Technology-First Consensus Grows

October 22, 2010 | Breakthrough Staff,

Support for a technology-first approach to America's energy and climate needs is rapidly growing in the wake of the October 14 release of the "Post-Partisan Power" proposal by scholars at the Brookings Institution, AEI and Breakthrough Institute. Here is a sampling of the many reactions and widespread discussion generated by the report...

Joshua Green, Atlantic Monthly & Boston Globe: "Unlike most of what gets introduced just before an election, this was not a soon-to-be-forgotten political ploy, but a long-term project to accomplish what Congress and the president could not: put the country on the path to a clean energy future."

David Leonhardt, New York Times: [T]he death of cap and trade doesn't have to mean the death of climate policy. The alternative revolves around much more, and much better organized, financing for clean energy research. It's an idea with a growing list of supporters, a list that even includes conservatives -- most of whom opposed cap and trade."

Tim Mak, Frum Forum (a site started by former Bush speechwriter David Frum): "If Americans want to fight the challenges of climate change and reduce their dependence on foreign oil, this piece sets a good baseline for discussion."

Ezra Klein, Washington Post: "It's not that PPP is a sure thing, nor that it will pass Congress anytime soon. The Tea Party Republicans will need to sow their wild and crazy oats for awhile before they feel any need to tack to the center. But when they do, they aren't going to embrace cap and trade. They might, on the other hand, embrace a limited and direct approach to energy innovation."

Michael Levi, Council on Foreign Relations: [T]his idea may well make a lot of sense... most of the paper is actually a smart and thoughtful discussion of how to do energy innovation policy right".

Kirsten Powers, New York Post: " If America wants to remain the leader of the world economy, Washington has to attack this issue."

Bryan Walsh, TIME Magazine: "A truly bipartisan approach on energy and climate won't be easy--sometimes, especially right before an election, it seems completely impossible--but it's the only approach we can hope for, if we still hope."

Nature: "[G]iven the lack of consensus in other areas, long-term R&D intended to bring the cost of clean energy down might well be one area where lawmakers will be able to agree."

Case Western professor Jonathan Adler writes: "While not without flaws, the proposal represents a serious alternative to politically-moribund cap-and-trade proposals and the regulate-everything mindset that produced the Waxman-Markey bill."

Newsweek: "Cap-and-trade is on life support, but its weakness is giving other ideas room to breathe. Emerging proposals focus on investment in clean energy, pitched to the public with a narrative that omits a doomsday point of view about global warming and instead focuses on more practical considerations like job creation or the need to stop certain types of pollution."

Economists Dani Rodrik and Tyler Cowan also saw hope in the new proposal.

All that convergence around a politically centrist, technology-first approach alarmed some climate warriors on left and right.

Climate skeptic Steven Milloy of Green Hell blog (and wrote: "The left isn't oscillating at all. They are focused on establishing a one-world socialist paradise. Whatever path gets the comrades there, they'll follow. Global warming has just been there most successful gambit to date."

Said's David Roberts: "The Republican Party don't want to spend government money on clean energy, Hayward notwithstanding."

Joe Romm, [It] should also be obvious we're not going to get a massive federal clean energy program either."

Not all long-time climate warriors were sour on the proposal.

While EDF chief economist Nathaniel Keohane reiterates that "we need both cap and trade and sustained investment in clean energy R&D," he went on to tell the New York Times' David Leonhardt, "if it turns out that we can't get cap and trade in the near term, we need R&D investment all the more."

Harvard's Robert Stavins still insists "there is no other feasible approach that can provide meaningful emissions reductions" beyond cap and trade, but he acknowledges: "New path-breaking technologies will be needed to address climate change, and public support for private-sector or public-sector R&D will be crucial to meet this need."

MIT's Michael Greenstone, a long-time cap and trade supporter, isn't so sure about the real-world viability of the policy he once advocated. "The first best hope was getting a world price for carbon, and that now looks remote in the coming years," he told Leonhardt. "But there are ways in which the other options may be preferable to a price only in the U.S." Greenstone endorses the need for $25 billion in clean energy R&D investments and rightly explains, "All the action is really going to be occurring in developing countries" who will need clean and affordable energy to power their economic growth.

In a second post, Washington Post's Ezra Klein looks the realpolitik in the face as well and concludes: "The best of all worlds would've been a price on carbon married to a big investment in clean-energy research. But this is not the best of all worlds. This is our world. And this [technology-first proposal] ... might be our last, best chance to protect it."

Update The Washington Post editorial page endorses Post-Partisan Power's call for a bipartisan energy innovation strategy, noting: "Even if cap-and-trade had passed, the logic goes, the government would still have had to invest in scientific research to make green energy affordable; might as well make those investments, anyway ... incremental action is better than none."

