Fall 2019 - 59223 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

International Energy Policy and Politics

Course Description

Five goals lie at the core of the current global energy agenda: (1) securing the reliable supply of energy goods and services, (2) promoting affordable, stable and predictable energy prices, (3) accomplish the transition to a cleaner energy system, (4) expanding energy access to all peoples around the world, and (5) enhancing global energy governance. Finding workable and long-lasting solutions for each, let alone all at the same time, is a tall order for any government, private firm, expert, or relevant stakeholder. The challenges are numerous and multidimensional. They involve the interaction of economic, political, social, legal, cultural, and environmental factors. They connect local communities with global markets, small firms with transnational corporations, resource-rich countries with resource-poor countries, advanced economies with emerging ones. For policymakers, this spells complexity. It means making decisions with incomplete information, partial understanding, and unpleasant trade-offs.

In this seminar we will review and discuss the policy and political challenges associated with the accomplishment of these goals. We will examine energy market history, past and current policies, seeking to extract lessons of experience to inform our thinking on current energy challenges and policies. Despite their complexity, experts have made progress finding relevant cause-and-effect relationships, interactions, practices, and evidence that serve to think systematically about the current global energy agenda. Much of our conversation will unfold at the strategic level, but where necessary we will also cover the operational component of strategic decision-making.

Learning goals. Through this course, students will:

Identify key trends in global energy markets and international energy cooperation.
Learn tools to understand the behavior of energy markets.
Acquire an understanding of policy instruments and challenges associated with the five global energy goals listed above.
Evaluate how the global politics of energy are changing as the energy mix shifts towards cleaner energy sources.
Assess the advantages and limitations of international cooperation in addressing salient issues in the global energy agenda.
Develop their analytical, presentation, and writing skills.

Course requirements and assignments. Since this is a seminar, I expect you to attend regularly and participate actively in class discussion. You must come to each session prepared. Preparation for this course implies reading all the assignments on time and doing so critically. You should come to class ready to debate the issues, question the readings, and perhaps propose alternative ways of understanding the problem at hand. Failure to come prepared will reflect strongly in your final grade.

Think of the following questions as you read: What question, or questions, are the authors trying to answer? What are the critical concepts in their explanations? Do they define clearly cause-and-effect relations? What is the quality of the evidence they present in support of their argument? What kind of research design do they employ? With whom are the authors engaged in debate? Does their research change our current understanding of the phenomenon in question? What is the key takeaway message of the article? What policy implications does it have?

Students are encouraged to bring into the conversation perspectives and models of international political-economic behavior learned in other courses, such as domestic sources of foreign economic policy, the theory of collective action, principal-agent models, and related analytical tools.

You are required to write two memos, lead one class discussion, write one mid-length research paper, and present the results of this research in the last session of the course:

The two memos are three pages long, double spaced, and addressed to a senior decision-maker who requires a brief to understand the current of the debate on a particular energy subject. They must identify and synthesize the key policy question covered in a week’s set of readings, explain why it is important, and highlight potential implications. Each must be turned-in on the day the topic it will be covered in class.
The presentation to lead one class discussion follows a similar format to the two memos: it must identify the policy questions, explain why they matter, identify the main components of the debate, and highlight any relevant and illustrative evidence from the particular points of view to be discussed. Think of it as a literature review that must take 10 minutes long to present.
The paper is a 12-15 page document, double spaced, on a subject covered in class. It must be addressed as well to a senior decisionmaker and be preceded by a one-page executive summary. It must highlight a policy challenge, review how it has been addressed in at least three countries and one international organization, and outline policy options.
The final presentation is 10-15 minutes long and highlight the key takeaways from your research paper.

Grading policy. Your grades on each assignment will be weighted as follows:

Two memos: 20% (each memo 10%)
Presentation to lead one class: 20%
Research paper: 40%
Final presentation: 20%.