Prof. Michael Greenstone to lead Becker Friedman Institute

Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor and a leading economist, has been appointed director of the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics.

Greenstone will build upon the work of Lars Peter Hansen, the David Rockefeller Distinguished Service Professor and inaugural director of the Becker Friedman Institute, and Kevin M. Murphy, the George J. Stigler Distinguished Service Professor, who has served as co-chair with Hansen since 2014. The institute supports economic research and interdisciplinary scholarship, bringing together scholars from around the world and building programming and public outreach that draws upon the University’s strength in the field of economics.

“The Becker Friedman Institute carries on the University’s distinctive tradition of developing new ideas through intense discussion and collaboration. Michael embodies those ideals in his work, and he is the right leader to continue developing the institute’s ambitious intellectual approach,” President Robert J. Zimmer said.

“Michael is an exceptional scholar who also has a deep understanding of public policy,” Provost Daniel Diermeier said. “As director, he will further enhance the development and impact of the creative thinking and rigorous research for which the institute has become known under the leadership of Lars Hansen and Kevin Murphy.”

The research of Greenstone, who is director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), spans issues of energy and the environment, developed and developing country growth, and financial markets. He brings to the institute extensive policy experience, including serving as chief economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisors and director of The Hamilton Project, an economic policy group studying a range of policies to promote broad-based economic growth. He is currently on the Hamilton Project’s Advisory Council.

“Michael’s research has had a considerable impact on the modern study of economics, underscoring the field’s relevance for policy and people’s quality of life,” said John List, chairman of the Department of Economics and the Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor. “He is a prominent voice in the field who will build importantly on the innovative insights and groundwork laid by Lars Hansen and Kevin Murphy.”

“Becker and Friedman were giants in helping to shape understanding of the world, both within economics and more broadly. It is an honor to lead an institute that aims to carry on the tradition and high bar for excellence that they have set for Chicago economics.”Prof. Michael Greenstone

Greenstone’s appointment takes effect July 1, 2017. He will continue in his role as director of EPIC, which will function as an integral part of the Becker Friedman Institute. EPIC is an interdisciplinary center that brings together the University’s research efforts on energy and the environment and translates research to maximize its impact on policy, while working to train the next generation of global energy leaders.

“Becker and Friedman were giants in helping to shape understanding of the world, both within economics and more broadly. It is an honor to lead an institute that aims to carry on the tradition and high bar for excellence that they have set for Chicago economics,” said Greenstone, a professor in Economics, the College and the Harris School of Public Policy. “Specifically, we will continue to build economic theory that deepens understanding, tests those theories with all of the modern tools available to researchers today and communicates the results in ways that are broadly accessible. I feel especially fortunate to be able to build upon the tremendous foundation that Lars Hansen and Kevin Murphy have constructed.”

Greenstone said his new role at UChicago comes at an exciting time for economic research, when a confluence of advances in techniques, computing and access to data have laid the groundwork for much deeper understanding of economics and the world. “We are entering a golden era where economic theory and empirical work are poised to make great advances that can be of tremendous value outside of academia, particularly to policymakers,” Greenstone said.

“Michael’s research is cutting-edge, practical and relevant to real-world challenges,” said Henry M. Paulson Jr., chairman of the Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago who serves on the Becker Friedman Institute Council. “He combines great analytical and communications skills and is an excellent choice for this role.”

The Becker Friedman Institute was created in 2011 with the joining of the Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics and the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory. Based in the Saieh Hall for Economics, the institute works in collaboration with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the Department of Economics, the Law School and the Harris School of Public Policy.

The institute’s first chair was Gary S. Becker, AM’53, PhD’55, University Professor of Economics and Sociology, who pushed economics into new scholarly fields and policy areas, such as crime, discrimination, education and addiction. Becker died in 2014.

Before coming to the University in 2013, Greenstone served as the 3M Professor of Environmental Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and an editor of The Journal of Political Economy.

In addition to serving as the chief economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisors from 2009 to 2010, Greenstone now serves on the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board, and continues to consult with governments around the world to develop sound economic policies. He was a member of the EPA Science Advisory Board’s Environmental Economics Advisory Committee.

Greenstone has deep roots at UChicago. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and served as an assistant professor of economics at the University from 2000 to 2003. His grandmother, Erika Fromm, was on the psychology faculty at UChicago and his father, J. David Greenstone, was a professor and chairman of the Department of Political Science before his death in 1990. 

