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WIREs Clim Change
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Countercyclical energy and climate policy for the U.S.

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Continuation of the U.S.’s historical pattern addressing energy problems only in times of crisis is unlikely to catalyze a transition to an energy system with fewer adverse social impacts. Instead, the U.S. needs to bolster support for energy innovation when the perceived urgency of energy‐related problems appears to be receding. Because of the lags involved in both the energy system and the climate system, decarbonizing the economy will require extraordinary persistence over decades. This need for sustained commitment is in contrast to the last several decades, which have been marked by volatility and cycles of boom and bust. In contrast to the often‐repeated phrase that one should ‘never let a good crisis go to waste,’ the U.S. needs to most actively foster energy innovation when aspects of energy and climate problems appear to be improving. We describe the rationale for a ‘countercyclical’ approach to energy and climate policy, which involves precommitment to a set of policies that go into effect once a set of trigger conditions are met. WIREs Clim Change 2016, 7:5–12. doi: 10.1002/wcc.369 This article is categorized under: The Carbon Economy and Climate Mitigation > Policies, Instruments, Lifestyles, Behavior Policy and Governance > National Climate Change Policy
Time series of selected aspects of the U.S. energy system 1970–2015: (a) crude oil prices, (b) natural gas prices, (c) crude oil imports, (d) federal energy R&D investment, (e) investment in new wind power, and (f) ‘energy’ and ‘climate’ articles in the media.
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Example of periods when conditions trigger countercyclical policies.
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The Carbon Economy and Climate Mitigation > Policies, Instruments, Lifestyles, Behavior
Policy and Governance > National Climate Change Policy

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