climate and energy at a crossroads michael shellenberger and ted nordhaus breakthrough institute
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Climate and Energy at a Crossroads Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus : Breakthrough Institute. Kakushin is Japanese for “radical innovation and renewal”. 20 Years of Carbon-Focused Policies Have Failed Copenhagen failure only the latest Cap and trade in trouble. Again.

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climate and energy at a crossroads michael shellenberger and ted nordhaus breakthrough institute

Climate and Energy at a CrossroadsMichael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus: Breakthrough Institute

Kakushinis Japanese for “radical innovation and renewal”


20 Years of Carbon-Focused Policies Have Failed

  • Copenhagen failure only the latest
  • Cap and trade in trouble. Again.
    • House DemsBTU’d again?
  • Canada and Australia unlikely to move forward without U.S.
  • EU stranded
    • No carbon trading partners
    • No level carbon price playing field

The United Nations will not oversee global carbon market, technological revolution, or steady declines in emissions.


Policy shift underway from making dirty energy expensive to making clean energy cheap.

$40/ton CO2 price in Europe did not stop plans to build 50 more coal plants (without CCS)

EU firms bought carbon offsets rather than invest in new technology.

US cap and trade would allow 140% offsetting, price of $10 – 20/ton (source: EPA/CBO)

(P.S.: We did not get computers through a cap and trade on typewriters)


Clean tech deployment from supply-side policies.

German feed-in tariff

Chinese feed-in + PTC


Danish wind deployment

Nuclear procurement in France, China, US, Denmark — the list goes on and on…

We are picking technology winners — and that’s a good thing.

DoD procurement of microchips in late ‘50s drove price from $1,000/chip to $20/chip in under 10 yrs.


Asia Governments to Invest 3 Times More Than U.S.

Asia will gain “first mover” advantage: economies of scale, learning-by-doing, and innovation

Asian government investments are direct and coordinated. U.S. and Europe indirect and uncoordinated.

U.S. developed solar, nuclear, wind, and electric car technologies — then lost them to Japan, Denmark, France and others because of its failure to invest.


Storm Clouds on Clean Tech Horizon

Rapid growth will be difficult to maintain as renewables start to achieve larger market share. E.g., 25% annual growth much easier to maintain at 1% of generation than 10% of generation

Subsidy-driven deployment increasingly harder to maintain politically as market share grows: 20% wind = $20 billion annual PTC

Rising cost pressure on wind/solar with greater deployment

Marginal sites, higher transmission costs, higher load management/storage costs


Incremental Niche Market Strategy Can’t Deal with Climate Energy Challenge

Population to rise to 9 billion, and global energy use will triple by 2050 — must get emissions from energy to zero.

1.5 billion people will still have no electricity — for them, conventional energy is too expensive, not too cheap

Stabilizing carbon emissions at

450 ppm means completely decarbonizing global energy supply.

“If you gave me one wish for the next 50 years it would be energy at half the cost with zero emissions.”

— Bill Gates 2.24.10


How to Make Clean Energy Cheap

Increase public investment in all stages of innovation — private sector investment will follow.

Four Key Technological Breakthroughs:

PV efficiency

Battery density

Biofuel production

Mass-manufacture of small self-contained nuclear plants.

Deployment for radical cost-reductions, not insignificant emissions reductions.


Cheap Clean Energy for All

  • Cheap energy has been central driver of rising global prosperity since beginning of Industrial Revolution.
  • Energy and technology replace hard human labor in ag & simple manufacturing
  • Frees up human capital for higher value enterprise
  • Increasing the cost of energy is thus not a solution for economy, poverty, or environment.
  • The only answer for economy, poverty, environment is radical technological innovation to make clean tech cheaper than coal, oil, and gas.

“Prescient.” — Time

Thank You!