The future of energy in Latin America — Lee Ullmann

Lee Ullmann, Director of the MIT Sloan Latin America Office Office of International Programs

Lee Ullmann, Director of the MIT Sloan Latin America Office
Office of International Programs

Approximately 34 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean don’t have electricity in their homes and 75% of the regional energy matrix relies on nonrenewable sources of energy, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). However, increasing access to energy and increasing renewable energies and efficiency are critical for sustainable development. In recognition of this major need, the United Nations has made it a goal to make sustainable energy for everyone a reality by 2030 in its Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) global initiative. Read More »

Calories in, calories out – obesity and the energy imbalance gap — Hazhir Rahmandad

From The Conversation

The prevailing notion about obesity is that if we just work out harder and eat a little bit better, then perhaps the obesity trend will subside in a few years. However, the key to really making a difference is food – the number of calories we eat is the most important factor in obesity. But changing the way people eat will take a very long time.

Things like individual routines, menus, food access and affordability, and cultural practices all influence how we live and eat. All of these things can influence the energy imbalance gap (EIG). The EIG is essentially how many calories you consume versus how many calories you burn in a day. It controls the speed of change in body mass and is at the core of understanding obesity.

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Oil will flow like milk and honey. Here’s why — John Reilly

MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer John Reilly

From USA Today

The price of oil has fallen nearly 60% since peaking in June, and lately there’s been a lot of ink and pixels devoted to the question of whether oil prices will plunge even further or whether they will shoot right back up. An even bigger issue is whether prices will stay at these very low levels.

While I doubt oil prices will fall much more — how much further could they reasonably tumble? Perhaps another $20 or so? — history suggests we can expect prices to remain low for the foreseeable future. What’s playing out right now in the oil market is likely the same supply-demand dynamic we’ve seen over and over: several years of extremely high oil prices followed by decades of low prices. The twin oil shocks of the 1970s, for instance, resulted in 20 to 25 years of low prices.

Of course, things are different today — but not that much different. Over the past six or seven years, oil has been relatively expensive, often trading at over $100 a barrel. During that time, both the supply and demand sides of the equation have responded.

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California’s auto-emissions policy hits a Tesla pothole — Christopher Knittel

MIT Sloan Prof. Christopher Knittel

From The Wall Street Journal

It is a basic tenet of economics that regulations almost always have unintended consequences. While Adam Smith may have been one of the first to understand this, he could not have possibly foreseen the morass of expensive and unwanted consequences that could come from conflicting emission and fuel standards enacted by the state of California and federal programs, such as for greenhouse gases and Corporate Average Fuel Economy.

Both the state and federal regulations have worthy goals: to decrease greenhouse-gas emissions and lower petroleum consumption. Yet taken together, the federal standards effectively cancel out the California standard. Instead of promoting fuel reduction as intended, the California standard allows for the production of less-efficient vehicles, while facilitating a massive transfer of cash via credit trading. It also forms a de facto industrial policy that sends us down a path toward electric vehicles that may or may not be the best technological or environmental choice for the future.

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Think speculators cause high oil prices? Don’t bet on it — Christopher Knittel and Robert Pindyck

Image credit: Mike Derer/AP on Cognoscenti

From WBUR Cognoscenti

Americans are spending more money at the pump than ever before. According to a recent estimate by the Energy Department, the average U.S. household spent nearly $3,000 on gasoline last year. Earlier this month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecast that the price for regular gasoline will average $3.63 a gallon this summer — a slight decline from last summer, not far from the record levels set in 2008. Why do oil prices remain so stubbornly high?

According to some in Washington, the blame lies with “speculators” — investors who buy and sell oil futures contracts to bet on the price of oil. As they see it, these scheming speculators — which may be individuals, but can also be mutual funds, hedge funds, or other investment institutions — inject billions of dollars into commodity exchanges in pursuit of a limited number of barrels, which in turn drives up the price of oil. Speculators, critics say, rake in piles of money at the expense of ordinary people who are going broke fueling their cars and heating their homes. Read More »