This is a bit of a repeat of past provocations but to me it is so interesting. Economics is filling up with discussions and proposals about energy. The typical model is that solar panel kw costs are moving below that of coal, gas, shale so adoption should quickly follow. But using only solar or wind produced electricity still creates heat in all its applications, and while much less than fossil fuel, the heat produced is still trapped by the greenhouse gas blanket.
But there is very little talk about how these technologies and alternatives would be implemented beyond that solar companies would do well and traditional fossil fuel companies would do badly.
There is little or no discussion of how individuals would respond. How will they cut energy use? The two obvious are using the thermostat for less heating and less cooling, and that is easy to image but maybe increases the discomfort of living for those using this method. Or to replace the gas appliance with an electric one. Actual shift in energy use will be disruptive at specific locations in the economy with high local cost. Who loses their job – the driver of my propane delivery truck. His loss will cascade to his home and his office and I am stuck with a hundred gallon propane tank. There is no discussion of this local and cascading effects.
Economics justifies its approach by the law of large numbers – details just don’t “count”. But for real people life is not comfortably continuous but steps – I have a job or lost it, I can pay my mortgage or not. These small effects can sum into significant effects at the level of community or institution. A small number of mortgages not paid can bring down a bank, and lower tax revenue from less energy use can bring down a city hall or prevent road repair.
But especially for energy futures and policies there is vey little (point me to some if you know of such) micro discussion – who will do what and when will they do it ? . Why is the discussion so at the 30,000 foot level?