"Post-Partisan Power" Media Roundup:

"A Climate Proposal Beyond Cap and Trade, David Leonhardt, New York Times

"Think tanks' new energy plan," Robin Bravender, Politico

"Stopping climate change 2.0," Ezra Klein, Voices blog, Washington Post

"Research First, Cap and Trade Next," David Leonhardt, Economix blog, New York Times

"There Is No One Correct Policy," David Roberts, Grist

"Are the Politics of Public Investment Really Easier?," David Roberts, Grist

"Why clean-energy funding is politically easier than cap-and-trade," Ezra Klein, Voices blog, Washington Post

"Beware of 'Post-Partisan' Energy Policy," Steve Milloy, Green Hell blog

"Brookings Embraces American Enterprise Institute's Climate Head Fake Along With Right-Wing Energy Myths," Joe Romm, Climate Progress

"Overselling Energy Innovation," Michael Levi, Council on Foreign Relations

"Can a Technology First Approach to Climate Change Work?," Kristen Sheeran, Grist

"Can the Government Do With Clean Energy What It Did With the Internet?," Heather Horn, The Atlantic Wire

"Case for Carbon Pricing Remains Incredibly Strong," Matthew Yglesias, Think Progress

"Digging into the 'Post-Partisan Power' Study," Michael Levi, Council on Foreign Relations

"An Attempt to Breakthrough the Bipartisan Climate Policy Logjam," Bryan Walsh, Ecocentric blog, TIME Magazine

"The Next Bipartisan Energy Agenda," Teryn Norris, The National Journal

"Everyone Agreed About Climate Change This Week," Andrew Price,

"Industrial Policy Goes Mainstream," Dani Rodrick, Dani Rodrick's Weblog

"No cap-and-trade? Focus on R&D," The Great Beyond blog, Nature

"New Climate Fight, Same As the Old One?," Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth blog, New York Times

E&E TV On Point, interview with Brookings' Mark Muro and Breakthrough's Jesse Jenkins

"Post-Partisan Energy Proposal," Jenny Mandel, New York Times, Greenwire

"A bipartisan climate plan surfaces amid campaign firefights," Saqib Rahim, ClimateWire

"Climate policy Without Cap and Trade," Joanathan Adler, The Volockh Conspiracy

"A perverse pride in foolish policies," Kirsten Powers, New York Post

"Post-Partisan Power: Problems and Praise," Kenneth Green, The Enterprise blog, American Enterprise Institute

"Industrial Policy: Deja Vu All Over Again," Claude Barfield, The Enterprise blog, AEI

"Power Surge," AEI's Steve Hayward, The Weekly Standard

"A Manhattan Project for Energy?", NPR/WBUR "On Point" radio interview with Steve Hayward, MIT's Michael Greenstone, and Freedom Work's Matt Kibbe.

"Uttering the 'C' Word," Asher Miller, Post Carbon Institute

"The Post-Partisan Power Play," Keith Kloor, Collide-a-Scape blog

"Searching for a New (Green) Holy Grail," Ryan Tracy, Newsweek

"Plan B," Ryan Avent, Free Exchange blog, The Economist

"What Next On Climate Change?," Tyler Cohen, Marginal Revolution

"How Close is Cheap Clean Energy," David Leonhardt, Economix blog, New York Times

"October Surprise," Joshua Green, The Atlantic

"Moving beyond cap and trade," Joshua Green, Boston Globe

"Why Bipartisanship on Energy Won't Be Easy--and Why It's Necessary," Bryan Walsh, Ecocentric blog, TIME Magazine

"Both Are Necessary, But Neither is Sufficient: Carbon-Pricing and Technology R&D Initiatives in a Meaningful National Climate Policy," Robert Stavins, Harvard University

"Why Research Alone Won't Fix Climate Change," David Leonhardt, Economix blog, New York Times

"The Fight Among Environmentalists," David Leonhardt, Economix blog, New York Times

"Real-World Steps on Energy and CO2," Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth blog, New York Times

"Who's Got Game," Keith Kloor, Collide-a-Scape blog

"Jon Stewart's march is no laughing matter," Anne Applebaum, Washington Post

"The disappearance of moderate moderates," Anne Applebaum, National Post

"How To Solve America's Oil Addiction," Ari Lipsitz, New York University Local blog

"How to Save the Planet with Cheap Clean Energy," Smart Energy News blog

"US policy: A nation in thrall to the power of oil," Ed Crooks, Financial Times (UK)

"Politics and Power: the election and energy policy," Phil Carson, Intelligent Utility Daily

""Post-Partisan Power": blueprint or pipedream?" Phil Carson, Intelligent Utility Daily

"Election puts solar energy in danger," Derrick Jackson, Boston Globe

"Post-Partisan Power?" Judi Greenwald, Climate Compass blog, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

"Eye on 2012: A Post-Partisan Plan to Engage the Public on Climate Change ," Matthew Nisbet, Big Think

"US energy policy after the Republican victories: compromise or conflict?," Ed Crooks, Financial Times, Energy Source blog

"From space race to renewables sprint," Timothy Spence, Renewable Energy Monitor

"What's Next for Energy," Eli Pollak, Next Gen Journal

"A Return to Reason," Bjorn Lomborg, Project Syndicate

"Renewed energy," editorial page, Washington Post

"How Energy Can Break the Stalemate," Teryn Norris, National Journal (also: "How Energy Reform Can Break the Partisan Stalemate" at Americans for Energy Leadership")

"Scientists, Tech Advisers Urge Obama to Spend More on Energy R&D," Stephen Power, Wall St. Journal

"Expanded Energy R&D: How to Pay for It," Mark Muro, The Avenue blog, The New Republic