Energy

Perspective: Getting the Most Out of Electric Vehicle Subsidies


Jeremy J. Michalek, Mikhail Chester, Constantine Samaras


The electrification of passenger vehicles has the potential to address three of the most critical challenges of our time: Plug-in vehicles may produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions when powered by electricity instead of gasoline, depending on the electricity source; reduce and displace tailpipe emissions, which affect people and the environment; and reduce gasoline consumption, helping […]


This article is in Social Science and Environmental Policy, Summer 2012

The Road to a New Energy System: Transforming Energy Innovation


Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Laura D. Anadon, Ambuj D. Sagar


Developing desperately needed new energy technologies will require not only an increase in funds but also a rethinking of the way government programs are designed and managed. The United States must change the way it produces and uses energy by shifting away from its dependence on imported oil and coal-fired electricity and by increasing the […]


This article is in The Road to a New Energy System, Fall 2009

What Makes U.S. Energy Consumers Tick?


Kelly Sims Gallagher, John C. Randell


Harnessing the social sciences to answer that question can help lead the nation to an alternative—more efficient—energy future. On October 6, 1997, during the runup to the Kyoto Protocol negotiations in Japan later that year, President William J. Clinton described barriers to the adoption of energy-efficient technologies at a White House Conference on climate change. […]


This article is in Social Science and Environmental Policy, Summer 2012

Alternative Energy for Transportation


Koji Omi


The world’s citizens and governments must accept that Earth’s resources are finite and commit themselves to the development of new power sources for automobiles. Science and technology (S&T) has brought economic growth and contributed to enhancing living standards. In recent years, S&T has progressed very rapidly and brought tremendous benefits to our lives. For example, […]


This article is in What Science Can Do, Summer 2009

Decision Support for Developing Energy Strategies


Joseph Arvai, Robin Gregory, Douglas Bessette, Victoria Campbell-Arvai


Policymakers and the public need a mechanism for making a series of difficult and interrelated choices over time, and research in decision science offers a promising way forward. The United States clearly needs a new energy strategy. In fact, many industrialized nations are in the same position. But this raises an obvious question: What is […]


This article is in Social Science and Environmental Policy, Summer 2012

U.S. Energy Policy: The Need for Radical Departures


Vaclav Smil


Dreams of a near-term transformation are illusory. The needed massive overhaul will take time and commitment. Five years may be an entire era in politics, and as the recent global economic upheavals have shown, it is also a span long enough to hurl nations from complacent prosperity to panicky fears. Five years might also suffice […]


This article is in What Science Can Do, Summer 2009

The Little Reactor That Could?


Ross Carper, Sonja Schmid


As the United States and other nations consider their next steps in nuclear energy, a new movement to support small modular reactors is coming to the forefront. But how are we to envision these technologies and their role in a post-Fukushima era? A week before Halloween 2009, John R. Deal, an entrepreneur who goes almost […]


This article is in Affordable National Security, Summer 2011

Tapping Talent in a Global Economy: In Defense of Biofuels, Done Right


Keith Kline, Virginia H. Dale, Russell Lee, Paul Leiby


Despite recent claims to the contrary, plant-based fuels developed in economically and environmentally sensible ways can contribute significantly to the nation’s—indeed, the world’s—energy security while providing a host of benefits for many people worldwide. Biofuels have been getting bad press, not always for good reasons. Certainly important concerns have been raised, but preliminary studies have […]


This article is in Tapping Talent in a Global Economy, Spring 2009

The Energy-Climate Complex: An Energy Agenda for the New Congress


Jeff Bingaman


In spite of bipartisan support, numerous critical energy initiatives languished in the previous congressional session. The need to take action is even more pressing for the current Congress. At the beginning of this new Congress, it is already becoming clear that energy policy will have a major place on the agenda. Part of that is […]


This article is in The Energy/Climate Complex, Spring 2011

Practical Pieces of the Energy Puzzle: A Full-Court Press for Renewable Energy


Frank N. Laird


Transformation of the energy system will require steady and generous government support across technological, economic, and social domains. Any effort to move the United States away from its current fossil-fuel energy system will require the promotion of renewable energy. Of course, renewable energy alone will not solve all problems of climate change, energy security, and […]


This article is in Practical Pieces of the Energy Puzzle, Winter 2009

The Energy-Climate Complex: Energy in Three Dimensions


Burton Richter


The rationale for energy policy must be about more than climate change and green energy. The United States has been unable to develop any coherent energy program that can last past changes in the control of our federal executive or Congress. The latest failure was the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that would have driven an enormous […]


This article is in The Energy/Climate Complex, Spring 2011

Practical Pieces of the Energy Puzzle: Low Carbon Fuel Standards


Daniel Sperling, Sonia Yeh


The most direct and effective policy for transitioning to low-carbon alternative transportation fuels is to spur innovation with a comprehensive performance standard for upstream fuel producers. When it comes to energy security and climate change concerns, transportation is the principal culprit. It consumes half the oil used in the world and accounts for almost one-fourth […]


This article is in Practical Pieces of the Energy Puzzle, Winter 2009

The Energy-Climate Complex: The Smart Grid: Separating Perception from Reality


Lawrence J. Makovich


Instead of a disruptive technology poised to transform the power sector in a decade, expect a more evolutionary change toward a “smarter” grid, with more modest results. There is a widespread expectation in the United States and around the world today that the smart grid is the next big thing, a disruptive technology poised to […]


