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Cap and Trade Not Enough

Mark Marich


PDE staff were on hand earlier this week for a panel discussion held by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) on Capitol Hill. Our report of the event--Is Cap and Trade Enough? Why Reducing Emissions Depends on Technology Innovation Panel Discussion--follows:

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) held a panel June 11 on Capitol Hill, to discuss the need for research and development in technology innovation in order to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.  

President Obama recently introduced a bill into Congress that would increase the clean energy research budget from approximately $3 billion to $15 billion. While panelists agreed that the bill would be a step in the right direction, they suggested that $30 billion per year would be necessary.

Robert Atkinson, president of ITIF, opened the panel discussion by introducing Representatives David Wu (D-OR) and Jay Inslee (D-WA). Both Congressmen agreed that more funding should be provided for research and development of innovative energy technologies.

Nate Lewis, a professor from Cal-Tech, illustrated that the current technology and cap and trade policies to promote clean energy do not adequately address the situation. For example, to produce enough solar energy to meet current energy demands, a solar thermal energy tower would have to be built every second for the next 50 years.

Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute, expanded on the political implications of relying solely on cap and trade policies: while they make fossil fuels more expensive overtime, they are still cheaper than clean energy alternatives. Shellenberger argued that innovative technology to make more affordable clean energy alternatives is needed.

Mark Muro of the Brookings Institute and William Bonvillian of MIT discussed the current public policy situation concerning research and technology innovation, saying that the level of funding for sustainable energy is “grossly inadequate.” Muro also said the “character and format of research innovation is inadequate.” Not only are research efforts fragmented, but they are removed from the marketplace. Bonvillian expanded on this idea, saying that funds are needed to connect basic science with real-world applications and also with the private and public sectors of society.

[Reported by Lisa Spees]

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