The impacts of budget sequestration are slowly being unveiled to the general public. Furloughs at the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) led to air traffic gridlock and angry travelers. Parks and national tourist sites are cutting back hours. And the Department of Defense (DOD) recently announced furloughs for 680,000 civilian employees. While these short-term impacts are painful, in particular to those losing work hours and income, sequestration is initiating cuts with negative, long-term impacts, which are not yet immediately apparent. One area of specific concern is the potential $381 million in cuts to energy innovation investments at the DOD – a 25 percent cut compared to FY2012 levels.
Climate Hawks Should Aggressively Support the America COMPETES Act
The American COMPETES Act strengthens the very foundation that the emerging clean energy industry must rely on for present and future growth. Advocates seeking to address climate change should support its reform and reauthorization, as it directly reinforces the science and technology institutions that underpin U.S. innovation.
DOE Proposes Expanding High Impact Energy Innovation Incubator Program
The President’s FY2014 budget contains an interesting reform within the Department of Energy that would create eight new incubator programs at the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. These incubators, modeled on the department’s current SunShot Incubator, could significantly impact the ability of the department to bring emerging and breakthrough clean energy technologies to commercial scale.
Thomas Friedman’s Evolving Support for an Innovation Carbon Tax
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is nothing but consistent: he wants a carbon tax and he wants it bad. While it’s a stretch to say that Friedman has thrown aside his faulty neoclassical proclivities on the role of price signals and energy innovation, his potential evolution is important nonetheless. Friedman has been one of the most vocal supporters of climate policy and innovation (while often not at the same time). Bringing both together to create a cohesive carbon tax proposal moves the needle towards the type of innovation-based climate policies America needs to be debating and ultimately implementing. It reframes U.S. climate advocates’ near-myopic focus on carbon pricing, mandates, and subsidies and expands the discussion on how we can use those tools to spur innovation. It’s certainly a step in the right direction.
Obama’s Budget Boosts Support for Energy Innovation
Although the energy innovation budget would remain underfunded compared to other national missions like defense and health R&D even if this budget were passed as it, the President deserves to be lauded for proposing modestly larger energy research budgets in this time of fiscal austerity. Policymakers must continue to recognize the importance of public support for energy innovation – and R&D funding throughout the federal government – as a means to rebuilding the post-recession American economy.
Finding a New Direction in Climate Change Policy
It’s clear that the world is losing the race against global climate change. At a day-long symposium at Villanova University aimed at discussing what kind of changes need to be made, Rutgers Law Professor Howard Latin who provided the keynote address based on a book he published late last year titled Climate Change Policy Failures argues conventional climate policy approaches fought for during the last twenty years such as cap-and-trade, international negotiations, and emission regulations won’t successfully produce deep carbon reductions. Latin contends that these “incremental” policy approaches simply kick the emission reduction can down the road and offer little support for aggressive carbon cuts.
Matthew Stepp makes five main suggestions on how to go forward after the symposium: Overcoming the Iron Law of Climate Change Policy with Innovation, Implementing Clean Energy Innovation Policies, Increase Support for Clean Energy R&D, Tie Innovation Funding to a Dedicated Revenue Source, and Reforming Regulations and Incentives to Drive Innovation.