Michael Greenstone

Michael Greenstone is a Research Programme Director for the IGC’s energy research programme.

He is the Milton Friedman Professor of Economics and Director of the interdisciplinary Energy Policy Institute at Chicago. His other current positions and affiliations include Elected Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Editor of the Journal of Political Economy, Faculty Director of the E2e Project, Head of the JPAL Environment and Energy Program, and Nonresident Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution. Prior to rejoining the faculty at Chicago, Professor Greenstone was the 3M Professor of Environmental Economics at MIT.

Greenstone’s research estimates the costs and benefits of environmental quality and society’s energy choices. He has worked extensively on the Clean Air Act and examined its impacts on air quality, manufacturing activity, housing prices, and human health to assess its benefits and costs. He is currently engaged in large‐scale projects to estimate the economic costs of climate change and to identify efficient approaches to mitigating these costs.

His research is increasingly focused on developing countries. This work includes an influential paper that demonstrated that high levels of particulates air pollution from coal combustion are causing the 500 million residents of Northern China to lose more than 2.5 billion years of life expectancy. He is also engaged in projects with the Government of India and four Indian state governments that use randomized control trials to test innovative ways to improve the functioning of environmental regulations and increase energy access.

Greenstone also has extensive policy experience.   He served as the Chief Economist for President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2009‐10.   In addition, he was the Director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, which studies a range of policies to promote broad‐based economic growth from, 2010‐2013 and has since joined its Advisory Council.

Greenstone received a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University and a BA in economics with High Honors from Swarthmore College.

Content by Michael Greenstone
  • Project

    Electrification and economic growth in Myanmar

    After decades of economic isolation, Myanmar now sees electrification as a national priority for growth. However, Myanmar is starting from energy poverty, as per capita levels are one-fourth of India’s, one-tenth of Vietnam’s or about one-two hundredth of America’s. The government of Myanmar initiated a National Electrification Plan (NEP) to bring electricity to...

    10 Oct 2019 | Robin Burgess, Michael Greenstone, Tim Dobermann, Niclas Moneke, Nicholas Ryan

  • Project

    Supporting Pakistan’s power sector reforms

    Pakistan's power sector is in deep need of reform. It suffers from chronic shortages, not due to a lack of supply, but because of the financial woes of the public distribution companies operating throughout Pakistan. Only 71% of the electricity sold for use across the country is recovered through bills. The total ‘circular debt’ of the electricity sector amounts to...

    10 Oct 2019 | Robin Burgess, Michael Greenstone, Tim Dobermann, Faraz Hayat, Usman Naeem

  • Publication - Working Paper

    Electricity is not a right (paper)

    Electricity courses through our lives. Yet, there are still more than a billion people worldwide who are not connected to the grid, and many more get abysmal supply, unlike the 24/7/365 flow that rich countries take for granted. We argue that these shortfalls are due to a sad irony: treating electricity as a right for the poor has limited electricity access.

    9 Sep 2019 | Robin Burgess, Michael Greenstone, Nicholas Ryan, Anant Sudarshan

  • Publication - Growth Brief

    Electricity is not a right: How social norms constrain access to electricity

    The norm that electricity is a right, as opposed to a private good, constrains access to energy and leads to widespread rationing in developing countries. Many developing countries suffer from low electricity access and frequent outages that restrict economic growth. These conditions arise from two primary factors: the norm that electricity is a right guaranteed by the...

    6 Sep 2019 | Robin Burgess, Michael Greenstone, Nicholas Ryan, Anant Sudarshan, Matei Alexianu

  • Project

    Rapid response to Pakistan’s Task Force on Energy Reforms

    Pakistan’s power sector is in deep need of reform. The sector suffers from chronic shortages not because of a lack of supply but due to the financial woes of the distribution companies operating throughout Pakistan. Of the electricity sold for use across the country, only 71% is recovered through bills. Such large losses risk collapsing the sector if left...

    17 Apr 2019 | Robin Burgess, Tim Dobermann, Michael Greenstone, Faraz Hayat, Usman Naeem

  • Data Item

    Data: Third-party environmental auditing

    In many regulated markets, private, third-party auditors are chosen and paid by the firms that they audit, potentially creating a conflict of interest. This article reports on a two-year field experiment in the Indian state of Gujarat that sought to curb such a conflict by altering the market structure for environmental audits of industrial plants to incentivize accurate...

    1 Mar 2019

  • Blog post

    Do school electrification and provision of digital media deliver educational benefits?

    Does school electrification affect educational achievement? Does jointly providing educational video affect educational achievement? A first of its kind study in Tanzania attempts to find answers to these questions. There is a substantial gap in economic literature exploring the effect of school electrification on education achievement. Recently, a cross-sector...