Innovation Challenge Winners Poised To Cut Pollution With Innovative Solutions

Winners to implement and test their ideas with University of Chicago researchers and the Delhi government.

The University of Chicago and Delhi government today announced three winners in their first-of-a-kind crowdsourcing competition to cut pollution in Delhi. The winners of the Urban Labs Innovation Challenge: Delhi, a project of the Tata Centre for Development that is supported by Tata Trusts, together received more than $300,000. They will now use that money to work with the University of Chicago Urban Labs’ Energy & Environment Lab, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago’s India team (EPIC-India), and the Delhi government to implement and test their ideas. The winners were among nearly 250 students, researchers, entrepreneurs, non-profit and for-profit organizations and citizens from across India and around the world who submitted ideas for the Delhi Innovation Challenge.

“It has been inspiring to see the level of enthusiasm for this contest within Delhi and around India,” said Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. “With three promising winners chosen, the Delhi government now looks forward to collaborating with the talented academic minds at the University of Chicago to carry out these innovative ideas while establishing our city as a trailblazer for how working together can establish immense progress to improve our environment and the lives of our citizens.”

“Having received so many creative and passionate ideas to improve Delhi’s environment, selecting the winners was a deeply challenging and competitive process. But we believe these winning projects hold incredible potential to improve the lives of Delhi’s citizens,” said Michael Greenstone, the director of EPIC and the Urban Labs’ Energy & Environment Lab. “We look forward to working with the winners and the Delhi government to test these ideas and hope they will become model projects proven to work in Delhi, throughout India, and beyond.”

The winners include: Chakr Innovation Pvt. Ltd, which will pilot their device that captures more than 70 percent of particulate pollution from diesel engines and converts it to black ink and paints; Climate Foundation and Tide Technocrats Pvt. Ltd, which will employ devices that turn rice straw into biochar to enrich agricultural soil and prevent the heavy air pollution in Delhi from rice straw burning; and Mahila Housing SEWA Trust, which will deploy cool roofing solutions in Delhi slums to bring down indoor temperature and allow dwellers to conserve energy and improve their productivity and quality of life.

“In putting these programs through the rigor of testing with the collaboration of the University of Chicago, we hope to scale them up into programs that can be employed in Delhi, but also in other cities in India and the world,” said Ashish Khetan, Vice Chairperson of the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi.

“We believe the projects will reduce pollution in Delhi and hope to prove how successful such innovative partnerships can be at generating evidence-based programs that work,” said Anna Agarwal, senior manager of the Challenge for the University of Chicago-India.

More on the winning projects:

Chakr Innovation Pvt. Ltd: Removal of Particulate Matter from the Exhaust of Internal Combustion Engines and Subsequent Processing to Convert it into Ink and Paints.

Particulate matter pollution is known to cause strokes, asthma and even cancer. Vehicle exhaust, including diesel generators, contributes up to 34 percent of Delhi’s particulate pollution. This project will employ a device which when coupled with the exhaust pipe of diesel engines absorbs over 72 percent of the particulate matter—all without negative effects on engine performance. The technology can then convert this captured particulate matter into black ink and paints which can be sold to literally “Print from Pollution”. The project will pilot the technology initially on diesel generators used as power back-ups for mobile telephone towers in Delhi, which are off the grid and consume over 50 litres of diesel each day to run. There are over 14,000 mobile towers in Delhi and most of them have a diesel generator installed either as the primary source of power or as power back-up in case of load shedding. From there, the project will use the technology for larger diesel generators used at big hospitals and hotels, followed commercial vehicles.

Climate Foundation and Tide Technocrats Pvt. Ltd: “Charvesting” to Eliminate Rice Field Burning in Haryana and Punjab to Reduce Air and Water Pollution in Delhi

Most farmers in Punjab and Haryana burn rice straw after harvesting is over to prepare fields quickly for the next season’s crops. Burning from the two states comprises 48 percent of total emissions from rice straw burning across India. During the months rice straw is burned, Delhi experiences a much higher air pollution, with PM2.5 levels commonly exceeding 400 ppm. Governments in Punjab and Haryana have acknowledged the importance of the issue. Straw burning is actually illegal, but inexpensive, and thus widely practiced. “Charvesters” affordably recycle rice straw into biochar with clean emissions using the Biochar Reactors developed by the Climate Foundation. “Charvesting” allows farmers to comply with existing air pollution laws at minimal cost and effort, increase soil productivity and restore depleted lands. Several villages in Haryana support this project and have agreed to change the practice of open rice¬ straw burning and pilot the proposed “Charvesting” system. This approach will ultimately lead to a significant reduction in air and water pollution in Northern India including Delhi, provide a cost ¬effective, reliable, sustainable and decentralized approach to address local needs, increase crop growth, improve farmer productivity, sequester carbon in soils, and provide a valuable income source for rural villages.

