Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Three Women Write a Book on Environmental Networks -- Was it Too Early?

In 1999, two of my former doctoral students, Kanwalroop "Kathy" Dhanda and Padma Ramanujam, both of whom were from India, and I had our book, "Environmental Networks: A Framework for Economic Decision-Making and Policy Analysis," published by Edward Elgar Publishing in the series: New Horizons in Environmental Economics.

The book was based on years of our research and publications that we had authored and co-authored that had appeared in such top journals as: Operations Research, Transportation Science, Networks, the Journal of Regional Science, and Energy Economics, among others.

I always wondered, how many books, even of a nontechnical nature, have been published with three (or more) females as co-authors?

Now, with parts of the world reporting record-breaking summer heat and Congress mired in inertia regarding the passage of a major climate bill, as David Leonhardt writes in The New York Times, I thought it important to bring this book to the renewed attention of policy makers.

The book describes rigorous tools for the determination of pollution permits and taxes, and associated environmental emissions, from both stationary sources, such as firms, as well as from moving sources of pollution, such as vehicles. Padma's doctoral dissertation was on the latter topic and it was awarded the 1999 Transportation Science Section of INFORMS dissertation prize.

The Harvard economist, Richard Stavins, whose work we cited in our book, told Leonhardt recently that he would actually prefer a bill that cut emissions less in the short term but created a template for much bigger cuts in the future. Success, to me, would be the beginning of political acceptance of carbon pricing, he said.

Leonhardt believes that: A utility-only cap, even a flawed one, really would represent a whole different kind of progress than a souped-up version of fuel economy rules. A cap — any decent cap — remains the best benchmark of success.

Interestingly, the doctoral dissertation of my most recent PhD student to graduate, Dr. Trisha Woolley, entitled: "Sustainable Supply Chains: Multicriteria Decision-Making and Policy Analysis for the Environment," focuses on the electric power industry and utilities and considers both carbon taxes (either centralized or decentralized) as well as pollution permits.

In the next few weeks, before the Senate breaks for its August recess, or in September, before the midterm election campaign takes over, major issues regarding the climate bill will be decided, we expect and hope.

Rachel Carson with her book, "A Silent Spring," changed the world.

It is time for another book to do the same and break the legislators out of their inertia.

And yes, women do write "Big Ideas" books, something that Germaine Greer has even been emphasizing although, ironically, some of these books may be rather mathematical and scientific!