Winter 2013 Bulletin

Examining U.S. Energy Policy

The Alternative Energy Future

The interconnected challenges of climate change, an increased global demand for energy, and America’s need for enhanced energy security will require a substantial transformation of the U.S. energy system, including the large-scale adoption of new energy technologies. The American Academy’s Alternative Energy Future project (AEF) is identifying behavioral and regulatory barriers to this transformation and exploring how policy-makers could best anticipate and overcome these obstacles using lessons from the social sciences.


Creating New Research Networks


The Academy organized a workshop in Washington, D.C., on November 29–30, 2012, that gathered investigators from the government, academic, and industry sectors to discuss novel approaches to understanding and overcoming the social and behavioral barriers to the adoption of new energy technologies. Topics included considering human behavior in technology development, engaging the public on new technologies, and facilitating large-scale technology deployment.


Picture of Douglas Arent and Holmes Hummel
Participants at the workshop on creating new research networks: Douglas Arent (Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis) and Holmes Hummel (U.S. Department of Energy)

Participants discussed how social scientific knowledge could be applied to new and existing energy programs, and how to scale up successful state and local initiatives to the regional and national levels. The workshop also established the foundation for a network of researchers, based at the Academy, that will develop guidelines for evaluating the application of social science research to government-funded energy projects. Participants discussed how the network’s activities and membership could be designed to maximize the exchange of research tools and data.


Shaping Durable and Flexible Energy Policy


Legal scholars, political scientists, and members of the AEF project committee convened at the Academy’s headquarters on February 14–15, 2013, for a workshop on “Establishing a Durable Governance Framework for Energy Policy.” Project Chair Robert W. Fri (Resources for the Future) moderated the discussion with Ann Carlson (University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law) and Dallas Burtraw (Resources for the Future). The meeting focused on the urgent need for a blueprint for a U.S. energy policy that is durable enough to last for decades, yet flexible enough to change as new socioeconomic, technological, and environmental conditions arise.

The participants discussed the factors that contribute to sustainable energy policies, identified critical areas for future research, and suggested methods to encourage interdisciplinary scholarship on this question. They considered how stable previous policies have proven to be and whether these policies have successfully adapted to subsequent societal and scientific changes. Other topics explored at the meeting included the role of agency discretion versus detailed legislation or other statutory directives; the roles of different tiers of government, from the local to the federal level; and the role of stakeholder groups, including Public Utility Commissions and private firms that develop new energy technologies.

Picture of Freeman and Ansolabehere
Jody Freeman (Harvard Law School) and Dædalus co-guest editor Stephen Ansolabehere (Harvard University)

New Dædalus on “The Alternative Energy Future”

The Winter 2013 issue of Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy, on “The Alternative Energy Future” highlights questions where existing social science research could be of use as well as areas where additional research is needed. A concluding essay by guest editors Robert Fri and Stephen Ansolabehere outlines a research agenda for social science, including questions that are especially relevant to future energy policy choices. Stakeholders from all sectors will need to cooperate to find answers to these questions and to facilitate the transformation in U.S. energy policy that will be required to solve the energy challenges of the twenty-first century.

Winter 2013 Dædalus, “The Alternative Energy Future”

Robert W. Fri (Resources for the Future): The Scope of the Transition

Hal Harvey (Energy Innovation; University of Chicago), Franklin M. Orr, Jr. (Stanford University) & Clara Vondrich (ClimateWorks Foundation): A Trillion Tons

Jon A. Krosnick (Stanford University) & Bo MacInnis (Stanford University): Does the American Public Support Legislation to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Naomi Oreskes (University of California, San Diego) & Erik M. Conway (Pasadena, California): The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

Kelly Sims Gallagher (Tufts University): Why & How Governments Support Renewable Energy

Thomas Dietz (Michigan State University), Paul C. Stern (National Research Council) & Elke U. Weber (Columbia University): Reducing Carbon-Based Energy Consumption through Changes in Household Behavior

Roger E. Kasperson (Clark University) & Bonnie J. Ram (Ram Power LLC): The Public Acceptance of New Energy Technologies

Robert O. Keohane (Princeton University) & David G. Victor (University of California, San Diego): The Transnational Politics of Energy

Dallas Burtraw (Resources for the Future): The Institutional Blind Spot in Environmental Economics

Ann E. Carlson (University of California, Los Angeles) & Robert W. Fri (Resources for the Future): Designing a Durable Energy Policy

Michael H. Dworkin (Vermont Law School), Roman V. Sidortsov (Vermont Law School) & Benjamin K. Sovacool (Vermont Law School): Rethinking the Scale, Structure & Scope of U.S. Energy Institutions

Rosina M. Bierbaum (University of Michigan) & Pamela A. Matson (Stanford University): Energy in the Context of Sustainability

Stephen Ansolabehere (Harvard University) & Robert W. Fri (Resources for the Future): Social Sciences & the Alternative Energy Future

For more information visit the Alternative Energy Future project.