America’s energy economy is undergoing a set of profound shifts that are placing new demands on laws and policies. If current legal and institutional conditions are left alone, they will thwart the rapid adoption of cleaner energy and produce perverse environmental results from all forms of energy development, both old and new. ELI presses under-recognized, but key legal reforms that will green this energy transformation.
The nation’s energy portfolio is expanding to include larger investments in wind, solar, and tidal energy, as well as biofuels such as algae and fuel crops, presenting new conflicts and tradeoffs. At the same time, domestic exploitation of unconventional sources of natural gas, production of oil and gas from more difficult settings both onshore and offshore, and continued record-setting coal production using intensive methods, are producing new environmental conflicts. In the contest among new energy sources, law will have a great deal to say about winners and losers, subsidies and preferences — changing the shape of impacts on the nation’s communities, lands, and waters, for good or for ill. Concurrently, energy efficiency is reducing demand for energy and holds the potential to improve economic growth while reducing harmful environmental effects of all forms of energy production.
ELI’s recent and ongoing projects to green the energy transformation include:
- Siting Wind Energy Facilities - What Do Local Elected Officials Need to Know? (2013) is a brief guide to aid local officials in understanding commercial-scale wind siting. Local government officials presented with potential wind energy projects in their municipalities often find that clear and concise answers to their citizens ’ concerns can be difficult to locate. This publication seeks to give local elected officials, in a few paragraphs on each topic, a clear understanding of the information they need to sort fact from fiction and get a sense of how states and other municipalities have addressed key issues.
- Our 2009 comparison of tax and direct subsidies to the green and carbon intensive energy sources, Estimating U.S. Government Subsidies to Energy Sources: 2002-2008, became the figures widely relied upon to frame the national debate in Congress and the media. An update with respect to coal, Estimating U.S. Government Spending on Coal: 2002 – 2010 (2013), found that tax benefits provided the largest share of government support.
- We are working with three Mid-Atlantic States to revise their permit programs, coastal laws, and planning laws to support offshore wind.
- In 2011, ELI collected and evaluated the state laws and local ordinances governing wind siting in all 50 states, and defined the key provisions and identified models in State Enabling Legislation for Commercial-Scale Wind Power Siting and the Local Government Role. We also identified best practices and opportunities for Siting Wind Facilities on State-Owned Lands and Waters. Greening America's Next Energy Transformation summarizes this work.
- ELI and The Nature Conservancy are working collaboratively to build effective habitat mitigation that applies to renewable energy and natural gas expansion in the Appalachian region.
- Mapping the Energy-Water Policy Landscape (2010) identifies the state and federal laws that directly and indirectly affect water use by energy facilities, and the limitations, gaps, and reform opportunities created by these laws.
- We are doing collaborative research to integrate energy issues into Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning.
- We are convening a highly regarded series of seminars on ocean energy and renewable energy.