Last week the New York Times hosted a conference called “Energy For Tomorrow”, and they have made video from all of the sessions available; there are several sessions discussing energy efficiency, natural gas, renewables, etc. I watched the closing plenary on Friday, for which the topic was subsidies in any or all energy industries (sorry, WordPress and the embed code aren’t playing well together). Among the speakers it features Rice economist Amy Myers Jaffe (to whom we have linked here before), as well as friend-of-Knowledge Problem Branko Terzic from Deloitte Consulting.
The discussion was good and very informative, raising many of the aspects of the pros and cons of subsidies depending on their form and how they are implemented. Naturally, much of the discussion addressed solar and the unintended (but easily anticipated) costs illustrated by Solyndra and by Spain, whether subsidies generate more overall net benefits than a carbon tax would, and whether subsidies should focus on driving down costs and getting to grid parity or on R&D. I’ll let you form your own conclusions on those topics.
I found that Amy Myers Jaffe’s comments were the closest to what I would have said if I were on the panel. She critiques the use of subsidies very effectively, and encourages an energy policy focus on “targeting the externality” and pricing it in the market. Branko’s comments highlight the political economy of subsidies and whether subsidies are hidden or in plain sight.
Recommended for easing into your Monday.