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Fall 2010 - 60865 - PA680PA - Policy Research Project

Clean Energy Technologies & Public Policy

Instructor(s): Boske, Leigh B.
Eaton, David J.
Unique Number: 60865
Day & Time: T 2:00 - 5:00 pm
Room: SRH 3.124
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information
Section Description

Policy Issue

The development and deployment of "clean energy" technology has become increasingly important in addressing climate change. International treaties and federal policies to reduce carbon in the atmosphere have been very difficult to achieve, and approaches to addressing climate change now include the development of new technology in several areas - carbon capture and sequestration, improved solar cells, improved batteries, cellulosic biofuels, large-scale energy storage, and many others.

Policy Questions: This PRP will examine the following policy questions:

  • What energy policies are most successful in the research, development and deployment of clean energy technologies? Some technology development can be traced directly to federal research programs. Yet others, like nuclear fusion and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, have received massive funding for decades and still are not commercially viable.  Are there common characteristics of technologies that make them more amenable to influence by policy? Are there timing issues?
  • Which policies are most successful in deployment?  The deployment of wind turbines for example, can be closely tracked to the approval or absence of the federal production tax credits. What are appropriate levels of penalties and incentives?  If penalties are too low, new technology may not be developed. If incentives are given for technologies that are entering the marketplace anyway, then "free riders" are being encouraged.
  • What are the different impacts on technological development and deployment of federal, state and local policies? Federal policies can cross state lines and affect large industries, but are very slow to develop and the "one size fits all" approach can be problematic. Local policies can be written and implemented faster -and tailored to regional situations, but have less influence on national manufacturers.

State policies, such as renewable portfolio standards, have sometimes been more successful in deployment of new technology, and have put pressure on federal legislators to standardize numerous state programs. On the other hand, individual states have sometimes placed barriers to new technology based on local economic factors.

Policy Analysis:
This PRP will investigate a minimum of 12 clean energy technologies within the domains of renewable energy power production, transmission and distribution; energy efficiency technologies; alternative energy transportation fuels and vehicles technologies; greenhouse gas measurement, monitoring and verification technologies; and a few other technology domains directly related to climate change. Of particular interest in this investigation will be the state of technology development within the domain and to what extent it can be or should be influenced by policy consideration.

The policy-making process at the international, federal, state, and local levels will be examined in regard to the strengths and weaknesses of each to influence technology development. Particular attention will be paid to the ability of each policy-making level to influence research and development, commercialization, manufacturing, and deployment of new technology.

The private sector has historically had a large influence, but the players have changed recently, and influence has shifted. The PRP will identify the current players, their relative influence and interests, and how their participation could effect the shape of technology policy.

Finally, the results of the above investigations will be integrated and delivered in a final report that will detail specific successes and failures of technology policy. Common themes of successful policy initiatives will be highlighted and factors that have contributed to policy failures will be explained.