This article is in The Energy/Climate Complex, Spring 2011

Practical Pieces of the Energy Puzzle: Energy Security for American Families


Lisa Margonelli


Helping moderate-income households invest in energy-efficient cars, appliances, and home retrofits would benefit financially struggling families as well as the U.S. economy. In July 2008, Americans were paying $4.11 per gallon of gasoline—nearly three times the price six years earlier, according to the Energy Information Administration. Most people have felt the pinch of higher energy […]


This article is in Practical Pieces of the Energy Puzzle, Winter 2009

Making Fuel Cells Work


Noriko Behling


Fuel cells offer considerable benefits, but developing them for commercial application has failed. To speed progress, a national program is needed to answer basic research questions. For more than five decades, fuel cells have been heralded for their potential as a costefficient, environmentally friendly means to convert readily available chemical energy into electric energy. So […]


This article is in Health Care That's Not for Dummies, Spring 2013

Accelerating the Pace of Energy Change


Steven E. Koonin, Avi M. Gopstein


The government’s key role in catalyzing a transformation of the energy system is to mitigate risk for the private sector. Scientists and engineers invariably see technology innovation as the primary if not sole driver of energy transformation, but changing the energy system involves much more. Economic, political, and business aspects determine whether any new technology […]


This article is in Energy Update, Winter 2011

A National Renewable Portfolio Standard? Not Practical


Jay Apt, Lester B. Lave, Sompop Pattanariyankool


Legislation that mandates specified electricity production from renewable sources paves a path to costly mistakes because it excludes other sources that can meet the country’s goals. A discussion of renewable energy seems to addle the brains of many sensible people, leading them to propose policies that are bad engineering and science or have a foundation […]


This article is in Questions That Blur Political Party Lines, Fall 2008

The Hidden Risks of Energy Innovation


Michael Levi


Advocates of tackling climate change through innovation are at risk of dangerously overreaching at home and abroad; a more modest program could produce better results. Recent years have been disappointing for U.S. advocates of aggressive action on climate change. Efforts to pass comprehensive cap-and-trade legislation, which would have promoted the deployment of clean energy by […]


This article is in Science in the Gilded Age and the Birth of NAS, Winter 2013

Perspective: The Dismal State of Biofuels Policy


C. Ford Runge, Robbin S. Johnson


Biofuels policy in the United States remains controversial and much debated. In the months since BP’s catastrophic deep-water oil rig explosion, the international debate over energy, ever inclined to drift on the winds of current events, has been captured by the fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico and the environmental destruction caused by the errors […]


This article is in The Need for Geoengineering Research, Fall 2010

Strategies for Today’s Energy Challenge


Jeff Bingaman


JEFF BINGAMAN Developing new energy sources provides an economic and technological opportunity for the United States. The energy challenge the United States faces today is different from and more encompassing than what it encountered even a few years ago. Until fairly recently, at least in Washington, the energy challenge was seen largely as the need […]


This article is in The Path Not Studied, Summer 2008

Four Technologies and a Conundrum: The Glacial Pace of Energy Innovation


Michael E. Webber, Roger D. Duncan, Marianne Shivers Gonzalez


A first-of-its-kind analysis provides a sweeping picture of how the United States uses energy and suggests steps for technological improvement. The energy sector is the world’s largest market. Reaching billions of users, it accounts for approximately $5 trillion of economic activity and $1.8 trillion of trade annually, representing trillions of dollars of accumulated long-lived capital […]


This article is in Science in the Gilded Age and the Birth of NAS, Winter 2013

Is the Smart Grid Really a Smart Idea?


Marc Levinson


A smart electrical system can bring social benefits, but smaller customers may pay too high a price. A more modest plan, guided by government policy, would be better. It is hard to quarrel with the idea that it is good to be smart. That presumably is why the proponents of some radical changes in the […]


This article is in The Need for Geoengineering Research, Fall 2010

A New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy Independence


Lamar Alexander


LAMAR ALEXANDER The United States must marshal its resources and talent to tackle the challenge of coping with climate change. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Sen. Kenneth McKellar, the Tennessean who chaired the Appropriations Committee, to hide $2 billion in the appropriations bill for a secret project to win World War II. Sen. […]


This article is in The Path Not Studied, Summer 2008

Back to Basics on Energy Policy


Bruce Everett


For the past 40 years, political leaders have promised that government can plan and engineer a fundamental transformation of our energy industry They were wrong. In June 1973, President Richard Nixon addressed the emerging energy crisis, saying that “the answer to our long-term needs lies in developing new forms of energy.” He asked Congress for […]


This article is in Applying New Research to Improve Science Education, Fall 2012

The Road to a New Energy System: Stimulating Innovation in Energy Technology


William B. Bonvillian, Charles Weiss


Meeting the world’s urgent need for a cleaner and more efficient energy system will require a more effective strategy that incorporates technology neutrality, international collaboration, institutional change, and a more fine-tuned understanding of the innovation process. Energy technology poses a special challenge to the U.S. innovation system. Fossil fuels are deeply imbedded in the economy […]


This article is in The Road to a New Energy System, Fall 2009