Science & Technology

26 Items

Paper

The Congressional Futures Office

    Authors:
  • Justin Warner
  • Grant Tudor
| May 2019

This report interrogates the widening gap between responsive lawmaking in Congress and the deepening complexity of advancements in science and technology. It finds that certain weakened capabilities have atrophied the organization’s absorptive capacity, or the ways by which it recognizes the value of, assimilates, and makes use of knowledge outside of itself. We propose the design of a new internal body—the Congressional Futures Office—as an optimal response among a set of considered options. 

Discussion Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

Antiproliferation: Tackling Proliferation by Engaging the Private Sector

| November 2012

Illicit trade from the international marketplace plays a direct role in sustaining the nuclear and missile programs of several countries, including Iran, in defiance of UN sanctions. This paper sets out what measures the private sector should take in order to manage the legal, financial and reputational risks associated with involvement in proliferation-related trade, and makes recommendations to national authorities for how for how to help the private sector identify and prevent potential proliferation.

An oil pump jack in Santa Maria, California, a three-story humming contraption struck residents as a mere curiosity until someone uttered the petroleum industry's dirty word: fracking.

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Discussion Paper

North American Oil and Gas Reserves: Prospects and Policy

| July 2012

Expanding estimates of North America’s supply of accessible shale gas, and more recently, shale oil, have been trumpeted in many circles as the most significant energy resource development since the oil boom in Texas in the late 1920s. How large are these resources? What challenges will need to be overcome if their potential is to be realized? How will they impact U.S. energy policy?

To address these questions, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and two of its programs ― the Environment and Natural Resources Program and the Geopolitics of Energy Project ― convened a group of experts from business, government, and academia on May 1, 2012, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The following report summarizes the major issues discussed at this workshop. Since the discussions were off-the-record, no comments are attributed to any individual. Rather, this report attempts to summarize the arguments on all sides of the issues.

May 24, 2006: Brooktrout Lake near Speculator, N.Y. in the Adirondacks. Brooktrout Lake was once a "dead" lake devastated by acid rain and is now a symbol of nature's ability to heal itself once pollutants are curbed.

AP Photo

Report - Harvard Environmental Economics Program

The SO2 Allowance Trading System and the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990: Reflections on Twenty Years of Policy Innovation

| January 2012

The introduction of the U.S. SO2 allowance-trading program to address the threat of acid rain as part of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 is a landmark event in the history of environmental regulation. The program was a great success by almost all measures. Ironically, cap and trade seems especially well suited to addressing the problem of climate change, in that emitted greenhouse gases are evenly distributed throughout the world's atmosphere. Recent hostility toward cap and trade in debates about U.S. climate legislation may reflect the broader political environment of the climate debate more than the substantive merits of market-based regulation.

Report - Energy Technology Innovation Policy Project, Belfer Center

Transforming U.S. Energy Innovation

The United States and the world need a revolution in energy technology—a revolution that would improve the performance of our energy systems to face the challenges ahead. In an intensely competitive and interdependent global landscape, and in the face of large climate risks from ongoing U.S. reliance on a fossil-fuel based energy system, it is important to maintain and expand long-term investments in the energy future of the U.S. even at a time of budget stringency. It is equally necessary to think about how to improve the efficiency of those investments, through strengthening U.S. energy innovation institutions, providing expanded incentives for private-sector innovation, and seizing opportunities where international cooperation can accelerate innovation. The private sector role is key: in the United States the vast majority of the energy system is owned by private enterprises, whose innovation and technology deployment decisions drive much of the country's overall energy systems.

The world's first grid-scale, flywheel-based energy storage plant is being built in Stephentown, N.Y. The plant is being built by Beacon Power Corporation (NASDAQ: BCON) & is supported by a $43 million loan guarantee from DOE.

Beacon Power Corp. Photo

Report - Energy Technology Innovation Policy Project, Belfer Center

Transforming the Energy Economy: Options for Accelerating the Commercialization of Advanced Energy Technologies

"The focus of the workshop was on the demonstration stage of the technology innovation cycle. Current policies do not adequately address the private sector’s inability to overcome the demonstration "valley of death" for new energy technologies. Investors and financiers fear that the technology and operational risks at this stage of the cycle remain too high to justify the level of investment to build a commercial-sized facility."

Conceptual drawing of a single B&W mPower™ nuclear reactor module inside its own independent, underground containment.

Babcock & Wilcox Photo

Report - Energy Technology Innovation Policy Project, Belfer Center

Tranforming the Energy Economy: Options for Accelerating the Commercialization of Advanced Energy Technologies—Framing Statement

"There is broad political consensus that the current energy system in the United States is unable to meet the nation's future energy needs, from the security, environment, and economic perspectives. New energy technologies are required to increase the availability of domestic energy supplies, to reduce the negative environmental impacts of our energy system, to improve the reliability of current energy infrastructure (e.g., smart grid, energy storage), and to increase energy efficiency throughout the economy."

CoalTech, a private company that is working out of Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Coal Research Center, is working with a larger-scale coal gasifier.

AP Photo

Paper - Energy Technology Innovation Policy Project, Belfer Center

Expert Elicitation of Cost, Performance, and RD&D Budgets for Coal Power with CCS

| September 28, 2010

There is uncertainty about the ex-ante returns to research, development, and demonstration programs in the United States on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. To quantify this uncertainty, we conducted a written expert elicitation of thirteen experts in fossil power and CCS technologies from the government, academia, and the private sector. We asked experts to provide their recommended budget and allocation of RD&D funds by specific fossil power and CCS technology and type of RD&D activity (i.e. basic research, applied research, pilot plants, and demonstration plants) for the United States....On average, experts estimated that if their recommended RD&D portfolio was implemented, the capital cost of new coal plants with CCS in 2030 would decrease by 10% in addition to the cost reductions/increases that would occur by 2030 through non-public RD&D related factors.