable growth and development. I have put together a selection of recent news video resources on natural capital that might be useful for students and teachers who are new to the idea and who might want to look at it as part of their study of environmental and development economics.read more...»
Alcohol-related accidents are the leading cause of death and serious injury for victims of car crashes in France and the government has decided to introduce a strong behavioural nudge by making it compulsory for every car to have a portable breathalyser kit in their vehicles or risk a fine. This applies to every vehicle including those driven by tourists. Vehicle owners will have until November 2012 to get used to it before the fines are imposed.
Having a breathalyser in the glove box or on the front passenger seat might well be an effective reminder for people before they turn on the ignition. Reminders of our mortality and/or our morality can often prime us to make safer, better choices. I applaud the French government for introducing this new law. All motorists must also have with them a high-visibility safety vest and a warning triangle.read more...»
The introduction of a carbon tax in Australia has become one of the most hotly debated political and economic issues for many years in that country. The economy has enjoyed strong growth in recent times buoyed by rising demand for and prices of many of Australia’s huge endowment of natural resources.
Under the new carbon tax, around 300 of the worst-polluting firms to pay a A$23 (£15) levy for every tonne of greenhouse gases they produce.
Will a carbon tax threaten this growth? Or will it prove to be an inspired decision - helping to pave the way for greener growth and a faster pace of innovation not least in renewable energies and low-carbon goods and services?read more...»
Channel 4 news reports here on how CCTV and other technologies are being used to monitor fishing in the north sea in a bid to scale back the horrendous amount of fish discards. This happens when fishing vessels throw back dead fish into the water when a catch exceeds the quota - a terrible waste of an already scarce resource. The average European fishing trawler discards 38 per cent of its catch - for some species of fish 90 per cent are thrown away but with the aid of technology this can be reduced to less than 1 per cent.read more...»
To mark the 2012 Rio Summit, the United Nations has started to publish an Inclusive Wealth Index which builds into an evaluation of a country’s wealth the impact of economic growth and development on the stock of a country’s natural capital. This chart from the Economist would be an excellent starting point for discussion of changes in natural wealth for a range of countries.read more...»
Many people take as given a pressing need to increase capital investment in the infrastructure of our energy sectors - but how strong are the economic and social impacts of such investment? The LSE Growth Commission met this week to discuss this and I have brought together some of the arguments drawing on a number of various twitter feedsread more...»
There are many different market failures when it comes to understanding some of the key environmental problems and challenges of the age. Addressing, attacking and correcting for complex and multiple market failures requires pointing to different policy instruments / interventions. Together can they make a sizeable difference to consumer and business behaviour and lead us away from a “business as usual” approach?read more...»
The cost-benefit principle is one of those core ideas that can be brought into so many evaluation discussions both in micro and macroeconomics – you should be using it in your papers!read more...»
This highly interactive programme on Al Jazeerah a few days ago focused on the impact of foreign aid on the African economy. It runs for 35 minutes but there is plenty of interesting debate and many comments flying in on the twitter feeds. Plenty of discussion that might inform a revision session on the future for the African economy and the debate over the effectiveness of aid programmes.read more...»
The capacity and efficiency of our transport infrastructure has a huge bearing on the supply-side potential of the economy and in this Channel 4 news video, the CEO of British Airports Authority argues that Heathrow is now full to bursting. The Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition manifesto in 2010 ruled out a third runway at Heathrow - to the relief of those (including me) who live under Heathrow flight paths. But without much needed investmnt in air transport, there are fears that UK business will suffer and the economy will become less attractive to inward investment.read more...»
In a fresh move to reduce consumption of cigarettes, legislation has come in force banning the displays of cigarettes for sale in large retail stores. The display ban will apply to shops of more than 280 sq m (3,014 sq ft). Newsagents and small stores can display cigarettes until 2015, giving them time to refit shelves and cabinets.. It is part of the armoury of interventions that have been tried over the years to change consumer behavioural - from real terms increases in cigarette taxes to bans on advertising and ever-stronger advertising and health campaigns. The focus of the ban is to influence younger smokers by removing cigarettes from point of sale display - will it be effective?
This news report below from Al Zajeerah looks at the new measureread more...»
Here is a revision presentation offering ideas for stronger evaluation and analysis in your AS and A2 economics exam papers. Ten strands are suggested for students who want to build really good answers especially to evaluation questions.read more...»
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...»