Mahila Housing SEWA Trust: Transforming Home Ambience for Slum Dwellers in Delhi

Access to light, ventilation, and efficient energy is critical to improving the quality of life and productivity of the poor, especially women who spend the majority of their time indoors. Unfortunately, these women only have illegal and irregular access to electricity. Poor light and ventilation make them depend more on electrical lighting and cooling devices, and the dwellings are often constructed with materials that absorb heat and require more energy to cool down. Slum communities often use cooling fans for hours a day, raising their energy bills by over 3000 INR per month especially during summers. This project will pilot cool roofs in three slums of Delhi to reduce home temperatures and improve ventilation.  It will also mobilize communities to generate awareness on the benefits of using the product by training women entrepreneurs and design a loan product to create a sustainable business model. The improved indoor environment will help reduce exposure to extreme heat. The reduction in household energy costs will allow poor households to increase spending on food, health, and education, resulting in improvements in the quality of life. And the low energy, better designed homes will make the households less vulnerable to weather impacts, improve their resilience against climate change risks.


Researchers to Work With India’s Maharashtra on New Five-Star Rating Program

To tackle the growing danger of air pollution, the Maharashtra government today launched India’s first five-star rating system for industries. Under the new scheme, industries will be rated from one to five stars based on their emissions. The program has the potential to reduce pollution by leveraging information already being collected by regulators and providing it to both industry and the public.

“We are working on finding new solutions to confronting the issue of air pollution. People must be aware of the air quality in their area and must have easy access to air pollution data collected by state regulators. This exemplary effort by MPCB will engage civil society,” said Chief Minister Shri Devendra Fadnavis, who launched the program on World Environment Day by unveiling a new section of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board’s (MPCB) website where the information is available on an interactive and user-friendly platform.

While similar program have been launched in the United States, Canada, China, Ghana, Philippines and Ukraine, the Maharashtra program will be the first to actually measure the impact on emissions with the help of researchers from EPIC-India, The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL), Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at Harvard University and the Tata Centre for Development.

“MPCB’s program is path-breaking by providing the public with critical information and rigorously testing its impact on pollution emissions,” said Professor Michael Greenstone, one of the principal investigators on the project and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). “We are excited to partner with MPCB, a global leader, to measure the benefits of this program for the people of Maharashtra.”

The Maharashtra Star Rating Program is the first initiative in India that makes available data from approximately 20,000 industrial stack samples over multiple years. Users can now log onto the MPCB website to access the report cards for each industry. They can then filter industry information by sector, region and star-rating.

“This is an opportunity for Maharashtra—which is one of the fastest-growing industrialized states in India and also one that has in recent years been extremely keen on good governance—to take the lead on defining how a star-ratings scheme can function, and to show how just providing information and possibly positive role models in terms of 5-star industries can lead to better performance,” said Rohini Pande, another principal investigator on the project and director of Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at Harvard University.

Earlier, MPCB conducted workshops with industries to introduce them to the program, and their response was encouraging. “The industry stakeholders were keen to learn more about their rating and requested guidance on how to decrease their pollution emissions,” said Shri Satish Gavai, Additional Chief Secretary of the Environment Department of the Government of Maharashtra and Chairman of MPCB. “We think this will also improve the ease of doing business, as information on industry environmental performance will be more easily available.”

“We look forward to initiating more creative ways of environmental stewardship, and are working with academic partners to test the effectiveness of programs like this one,” said Dr. P. Anbalagan, Member Secretary, MPCB. The MS, MPCB; Dr. VM Motghare, Joint Director, Air Pollution Control and Shri SC Kollur, Scientific Officer shaped the program and organized various activities such as workshops in Nagpur, Pune, and Mumbai to orient industries across Maharashtra and solicit feedback from them.

The program has been developed in collaboration with Tata Trusts, the International Growth Centre (IGC), and Private Enterprise Development in Low-Income Countries (PEDL) and USAID.