Renewable Energy Mandates Fall Under Criticism

Costs and Tradeoffs Identified in Fall 2008 Issues in Science and Technology

Sept. 26, 2008

State requirements that a certain amount of electricity be produced from renewable energy are a bad idea because they exclude other sources better suited to meet the nation’s goals, according to an article in the Fall 2008 Issues in Science and Technology.

In “A National Renewable Portfolio Standard? Not Practical,” Jay Apt, Lester B. Lave, and Sompor Pattanariyankool of Carnegie Mellon University argue that the strict state standards—and potentially a national RPS—will prove costly, anger many people and undermine the reliability of the U.S. electricity system.

They urge that rather than mandating specific technologies, Congress and state legislatures should specify goals and provide incentives to reach them.

Also in the Fall 2008 Issues, Lawrence J. Korb of the Center for American Progress and Max A. Bergmann of the National Security Network write in “Restructuring the Military” that U.S. armed forces are unmatched on the conventional battlefield but far less prepared to deal with the emerging irregular or nontraditional challenges they are most likely to confront in the years ahead.

In “Strengthening the Global Environmental Treaty System,” Lawrence Susskind of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology writes that despite the huge media attention that environmental treaties receive, the system of making and implementing them is barely functioning.

In “Reducing Proliferation Risk,” Nobel laureate Burton Richter of Stanford University argues that the expansion of nuclear energy can be a security as well as an environmental blessing, but only if it comes without a great increase in the risk of the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The Fall 2008 Issues in Science and Technology also includes the following:

  • “Be Careful What You Wish For: A Cautionary Tale about Budget Doubling.” Richard Freeman of Harvard University and John Van Reenen of the London School of Economics write that the recent and widely lauded doubling of the research budget of the National Institutes of Health turned out to be counterproductive in a number of ways, particularly in its impact on younger researchers.

  • “Creating a National Innovation Foundation.” Robert Atkinson of the Information and Innovation Foundation and Howard Wial of the Brookings Institution call for a new organization that would build on the few federal programs that now exist to promote innovation and borrow the best public policy ideas from other nations.

  • “Science, Technology, and Global Reengagement.” In a world in which global concerns are becoming more prominent and the role of science and technology more critical, U.S. leaders must pay more attention to the interplay of these two domains, writes Gerald Hane, a former Clinton administration science and technology official.

  • “Third-Generation Biotechnology: A First look.” Mark Sagoff of the University of Maryland writes that the development of new techniques in pest control should spur regulators to launch a rigorous examination of the ethical, legal, and social ramifications.

  • “Re-examining the Patent System.” Robert Hunt of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and Brian Kahin of the Computer and Communications Industry Association in Washington, DC, question whether the patent system is even working today and argue that greater understanding is needed before significant policy reform can be pursued.

Issues in Science and Technology is the award-winning journal of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and the University of Texas at Dallas.


Media Contacts: Kevin Finneran, 202-965-5648, kfinnera@nas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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An article in Issues in Science and Technology contends that requiring alternative energy projects will prove costly, anger many people and undermine the reliability of the U.S. electricity system.

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