Wednesday, September 19, 2012 8:06am

Ethanol

Question A: Ethanol content requirements and protectionism against imported ethanol (which includes fuel from sugarcane) raise food prices without significantly reducing carbon-dioxide emissions.

Responses
 

Source: IGM Economic Experts Panel
www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel

Responses weighted by each expert's confidence

Source: IGM Economic Experts Panel
www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel

Question B: A direct disincentive to emit carbon-dioxide, for example through a carbon tax or an emissions permit market, is more efficient than requiring the use of corn-based ethanol fuels.

Responses
 

Source: IGM Economic Experts Panel
www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel

Responses weighted by each expert's confidence

Source: IGM Economic Experts Panel
www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel

Question A Participant Responses

Participant University Vote Confidence Comment Bio/Vote History
Acemoglu Daron Acemoglu MIT Strongly Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Alesina Alberto Alesina Harvard Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Altonji Joseph Altonji Yale Strongly Agree 7 Bio/Vote History
         
Auerbach Alan Auerbach Berkeley Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Autor David Autor MIT Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Baicker Katherine Baicker Harvard Agree 3
Bio/Vote History
         
Bertrand Marianne Bertrand Chicago Uncertain 3
Bio/Vote History
         
Chetty Raj Chetty Harvard No Opinion
Bio/Vote History
         
Chevalier Judith Chevalier Yale Uncertain 8
Clearly some link between ethanol production and corn prices, but magnitude not clear.
-see background information here
Bio/Vote History
         
Currie Janet Currie Princeton Strongly Agree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Cutler David Cutler Harvard Uncertain 1
The first part is certainly true.
Bio/Vote History
         
Deaton Angus Deaton Princeton Strongly Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Duffie Darrell Duffie Stanford Agree 2
This sounds right, although it relies a bit on some knowledge of the chemistry involved, so I am not completely confident.
Bio/Vote History
         
Edlin Aaron Edlin Berkeley Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Eichengreen Barry Eichengreen Berkeley Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Fair Ray Fair Yale No Opinion
I assume there is some reduction in emissions, but I don't know how much.
Bio/Vote History
         
Goldberg Pinelopi Goldberg Yale Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Goldin Claudia Goldin Harvard Agree 2
Bio/Vote History
         
Goolsbee Austan Goolsbee Chicago Uncertain 1
Bio/Vote History
         
Greenstone Michael Greenstone Chicago Agree 7
best evidence is that cost per ton of CO2 abated is very high.
Bio/Vote History
         
Hall Robert Hall Stanford Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Holmström Bengt Holmström MIT Agree 4
Bio/Vote History
         
Hoxby Caroline Hoxby Stanford Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Judd Kenneth Judd Stanford Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Kashyap Anil Kashyap Chicago Agree 3
Bio/Vote History
         
Klenow Pete Klenow Stanford Strongly Agree 5 Bio/Vote History
         
Lazear Edward Lazear Stanford Agree 8
At white house we found that 30% of increases in corn prices, 10% of grain, 2% of food caused by ethanol and biodiesel for 2007-08.
Bio/Vote History
         
Levin Jonathan Levin Stanford Agree 3
At least some price increase to be expected if policy increases demand for corn. CBO study (link below) provides estimates.
-see background information here
Bio/Vote History
         
Maskin Eric Maskin Harvard Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Nordhaus William Nordhaus Yale Agree 10
US provisions expired at the end of 2011, but correct up to then. Best estimates are that these were GHG neutral.
Bio/Vote History
         
Obstfeld Maurice Obstfeld Berkeley Agree 2
Bio/Vote History
         
Saez Emmanuel Saez Berkeley Strongly Agree 6
Bio/Vote History
         
Scheinkman José Scheinkman Princeton Strongly Agree 8
I'm on the board of publily traded Cosan Ltd. It controls 50% of the world's largest sugar & ethanol producer. This didn't affect my answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Schmalensee Richard Schmalensee MIT Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Shin Hyun Song Shin Princeton Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Stokey Nancy Stokey Chicago Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Thaler Richard Thaler Chicago No Opinion
The first half of the statement is surely true. I have no idea whether emissions are significantly reduced so can't answer the question.
Bio/Vote History
         
