America’s approach to clean energy needs to be reformed if it is to meaningfully affect energy security or the environment, according to two new articles by Stanford writers.
The debate over how to fundamentally change the world’s massive energy system comes amid taxpayers’ $500 million tab for the bankruptcy of Fremont, Calif., solar company Solyndra, the global recession, government budget cuts and plunging U.S. prices for natural gas. Making the change cost-effectively will be crucial, write Jeffrey Ball and Kassia Yanosek, both based at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance.
Ball, scholar-in-residence at the Stanford center and former energy reporter and environment editor for the Wall Street Journal, writes in the current edition of Foreign Affairs that the world’s renewable-energy push has been sloppy so far. It can be fixed through a new approach that forces these technologies to become more economically efficient, he writes in the article, “Tough Love for Renewable Energy.”
“It is time to push harder for renewable power, but to push in a smarter way,” Ball writes.
Kassia Yanosek, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Stanford center and a private-equity investor, writes in Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, that attempting to accelerate a transition to a low-carbon economy is expensive and risky. Policymakers, says Yanosek, need to realize that achieving a transition with government-aided commercialization programs will require putting billions of taxpayer dollars at risk, often in a high-profile way.
“If government officials wish to accelerate the next energy transition, they will need a different strategy to develop an industry that can survive without major subsidies, one that prioritizes funding to commercialize decarbonized energy technologies that can compete dollar-for-dollar against carbon-based energy,” Yanosek said.
With natural gas prices so low due to huge new supplies of shale gas, besting the current energy system has become tougher.