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> Crowd-hitch a ride to explore America's new frontiers
Innovating affordable, viable, low-carbon energy technologies is one of the chief challenges of our time. Itâs central to solving global climate change, and itâs a core pillar of future economic growth and prosperity. But it wonât happen out of thin air.
U.S. leadership in technology development is one of our most enduring national characteristics. But, the history behind this innovation story clearly illustrates that an aggressive mix of government investment, entrepreneurship, and private sector know-how was essential to Americaâs last century of breakthrough technologies. One only need look to the Internet, the microprocessor, shale natural gas, and GPS technology for high-profile examples used in our everyday lives.
Yet, the message most often heard in Washington is why we canât or shouldnât put similar investments into clean energy. Congress is cutting research budgets in the name of budget austerity. Venture capitalists are increasingly shying away from potentially high-impact energy investments because theyâre too risky. And leading climate advocates voice little support for leveraging American innovation to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. At the moment of its greatest need, many are turning their backs on support for energy innovation.
My project would chronicle energy innovation across the United States from start-ups, companies, and universities. I will describe what Americaâs energy priorities are and how local, state, and federal energy policy is helping, hurting, or lacking in promoting energy innovation. I will particularly focus on how better policies can be crafted to ensure energy innovations continue to develop from the lab and into the market.
I want to bring the national energy innovation story to Washington, the
center of federal policy influence in the country. The Millennial Trains
Project offers a unique opportunity to hear from and see numerous researchers,
companies, and local decision makers from across America working on developing the
next-generation of energy technologies. It also will allow for a stronger connection
between the regional progress, success, and potential failure of energy
innovation and public policy decisions.
Too often, the role of policy in innovation is lost to those in Washington. Itâs difficult to penetrate the D.C. bubble. Policymakers are more focused on short-term needs, rather than long-term investments. As a Millennial and a member of the D.C. policy bubble, I am seeking the opportunity to break out and capture the stories that policymakers desperately need to hear.
Ultimately, the key accomplishment of this project is to impact U.S. energy policy by connecting stories from across the country directly to D.C. policy decisions. I do not expect one cross-country train trip or white paper to change Washingtonâs resistance to aggressively supporting energy innovation, but I do believe it could begin moving the needle. My hope is that this project can lay the foundation for a new generation of powerful influencers in the energy policy discussion. In other words, this is only the first step.
I will produce a day-to-day chronicle of my trip, related to energy innovation and policy, through a well-read online site such as the Energy Collective, Energy Trends Insider, or Innovation Files. As a columnist on these sites I can relate what I discover each day to a robust energy policy and advocacy audience.
Upon completing the trip, I will bring everything I chronicle and discover across the country together into a short case study on American Energy Innovation, which will analyze my findings to better inform public policy. This white paper would then be made available and distributed to Congress and the Administration.
I will complete the project by putting together a panel discussion of Millennials directly impacting energy innovation in Congress, companies, and through research for attendance by the Washington policy community as a whole.
Matthew Stepp is a Senior Policy Analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) specializing in climate change and clean energy policy. His research interests include energy technology development, the intersection of climate science and policymaking, transportation policy, and the role of innovation in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. Before joining ITIF, he served as Fellow at the Breakthrough Institute, a think tank located in Oakland, California, focused on modernizing political thinking in the 21st century. He worked on developing new U.S. climate policies centrally focused on technology and innovation as an alternative to politically-contentious and structurally-flawed carbon caps and pricing schemes. Prior to this position, Matthew graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a M.Sc. degree in Science, Technology, and Public Policy. His thesis modeled the impact of transportation carbon reduction policies to highlight opportunities for greater emission reductions due to system synergies. This work has been published in the Journal of Energy Policy and presented at both regional and stakeholder conferences. In 2009, Matthew was a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Fellow at the National Academies of Science where he worked with the Transportation Research Board to analyze light duty vehicle energy reduction policy strategies. He also has a B.Sc. in Meteorology from Millersville University where he conducted a wide range of research on the meteorological applications of synthetic radar and conducted climate modeling studies at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Matthew has appeared in various news and media outlets including the Washington Post, MIT Technology Review, Platts Energy Week, The Globalist, Ars Technica, E&E, National Journal, Forbes and Politico. He is also a regular columnist at Energy Trends Insider and The Energy Collective.