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Environmental Policy Research Workshop Essay

1996 words - 8 pages

My empirical research question that I find particularly interesting is within the world of energy policy, specifically the increasingly common state level mandates on utilities to produce a certain portion of their energy from renewable and advanced energy sources. I would like to establish a specific set of conditions that are repeated across the most successful implementations of a renewable portfolio standard program. It is clear that the United States will eventually face enough international pressure to sign on to a Kyoto Protocol style agreement to steeply cut emissions. In the absence of political will to take preemptive steps at the federal level, many states have passed their own ...view middle of the document...

This has deeply important implications across the state and national economy, for both individuals and businesses, as energy expenditures currently make up approximately 8% of the national gross domestic product , and Ohio as a national would nominally be the world’s 23rd ranked economy . This would be a causal study, in that the research design is fundamentally about cause and effect. In this case, the cause is the policy intervention of establishing a RPS, and the effect is the change the RPS brings to renewable energy generation and the state’s economy. This unfortunately could never be set up as a true experiment with control groups and set policy interventions, as no one governing body carries enough political clout to pull that off. However, by looking at the results of what is basically a natural experiment across the 36 other states with a RPS, it is possible to make real policy recommendations. The outcome of interest from this case study would be a method of establishing mandates that has been successful in states demographically and economically similar to Ohio. In particular, similar states to look at would be those with a heavy industrial and agricultural heritage, strong current focus on technological development, and a budding environmental based economy. Other states’ cause-effect relationships would most definitely still apply, but demographically similar states would have the most validity for comparison. The unit of analysis in this case would be organization level, particularly the utilities and their success in meeting the requirements of the law, relative to the strictness of the law, and success in increasing the new generation of clean energy. In some cases, portfolio standard requirements have been met without significant growth in clean energy generation due to lax standards and easy workarounds. Thus, the reason for including strictness of laws is that it prevents outliers that are so strict that no utility could meet the requirements or so lax that that they can be met with no actual work from throwing results off. There are a number of confounding factors that could throw this off. Particularly, a large number of laws affecting environmental economics have been passed recently, and fundamental economic change has occurred since the recent recession. Further, as legislatures are seeing the benefits of the speedily growing environmental economic sector setting up in their states, a number of laws complementary to but separate from RPSs have been passed to entice clean energy manufacturers. States that are similar at the broad level still have deep differences, and direct one-to-one comparisons have limited validity. The goal of this analysis would be to cut through all of that to see which states have most successfully implemented a RPS and find what lessons can be learned from them by other states.

The research design in this case would have to be case study based, as it would be impossible to do a full blind and...

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