Yesterday the House Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing where Committee Members grilled Attorney General Eric Holder on recent controversies. However, lost in the coverage of the heated moments and verbal slip-ups (including Rep. Gohmert’s gem that “The attorney general will not cast aspersions on my asparagus”), was an excellent exchange between Rep. Mel Watt and the Attorney General on the problem of copyright infringement and online streaming.
During this exchange, the Attorney General notes that the Department of Justice is limited in its ability to prosecute criminal organizations or terrorists who would use illegal online streaming to finance their operations and called on Congress to create stiffer penalties for these violations. Right now, the Department of Justice can only bring up misdemeanor charges for these violations. It’s worth remembering that Congress already tried to fix this loophole once. In 2011, Sen. Klobuchar introduced S. 978 which made it a criminal offense to engage in large-scale, for-profit piracy using online streaming. Opponents of the legislation launched an outlandish (but unfortunately successful) smear campaign in which it accused Sen. Klobuchar of wanting to put Justin Beiber in jail.
If you … Read the rest
Making Innovation Part of Climate Hawks Policy Pitch
In a previous article I argued that climate policy advocates should make energy innovation part of their policy elevator pitch. A good opportunity to start is now available through the debate on reforming and re-authorizing the America COMPETES Act.
Within the climate advocacy community there are those that argue for aggressive clean energy innovation policy (such as myself) and those that argue for aggressive deployment of existing clean energy technologies (such as Center for American Progress’s Joe Romm and 350.org’s Bill McKibben). Each provides different policy emphasis and nuance. Today, deployment policies receive higher priority, reflected in it dominating the narrative among advocates as well as dominating the portfolio of U.S. public investments in clean energy. As a result, conflict occurs over what policy changes should be made.
As Grist’s Dave Roberts argues (correctly to a degree), both “camps” agree on a lot and everyone should aggressively work for clean energy to be a national priority to “lift all boats,”—both innovation and deployment of today’s technologies alike. How then should this consensus be reflected in our pitches to policymakers?
In my … Read the rest
Buried in the President’s FY2014 budget proposal is an interesting reform that could impact energy innovation without relying on Congress for any new – and hard to come by – federal investments. The idea is to create eight new research incubator programs at the Department of Energy that forge collaborations with early-stage start-ups to bring promising new ideas closer to commercial scale. In particular, the incubators would focus on promising technology pathways DOE is not currently investing in.
The incubator programs would be housed within each of the energy technology offices (except for geothermal) and leverage a small share of existing research budgets. The figure below provides the proposed budgets for the new incubators. (Note, the DOE is also continuing its existing solar incubator program.)
Each incubator is expressly aimed at emerging areas of research and technology development not “supported in any meaningful” way by existing DOE projects.
For example, the Vehicle Technologies Program wants to focus on advanced power electronics and electric motor ideas. The Advanced Manufacturing Program wants to invest in “revolutionary” technology pathways that cut energy-use in production, but also make U.S. manufacturers more competitive. And the … Read the rest
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is nothing but consistent: he wants a carbon tax and he wants it bad. Since 2005, he’s mentioned “carbon tax” 41 times in his column. Yet, while his support for a carbon tax hasn’t waned, the characteristics of his preferred carbon tax policy have.
As ITIF argues in Inducing Innovation: What a Carbon Price Can and Can’t Do, pricing carbon by itself does little to support clean energy and carbon reductions. It can be a useful tool for nudging near-competitive low-carbon technologies into the market and spurring modest carbon cuts, but it’s at best a complementary climate policy. That changes if we use a carbon tax as a revenue-raiser to support additional policies aimed at making clean energy cost and performance competitive with fossil fuels. In other words, tying a carbon tax to aggressive energy innovation policy can get us better climate mitigation “bang” for our climate policy “buck.” It’s why I proposed an “Innovation Carbon Price” that ties 20 percent of carbon tax revenue to public energy innovation investments and 80 percent to strengthening corporate tax incentives for training, research, … Read the rest
A few weeks ago I took a focused look at a major segment of the more traditional type of player in today’s changed market structure – the bottom up portfolio manager. I called the posting “Swimming With Sharks: Part 1. In this week’s posting the focus is on a segment of the new players in the game – hedge fund managers, specifically equity managers.
This player is at the epicenter of the risk on/risk off craze that has become a staple of how the new financial market structure functions. In contrast to the more traditional type, this equity oriented institutional investor by and large has two distinct features: thematic oriented investing over a short time horizon. The thematic approach is a bit of a misnomer from that which is practiced by longer term, more traditional investor types in that the longer term types are seeking to identify trends and themes that will likely play out over a longer time horizon (as in years, sometimes decades). For example, one such longer-term thematic type is in the global infrastructure area (water resources, power, roads, bridges, etc.). In this area, time is on … Read the rest