Blowing in the Wind: How a Two-Tiered National Renewable Portfolio Standard, a System Benefits Fund, and Other Programs Will Reshape American Energy Investment and Reduce Fossil Fuel Externalities

By Shoock, Corey Stephen | Fordham Journal of Corporate & Financial Law, November 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Blowing in the Wind: How a Two-Tiered National Renewable Portfolio Standard, a System Benefits Fund, and Other Programs Will Reshape American Energy Investment and Reduce Fossil Fuel Externalities


Shoock, Corey Stephen, Fordham Journal of Corporate & Financial Law


INTRODUCTION

The manner in which the United States satisfies its energy needs over the next quarter century will determine the relative health of the country physically,1 politically,2 environmentally,3 and economically.4 By 2030, the nation will see a 36% rise in electricity consumption.5 Already the largest energy consumption sector,6 electric power sector needs will outpace the transmission grid's distribution capacity7 and the country's ability to absorb the deleterious financial effects of fossil fuel-based energy.8 Congress must respond.

Respiratory illness, cancer, neurological disorders, and birth defects caused by fossil fuels cost the country billions of dollars a year.9 These billions of dollars, public health entitlements notwithstanding, represent a mass siphoning of capital that would otherwise, in the form of commerce or workforce participation, contribute to the domestic economy.10 The federal government is clearly complicit in allowing the status quo, for which individual policymakers ought to be ashamed. But more constructive is the fact that the solution is cognizable and can be implemented in a way that solves the mutually reinforcing crises of electricity demand,11 infrastructural antiquation,12 rising energy costs,13 and soaring public and private health care expenses,14 not to mention going a long way toward providing the environment an overdue respite.15

In applying the principles of both giants of twentieth century economic theory, demand-side and supply-side fiscal policy,16 Congress can cost-effectively and with minimal administrative oversight,17 change the course of American energy use.18 Furthermore, it can tailor its legislation to be compatible with existing industrial interests while spreading the benefits of lower emissions and reduced externality costs to the vast majority of the population.19 The states have already set the example.20

By incentivizing renewable power sources and mandating the production, distribution, and consumption of their output, the government can effectively make good on a public mandate for cleaner, cheaper, more reliable energy.21 To do this it needs to continue to implement methodology it already employs in the form of tax credits,22 capital financing assistance,23 and generalized production incentives24-all supply-side principles that have effectively resulted in the growth of the renewable energy industry to this point.25 The expansion of the supply-side tract must be met with an equally vigorous demand-side campaign.26 Like a parent giving a push to a child's sled atop a snowy hill, Congress must simply dictate the industry's trajectory and provide it catalytic force to supply the direction and momentum needed to encourage self-sustaining investment.

Part I of this Note will address some examples of the health and environmental consequences of fossil fuels and touch on methods used for monetizing these externalities.27 In particular it will focus on coal-based energy, the market-share leader in electricity28 and the biggest threat to public health and the environment.29 As an answer to fossil fuel hegemony, Part II will examine the progress and potential of wind power,30 its technological improvement,31 receptivity to government initiative,32 response to investment structure,33 and the market wind already enjoys as exemplified in electricity consumption data.34 Part III will review state and federal renewable energy policies, with particular attention to wind power, that have supply-side and demand-side impacts.35 Part IV addresses the technical and regulatory challenges facing wind energy and other renewables, including transmission access rules,36 output variability37 and storage techniques,38 power grid integration,39 and infrastructural modernization.40 Technical solutions for many of these challenges offered by experts will be addressed.41 Finally, Part V will integrate examples of supply-side and demand policy initiatives into a comprehensive renewable energy policy proposal. …

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