    5 Mar 2018 | Michael Greenstone, Hee Kwon Seo

  • Project

    Promoting energy and water efficiency in irrigation through direct and indirect incentives

    Groundwater irrigation has revolutionised agriculture in India, but in many areas, over-extraction is now worsening water quality, increasing poverty, and overloading the electric grid. Meanwhile, plenty of water- and energy-efficient techniques and technologies exist – such as micro-irrigation – but adoption remains low. What is the best way for governments, utilities,...

    11 Oct 2017 | Michael Greenstone, Nick Hagerty, Ariel Zucker

  • Publication - Project Report

    Food security and social stability in Africa: New estimation methods for data-driven climate impact projections in data-sparse regions

    6 Oct 2017 | Tamma Carleton, Michael Greenstone, Solomon Hsiang, Andrew Hultgren, Amir Jina, Robert Kopp, Ashwin Rode

  • Publication - Project Report

    Indian climate early warning system

    6 Oct 2017 | Tamma Carleton, Michael Greenstone, Solomon Hsiang, Andrew Hultgren, Amir Jina, Robert Kopp, Ashwin Rode

  • Project

    Monitoring Myanmar's electrification plan: Welfare effects and access issues

    Myanmar is in energy poverty. Venture outside Yangon or Mandalay at night and one will be mostly faced with darkness. The Government of Myanmar rightly sees electrification as a national priority for growth. The National Electrification Plan (NEP) is an ambitious plan by the government to provide access to electricity for all by 2030, up from 34% today. It aims to achieve...

    13 Sep 2017 | Nicholas Ryan, Michael Greenstone, Robin Burgess

  • Blog post

    Star power: Maharashtra starts rating industries by emissions

    An Indian state programme is aiming to curb air pollution by facilitating transparency in industry emissions, using ratings and targets that the public can view online. Measuring industry emissions The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) launched a new Star Rating Programme for air pollution on June 5, 2017–World Environment Day. The programme uses smoke-stack...

    10 Jul 2017 | Michael Greenstone, Rohini Pande, Nicholas Ryan, Anant Sudarshan

  • Project

    Building environmental regulation that enables growth

    This project addresses the problem of industrial particulate matter pollution through improved regulatory monitoring. The study is a randomised-controlled trial in which treatment plants install Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS), and researchers measure resultant pollution abatement decisions and regulatory actions over time. Preliminary results show...

    2 Feb 2017 | Michael Greenstone, Rohini Pande, Nicholas Ryan, Anant Sudarshan

  • Project

    Clearing the air: The effects of transparency on plant pollution emissions

    India is choking on growth. Of the 20 cities in the world with the worst fine particulate air pollution, 13 are in India, meaning the average Indian loses about three years of his or her life due to the harm of this pollution There is also growing evidence that high levels of pollution lower labour productivity and, therefore, potentially economic growth. If good...

    24 Nov 2016 | Michael Greenstone, Nicholas Ryan, Anant Sudarshan, Rohini Pande

  • Publication - Project Report

    Building environmental regulation that enables growth

    11 Nov 2016 | Michael Greenstone, Nicholas Ryan, Rohini Pande, Anant Sudarshan

  • Project

    Indian climate early warning system

    Extreme weather poses numerous risks to India's economy and society, but there currently exist no comprehensive assessments of these risks. Our approach uses outcomes data (on mortality rates, work hours, agricultural yields, conflict incidence, and crime rates) from around the world to flexibly estimate how sensitive a location is to temperature based on its...

    19 Oct 2016 | Michael Greenstone, Ashwin Rode, Amir Jina, Robert Kopp

  • Multimedia Item - Video

    The global energy challenge

    Michael Greenstone, IGC research programme director, defines today's most pressing global energy challenges: access to reliable energy, reliance on fossil fuels, and climate change.

    13 Oct 2016

  • Blog post

    Let them buy light in rural Bihar

    Access to electricity is critical to encouraging growth and reducing poverty. Around the world, 1.3 billion people have no access to electricity, including 300 million Indian citizens, most of whom live in rural areas. Micro-grid products could provide an innovative solution, bridging the gaps in access to electricity with potentially large economic and welfare gains...

    8 Aug 2016 | Michael Greenstone, Robin Burgess, Nicholas Ryan, Anant Sudarshan

  • Project

    Food security and social stability in Africa: New estimation methods for data-driven climate projections in data-sparse regions

    Climate change threatens food security and social stability in Africa, but data scarcity makes it difficult to quantify these threats. Our approach uses outcomes data (on agricultural yields, conflict incidence, and crime rates) from around the world to flexibly estimate how sensitive a location is to temperature based on its adaptive capacities. By pairing these...

