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A strategy for America’s energy future: Illuminating energy’s full costs

May 18, 2011



Energy consumption is critical to economic growth and our quality of life. America’s energy system, however, is malfunctioning. The status quo is characterized by a tilted playing field, where our energy choices are based on the visible costs that appear on utility bills and at the gas pump. This system masks the social costs arising from those energy choices, including shorter lives, higher health care expenses, a changing climate, and weakened national security. As a result, we pay unnecessarily high costs for energy. New “rules of the road” are needed to improve our living standards.

In this paper, The Hamilton Project provides four principles for reforming America’s energy policies. First, a level playing field requires that the full costs of different energy sources be priced. Second, basic research, development, and demonstration are essential for energy innovation, but government funding is required for critical investments that the private sector does not have the incentives to undertake. Third, environmental regulations should be designed and implemented as efficiently as possible. Finally, climate change, as a problem of global scope, should be addressed on a global scale.

In addition to this strategy paper, The Hamilton Project released three new policy proposals to improve the regulations governing energy consumption and environmental quality, create a new clean energy standard, and improve the federal government’s efforts to deploy new energy technologies.