A Note to Joe Romm and Tom Friedman

Matthew Stepp March 8, 2012
March 8, 2012

The climate and energy policy debate is mixed up and not necessarily by the usual suspects of climate deniers. Instead, an almost equally challenging barrier to developing a more robust climate policy that makes clean energy cheaper than fossil fuels are advocates that believe aggressively deploying existing technologies will lead to deep cuts in carbon emissions. In addition individuals like Tom Friedman believe that deployment is what drives breakthrough energy innovation. In both cases, their views – representative of many in the clean energy policy space – is fundamentally wrong. By pursuing a deployment-first approach sets us up for potential climate failure, high energy costs, and technologies only deployable to niche markets. In fact, existing clean technologies are largely not cost-competitive with fossil fuels and require significant technology innovations that deployment alone won’t result in. Instead our energy policy emphasis should reflect the need for aggressive RD&D investments and support to drive real clean technology cost reductions that will result in technologies not reliant on government subsidies or mandates. Further, deployment policies, which are a part of an energy innovation policy strategy, must be rethought to spur greater innovation.