Udry Christopher Udry Yale Agree 7
The first half is quite certain, but the net effect on carbon is quite complex, with offsetting effects.
Bio/Vote History
         
Zingales Luigi Zingales Chicago Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         

Question B Participant Responses

Participant University Vote Confidence Comment Bio/Vote History
Acemoglu Daron Acemoglu MIT Strongly Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Alesina Alberto Alesina Harvard Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Altonji Joseph Altonji Yale Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Auerbach Alan Auerbach Berkeley Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Autor David Autor MIT Strongly Agree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Baicker Katherine Baicker Harvard Agree 4
Bio/Vote History
         
Bertrand Marianne Bertrand Chicago Agree 4
Bio/Vote History
         
Chetty Raj Chetty Harvard Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Chevalier Judith Chevalier Yale Strongly Agree 8
Yes, but most emissions permit schemes do not cover non-stationary sources.
Bio/Vote History
         
Currie Janet Currie Princeton Strongly Agree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Cutler David Cutler Harvard Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Deaton Angus Deaton Princeton Strongly Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Duffie Darrell Duffie Stanford Strongly Agree 10
It would be pure coincidence if forced substitution of one input for another is efficient. A permit market can give the correct tradeoff.
Bio/Vote History
         
Edlin Aaron Edlin Berkeley Strongly Agree 10
Directly taxing pollutants is better than indirect approaches if pollutants can be adequately monitored.
Bio/Vote History
         
Eichengreen Barry Eichengreen Berkeley Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Fair Ray Fair Yale Strongly Agree 5
Bio/Vote History
         
Goldberg Pinelopi Goldberg Yale Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Goldin Claudia Goldin Harvard Strongly Agree 2
Bio/Vote History
         
Goolsbee Austan Goolsbee Chicago Agree 1
if for goal of reducing carbon emmissions then yes, that statement is true. For other goals, uncertain.
Bio/Vote History
         
Greenstone Michael Greenstone Chicago Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Hall Robert Hall Stanford Strongly Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Holmström Bengt Holmström MIT Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Hoxby Caroline Hoxby Stanford Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Judd Kenneth Judd Stanford Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Kashyap Anil Kashyap Chicago Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Klenow Pete Klenow Stanford Strongly Agree 1 Bio/Vote History
         
Lazear Edward Lazear Stanford Agree 7
Standard efficiency argument, but the calclulatiions show large taxes would be required to have any effect. Elasticies are low.
Bio/Vote History
         
Levin Jonathan Levin Stanford Agree 4
Bio/Vote History
         
Maskin Eric Maskin Harvard Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Nordhaus William Nordhaus Yale Strongly Agree 10
Mountain of evidence here. See 2010 RfF study.
Bio/Vote History
         
Obstfeld Maurice Obstfeld Berkeley Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Saez Emmanuel Saez Berkeley Strongly Agree 7
Bio/Vote History
         
Scheinkman José Scheinkman Princeton Strongly Agree 9
Bio/Vote History
         
Schmalensee Richard Schmalensee MIT Strongly Agree 10
One of the true no-brainers.
Bio/Vote History
         
Shin Hyun Song Shin Princeton Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         
Stokey Nancy Stokey Chicago Did Not Answer
Bio/Vote History
         
Thaler Richard Thaler Chicago Strongly Agree 8
Of course we should have a carbon tax or the equivalent. Taxes with negative dead weight loss are good things!
Bio/Vote History
         
Udry Christopher Udry Yale Strongly Agree 10
Bio/Vote History
         
Zingales Luigi Zingales Chicago Strongly Agree 8
Bio/Vote History
         

10 New Economic Experts join the IGM Panel


For the past two years, our expert panelists have been informing the public about the extent to which economists agree or disagree on important public policy issues. This week, we are delighted to announce that we are expanding the IGM Economic Experts Panel to add ten new distinguished economists. Like our other experts, these new panelists have impeccable qualifications to speak on public policy matters, and their names will be familiar to other economists and the media.