    7 Apr 2016 | Michael Greenstone, Solomon Hsiang, Amir Jina, Ashwin Rode

  • Publication - Project Memo

    Does improved regulatory enforcement reduce industrial pollution? (Project Memo)

    9 Feb 2016 | Michael Greenstone, Esther Duflo, Rohini Pande

  • Project

    Solar electrification of schools: Achievement impacts and the efficiency of private and public investments into education

    Over one quarter billion children each year fail to attain basic numeracy and literacy skills before reaching secondary school age, and the annual cost of this learning failure is estimated to be US$129 billion (UNESCO, 2014). To what extent are resource constraints responsible for this low productivity, versus a lagging underlying demand for performance on the part of...

    3 Feb 2016 | Michael Greenstone, Hee Kwon Seo

  • Multimedia Item - Video

    The global energy and growth challenge

    28 Jul 2015

  • Project

    Estimating the Demand for Electricity in Urban Indonesia

    Indonesia  is  interested  in  reforming  electricity  pricing  to  move  towards  market  prices.    Part  of  that reform will be the acceleration  of use of pre-­‐paid  meters, which use a different pricing schedule, reduce collection  costs  for  the  electric  company,  and  reduce  non-­‐technical  losses.  Furthermore,  in...

    3 Dec 2014 | Michael Greenstone, Rema Hanna, Benjamin Olken

  • Project

    Emissions trading as an environmental innovation in India: Measuring the policy impact on emissions and abatement costs

    Growth in developing countries has improved living standards for millions, but has led to high pollution concentrations and serious public health damages. Market based environmental regulation can reduce the costs of pollution reduction and thus transform the trade-off between environmental quality and growth. This study will measure the effects of a pilot emissions...

    10 Oct 2014 | Michael Greenstone, Rohini Pande, Nicholas Ryan, Anant Sudarshan

  • Multimedia Item - Video

    Energy and Growth: Facts and Consequences

    26 Sep 2014

  • Publication - Evidence Paper

    IGC Evidence Paper - Energy

    Achieving reliable, widespread access to electricity will be transformative for many developing countries. It has significant effects on how households apportion their time and which methods and inputs are applied by productive enterprises. However, much of the world’s population remains without this reliable access or the benefits generated from it. This paper...

    2 Sep 2014 | Michael Greenstone, Aaron Weisbrod

  • Project

    Lighting up Bihar

    The power sector is widely viewed as one of the biggest constraints on India’s economic growth, the main problem being that almost half of power drawn from the grid is not paid for and in unmetered, unbilled or pilfered. In the state of Bihar, 45% of power consumed falls in this category. The Government of Bihar is trying to address this problem and expand access to...

    1 Nov 2013 | Michael Greenstone, Robin Burgess, Nicholas Ryan, Anant Sudarshan

  • Publication - Working Paper

    Truth-Telling by Third-Party Auditors and the Response of Polluting Firms

    1 Oct 2013 | Esther Duflo, Michael Greenstone, Rohini Pande, Nicholas Ryan

  • Publication - Working Paper

    Truth-Telling by Third-Party Auditors and the Response of Polluting Firms

    1 Oct 2013 | Esther Duflo, Michael Greenstone, Rohini Pande, Nicholas Ryan

  • Publication - Policy Brief

    Inducing Indian Plants to Abate Pollution (Policy Brief)

    1 Jan 2013 | Esther Duflo, Michael Greenstone, Rohini Pande, Nicholas Ryan

  • Project

    Does improved regulatory enforcement reduce industrial pollution? An evaluation of public and private sector approaches

    Industrial  regulation in India has a history of heavyhandedness, with industrial licensing and labour regulations impeding economic growth Study assesses how technology and market mechanisms can support environmental regulation policies that can minimise the social costs of energy consumption The study found that reforms for auditor independence can...

    1 Apr 2012 | Michael Greenstone, Esther Duflo, Rohini Pande, Nicholas Ryan

  • Publication - Policy Brief

    Emissions Trading as an Environmental Innovation in India: Measuring the Policy Impact on Emissions and Abatement Costs (Policy Brief)

    31 Mar 2012 | Michael Greenstone, Rohini Pande, Nicholas Ryan, Anant Sudarshan

  • Project

    Third-party environmental auditing

    High levels of industrial pollution are a harmful byproduct of growth. The Indian state of Gujarat is an industrial powerhouse with about 5 percent of the Indian population, but 9 percent of India's registered manufacturing employment and 19 percent of output (Authors' calculation, Annual Survey of Industries, 2004-05). This growth has been accompanied by a degradation of...

    1 Jun 2009 | Esther Duflo, Michael Greenstone, Rohini Pande, Nicholas Ryan