Common Tragedies

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Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

Utility bills, circa 1942

Posted by Daniel Hall on September 28, 2007

I got my combined utility bill for my apartment today.  It said I used negative 429 kilowatt-hours of electricity last month.  I “owe” the utility -$66 for this service.

How did this happen?  My guess is that the utility only reads the meter every couple of months.  I haven’t been in my apartment very long, but so far this year my typical electricity bill has been very small, around $20 or so.  This is despite rates that are around 15.5 cents per kWh, which is really high.  Presumably this is because my roommate and I weren’t using the AC and we pretty much have CFLs all over the place, and even when we are around we don’t leave extra lights on.  However, last month we got a bill for $100 in electricity.  At the time I just assumed that this was because summer in DC arrived and we had cranked on the AC to stay alive.

This most recent bill puts things in a new light, because it covers late July to late August.  I know we were using the AC during this period.  My guess is that the utility company has been coming out every other month, and perhaps charging historical use rates on the months in between.  If this is the case — and there’s not much evidence it actually is,* but stay with me for a sec — then this means my roommate and I either use the AC far less than the previous occupants, or our housefull of CFL bulbs are actually buying us quite a bit of reduced electricity.  I am leaning towards the former since I hadn’t noticed wild fluctuations in my electricity bill back in the spring when presumably the historical electricity used would have been based mostly on lights, refrigeration, etc., and not the AC.  But frankly it’s really hard to tell because I only have 2 data points prior to the wild swing from $100 to -$66.  This will warrant further watching.

The really crazy thing about the story, however, is how outdated my utility company is: they still send someone out to read the meter?   Shouldn’t they have some smart meters, some real-time data or something?  Plus this would let them charge me real-time prices, which would be great since I’m never at home with the lights or AC on in the peak afternoon period.

But that’s another post.

*The water company in Austin used to do this when I lived there… which led to a rather less pleasant story I’ll have to tell sometime that involved a $1200 water bill.

Posted in Electricity, Humor | Leave a Comment »

Econoblog fantasy draft

Posted by Evan Herrnstadt on September 19, 2007

Dani Rodrik posts on new blogs by Krugman and the World Bank’s chief economist for South Asia. I’m excited about both of these for sure, but the comments that follow center on which economists ought to be online. I’m encouraged to see suggestions of some environmental and resource folks, such as Schelling, Nordhaus, Dasgupta, and Weitzman. Hopefully one or more will heed the call and pick up the habit. My favorite part of economics blogs is seeing top scholars debate issues on a semi-regular basis. The discussion is certainly exciting to follow for those of us who have a somewhat unconventional perspective of what makes a superstar.

Posted in Env. Economists, Humor, Metablogging | 1 Comment »

More negative externalities from corn-based ethanol…

Posted by Daniel Hall on September 19, 2007

headline writers run amok.

Posted in Humor | Leave a Comment »

The NY Times is now free, and ethanol (for cars) is still a bad idea

Posted by Daniel Hall on September 19, 2007

The New York Times editorial page celebrates its newly decreed non-excludable status by noting what a bad idea corn-based ethanol is:

American corn-based ethanol is expensive. And while it can help cut oil imports and provide modest reductions in greenhouse gases compared to conventional gasoline, corn ethanol also carries considerable risks. …
The distortions in agricultural production are startling. Corn prices are up about 50 percent from last year, while soybean prices are projected to rise up to 30 percent in the coming year, as farmers have replaced soy with corn in their fields. The increasing cost of animal feed is raising the prices of dairy and poultry products. …
Meanwhile, the environmental benefits are modest. A study published last year by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, estimated that after accounting for the energy used to grow the corn and turn it into ethanol, corn ethanol lowers emissions of greenhouse gases by only 13 percent.

What’s actually better news than the opening up of the editorial page is the opening up of the archive.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Government Policy, Humor, Public Goods | Leave a Comment »

 
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