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Rural electrification and structural transformation: A guar(anteed) bet? Guest post by Faraz Usmani

Development Impact Guest Blogger's picture

This is the sixth in this year's series of posts by PhD students on the job market.
What connects smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tracts of northwest India to the oil and gas barons of Texas and Oklahoma? A little green bean called guar! The seeds of this humble legume yield a potent thickening agent that greatly enhances the effectiveness of fracking fluid. As the fracking boom started in the United States, demand for guar skyrocketed, resulting in windfall gains for farmers across northwest India, the epicenter of global guar cultivation. Nearly simultaneously, India began rolling out its massive national rural electrification scheme, which prioritized certain villages based on a strict population-based eligibility criterion. In my job market paper, my coauthor Rob Fetter and I combine these two “natural experiments” to show that large-scale grid electrification can dramatically increase non-agricultural employment in rural economies when economic opportunity complements infrastructure—but if these complementary economic conditions are lacking, the grid may scarcely make a dent.

Evaluating energy projects – a light-bulb moment?

Arianna Legovini's picture
I recently stumbled upon a TED talk given by Alex Laskey, the founder of Opower, a company using data to affect the behavior of energy consumers. The gist of his talk is that a small behavioral change can have large effects on overall consumption. It reminded me of the debate in impact evaluation (IE) and whether IE asks central or peripheral questions. In the case of energy, very little evidence exists regarding the impact of energy on the environment and the economy.