A Broad Energy R&D Portfolio as a Bipartisan Approach to Climate

Developing a broad and effective portfolio of low-carbon energy technology options could provide the common ground on which conservatives and liberals agree to approach climate change. In the recent Issues in Sciences and Technology article, “Breaking the Climate Deadlock,” authors David Garman, Kerry Emanuel, and Bruce Phillips recommend a portfolio approach to the low-carbon technology development as a means of expanding the scope of options available to manage future climate risks. Doing so will prepare the U.S. with “technology readiness,” i.e., energy technologies that are “economically viable, fully demonstrated at scale…, and [can] be capable of global deployment in a reasonably timely manner.” This readiness does not commit the U.S. to a particular path, argue the authors, but instead makes available new information for policymakers facing uncertainty about future risks.

Garman, Emanuel, and Phillips call for a three-to-fivefold increase in funding for energy R&D to expand this portfolio, similar to the proposal in AEIC’s 2010 report, The Business Plan. This recommended substantial increase could come from a diverse group of sources and would improve the outlook of costs of renewable energy technologies, which the authors claim are now 30 to 290 percent more expensive than conventional fossil fuel alternatives on an unsubsidized basis. Cost reduction is critical for the deployment of technologies on a global scale – developing nations will only pick low-cost energy options in an attempt to raise their standard of living. Moreover, U.S. companies must compete on cost with other countries as international markets for renewable technologies grow.

The report was written by David Garman, Kerry Emanuel, and Bruce Phillips for Issues in Science and Technology, and can be read here.