Hitting the Reset Button on Energy Policy

In a public lecture at Duke University Jan. 25, “Hitting the Reset Button on Energy Policy: A Proposal for Post-Partisan Power,” three authors from different think tanks will discuss new policy approaches to developing cheap, clean energy. The development of the Internet can provide a model for a new nonpartisan approach to funding energy research, say authors Ted Nordhaus, Michael Shellenberger and Steven Hayward.

Their talk at 5:30 p.m. in the Fleishman Commons at the Sanford School of Public Policy is free and open to the public.

Like many issues, energy policy has become polarized along partisan lines, with the left still clinging to cap-and-trade proposals and the right focused on expanded oil drilling and nuclear power. What if the solution is “none of the above?” say Nordhaus, Shellenberger and Haywood.

Their white paper, “Post-Partisan Power,” published in October by the nonprofit think tank, the Breakthrough Institute, advocates an approach that moves beyond partisanship. The paper was written by scholars affiliated with think tanks of the left, right and center. Nordhaus and Shellenberger are founding members of Breakthrough Institute, co-author Hayward is affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute, and a fourth co-author, Mark Muro, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The paper received widespread media attention, including articles in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

“Time and again, the United States has summoned the resources necessary to secure American technological leadership by investing in breakthrough science and world-class education,” they say. They call for changing the country’s energy innovation system, focusing on the goal of making clean energy cheap. They propose a $25 billion yearly investment by the federal government to support energy research and education, through military procurement and deployment and private-public partnerships.

"We didn't tax typewriters to get the computer. We didn't tax telegraphs to get telephones," says Shellenberger. "When you look at the history of technological innovation, you find that state investment is everywhere."

Bruce Kuniholm, dean of the Sanford School, said, “Our on-going series, ‘Gridlock: Can Our System Address America’s Big Problems,’ is seeking exactly these types of nonpartisan ideas. Their approach could have a transformative effect on energy policy, which is a core academic focus of the School.”

The Breakthrough Institute offers a paid summer fellowship program for graduate students. Information about the program will be available after the Q&A session of the event. Shellenberger and Nordhaus also will make available copies of their book, “Break Through: Why We Can’t Leave Saving the Planet to the Environmentalists.”