Monday, October 3 through Tuesday, October 4 2022
Every fall, the Breakthrough Institute invites policymakers, experts, journalists, and more from across the world to join us outside of Washington D.C. to tackle one big topic in climate politics and policy.
This year, we'll be digging into material abundance, or, more specifically, how the innovation, construction, and socialization of a new abundance agenda for the 21st century are, in many ways, being choked off by the same administrative state that was designed to reign in the worst excesses of 20th century American infrastructural and economic development. Over two days, we’ll look at how best to understand the origins of that administrative state and discuss a possible new set of rules and institutions to realize a new era of abundance.
All of the Abundance
A decade ago, the so-called “all-of-the-above” approach to energy policy—one that embraced public policy and investment supportive of both low-carbon energy and fossil fuels—was the norm. Renewables were much more expensive than they are today, climate change was ranked relatively lower on policymakers’ list of priorities, and, not incidentally, the approach was working: the shale gas revolution that began in earnest around 2009 was lowering energy costs, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, and driving some of the steepest emissions reductions in the world.
Today, with cheaper renewables, amidst more prominent catastrophist sentiment around climate risk, and farther along the coal-to-gas bridge, one might think the usefulness of this approach had come to an end. And yet, as revealed by the recently advanced Inflation Reduction Act and the Biden Administration’s backsliding on fossil energy restrictions, “all-of-the-above” is still the modus operandi in Washington. What should we make of this? Are policymakers wise, or short-sighted, to sustain investments in oil and gas supplies amidst spiking inflation and energy prices? Can the “all-of-the-above” approach to energy abundance build support for long-term decarbonization, or does such an approach inescapably kick the can down the road?
- Arnab Datta, Senior Counsel, Employ America
- Avrind Ravikumar, Research Associate Professor, University of Texas, Austin
- Liza Reed, Research Manager, Low Carbon Technology Policy, Niskanen Center
- Matthew Yglesias, Journalist, Slow Boring
Yes in My Suburb
The burgeoning urbanist movement has argued forcefully that YIMBY, or “yes in my backyard,” is not just a housing affordability agenda but a climate agenda. Denser, cheaper housing enables more people to occupy less land, making more efficient use of infrastructure and supply chains while reducing pollution associated with commuting and allowing greater access to public transit. At times, the YIMBY movement veers into active antipathy towards suburbs, exurbs, and personal vehicles. Is this the inevitable equilibrium for pro-housing, pro-transit advocacy? Might it be the case that some people will prefer cars and suburbs even in a future where exclusionary zoning is abolished? And could the YIMBY movement even take root in the suburbs, away from the dense, housing-starved corridors it thrives in today?
- Jennifer Hernandez, Partner, Holland & Knight; Breakthrough Institute Board Member
- Jenny Schuetz, Senior Fellow, Brookings Metro
- Judge Glock, Senior Director of Policy and Research, Cicero Institute
- Jerusalem Demsas, Staff Writer, The Atlantic
Time to Build
As the nation’s halting attempts to build high-speed rail, nuclear power plants, high-voltage transmission lines, and solar and wind farms reveal, the obstacles to decarbonization stem less from the availability of low-carbon technology than from the capacity for siting, permitting, and building the necessary infrastructure. High-level proposals to address this problem have come from “supply-side progressivism,” “state-capacity libertarianism,” neoliberalism, and beyond. This panel will feature a variety of ideological perspectives on the policy and coalitional imperatives to be sorted out before any such supply-side agenda can be effectively pursued.
- Eli Dourado, Senior Research Fellow, Center for Growth and Opportunity, Utah State University
- Marcela Mulholland, Political Director, Data for Progress
- Jeremiah Johnson, Policy Director, The Neoliberal Project
- Jared DeWese, Deputy Director for Communications, Third Way Energy
Pulling Up the Ladder
For all the talk about the need for an abundance agenda in the United States, it is all too easy to forget the relative abundance we already enjoy in rich countries, and the lack of anything comparable in low- and middle-income economies. Worse still, building industrial, abundant energy, and agricultural infrastructure in poor countries is increasingly stifled by constraints imposed by trade and development finance policies in the United States and Western Europe. This has been called “pulling up the ladder,” an apt metaphor to describe limiting investment in fossil fuels, industrial agriculture, hydroelectric and nuclear power, and other technologies taken for granted in the wealthy world but largely out of reach for poorer countries. This panel will describe a number of ways such restrictions constrain development and growth abroad, how authoritarian regimes take advantage of the situation, and what a more equitable and abundance-oriented international policy would look like.
- Robert Paarlberg, Associate, Sustainability Science, Harvard Kennedy School
- Shayak Sengupta, Fellow, Observer Research Foundation America
- Zainab Usman, Senior Fellow and Director, Africa Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- Amanda Glassman, Executive Vice President, CEO of CGD Europe, and Senior Fellow Center for Global Development