We lie at a unique place in history, one where humanity's drive to industrialize has created an environmental crisis that may threaten the very existence of the planet. The new challenges posed by environmental crises are becoming shockingly apparent. Scientists are discovering, and illustrating to policy-makers, new ways in which we are destroying the earth and its surrounding atmosphere. Although these kinds of revelations are by no means new, the scale of destruction in these scenarios is immensely greater than previously projected. Warming of the atmosphere due to the greenhouse effect, depletion of the ozone layer, destruction of forests, acid rain, air pollution, and many other problems are often discussed in policy-making arenas and throughout the associated literature. Energy is intimately intertwined in all of these issues. Any comprehensive attempt to deal with these challenges will require a change in consumption of fossil fuels. Such a change must involve greater energy efficiency in the short term and a move to renewable energies as the foundation of our economy. However, in order to achieve this transformation of our energy grid, we must have more solid economic analysis and policy formation to accompany the alarming scientific predictions. Renewable energy should be seen as more than just "an environmental policy," but as an energy alternative which permeates all levels of the economy. This article will attempt to combine reasons given from a public policy standpoint with economic justifications for the transition to renewable energy, and finally offer a solution to fuel this process successfully. Our fossil fuel-based economy has produced many environmental problems. Although admittedly an artificial division, these problems can be viewed as affecting both public policy and economics. In the public policy frame work, these problems are usually discussed in terms of societal and political inadequacies. In economics, they function as externalities, meaning those consuming fossil fuels do not bear all of the consequences of their action and, given the interdependency of ecosystems, others are damaged. Together public policy and economic concerns present sufficient justification needed for a move to renewable energy.
©1996 by the Board of Student Publications, University of Northern Iowa
"Renewable Energy: Economics and Public Policy to Fuel the Transition,"
Draftings In: Vol. 8:
2, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarworks.uni.edu/draftings/vol8/iss2/5