To give the public a broad sense of their views on policy issues, each new expert has responded to a selection of 16 statements that our panel had previously addressed. We chose these 16 statements, which cover a wide range of important policy areas, because the original panelists' responses to them were analyzed in a paper comparing the views of our economic experts with those of the American public. You can find that paper, by Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, here. The paper, along with other analyses of the experts' views, was discussed during the American Economic Association annual meetings, and the video can be found here.

The new panelists' responses to these statements can be seen on their individual voting history pages. Our ten new economic experts are:

Abhijit Banerjee (MIT)
Markus K. Brunnermeier (Princeton)
Liran Einav (Stanford)
Amy Finkelstein (MIT)
Oliver Hart (Harvard)
Hilary Hoynes (Berkeley)
Steven N. Kaplan (Chicago)
Larry Samuelson (Yale)
Carl Shapiro (Berkeley)
Robert Shimer (Chicago)


Please note that, for the 16 previous topics on which these new panelists have voted, we left the charts showing the distribution of responses unchanged. Those charts reflect the responses that our original panelists gave at the time, and we have not altered them to reflect the views of the new experts.

We have also taken this opportunity to ask our original panelists whether they would vote differently on any of the statements we have asked about in the past. Several experts chose to highlight statements to which they would currently respond differently. In such cases, you will see this "revote" below the panelist's original vote. We think you will enjoy seeing examples of statements on which some experts have reconsidered.

As with the 16 previous statements voted on by new panelists, these "revote" responses are not reflected in the chart that we display showing the distribution of views for that topic: all the charts for previous questions reflect the distribution of views that the experts expressed when the statement was originally posed.

About the IGM Economic Experts Panel

This panel explores the extent to which economists agree or disagree on major public policy issues. To assess such beliefs we assembled this panel of expert economists. Statistics teaches that a sample of (say) 40 opinions will be adequate to reflect a broader population if the sample is representative of that population.

To that end, our panel was chosen to include distinguished experts with a keen interest in public policy from the major areas of economics, to be geographically diverse, and to include Democrats, Republicans and Independents as well as older and younger scholars. The panel members are all senior faculty at the most elite research universities in the United States. The panel includes Nobel Laureates, John Bates Clark Medalists, fellows of the Econometric society, past Presidents of both the American Economics Association and American Finance Association, past Democratic and Republican members of the President's Council of Economics, and past and current editors of the leading journals in the profession. This selection process has the advantage of not only providing a set of panelists whose names will be familiar to other economists and the media, but also delivers a group with impeccable qualifications to speak on public policy matters.

Finally, it is important to explain one aspect of our voting process. In some instances a panelist may neither agree nor disagree with a statement, and there can be two very different reasons for this. One case occurs when an economist is an expert on a topic and yet sees the evidence on the exact claim at hand as ambiguous. In such cases our panelists vote "uncertain". A second case relates to statements on topics so far removed from the economist's expertise that he or she feels unqualified to vote. In this case, our panelists vote "no opinion".

The Economic Experts Panel questions are emailed individually to the members of the panel, and each responds electronically at his or her convenience. Panelists may consult whatever resources they like before answering.

Members of the public are free to suggest questions (see link below), and the panelists suggest many themselves. Members of the IGM faculty are responsible for deciding the final version of each week’s question. We usually send a draft of the question to the panel in advance, and invite them to point out problems with the wording if they see any. In response, we typically receive a handful of suggested clarifications from individual experts. This process helps us to spot inconsistencies, and to reduce vagueness or problems of interpretation.

The panel data are copyrighted by the Initiative on Global Markets and are being analyzed for an article to appear in a leading peer-reviewed journal.

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