UChicago scholars recommend climate and energy policies for Biden administration, Congress

New policy book offers ideas for reducing carbon emissions while maintaining strong economy

No longer a problem of the distant future, the costs of climate change from burning fossil fuels for energy are already exacting a toll on American lives and livelihoods.

From more damaging natural disasters to agricultural disruptions, these costs fall disproportionately on communities of color and America’s economically vulnerable. At the same time, as the United States works to restart its economy following the COVID-19 pandemic, energy must remain inexpensive, reliable and capable of fueling a robust recovery.

To help the Biden administration confront these challenges, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) has produced a compilation of evidence-based proposals to inform public policy: the U.S. Energy & Climate Roadmap. Grounded in research conducted by UChicago faculty, the book offers a robust and practical path forward for addressing climate and energy challenges.

“The most effective policy ideas are often cultivated in academia, where they are strengthened and enriched by the scrutiny of peers. Unfortunately, they are all too often hidden in academic journals and dusty libraries,” said Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and director of EPIC. “Our mission at EPIC is to develop these ideas and to deliver them to those who can make policy.”

bipartisan group of more than 20 current and former executive, congressional, state and industry leaders who are experts in the field have praised the book’s approach and policy proposals.

“EPIC’s Roadmap is grounded in empirical research but mindful of political realities, a winning combination if we are to make significant and timely progress on limiting climate change,” said Ernest Moniz, former U.S. Secretary of Energy under President Barack Obama. “The administration and Congress should pay attention to its cost-effective, practical recommendations.”

Chicago banker Henry Paulson, former Secretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush, agreed that policymakers should carefully consider the book’s recommendations.

“Climate change is the most formidable risk humanity faces, and there is no time to waste in tackling it,” Paulson said. “EPIC’s Roadmap provides a sharp, direct set of tools that can help shape regulatory and market conditions in the United States and around the world, allowing us to reduce carbon emissions and grow the economy at the same time.”

The book contains a comprehensive suite of energy and climate policies, including:

  • An overview of the magnitude of climate change’s likely impact in the United States, and its disproportionate consequences for disadvantaged communities.
  • Concrete changes to the way the government estimates the social cost of carbon to reflect the most cutting-edge research and understanding of climate economics. One of these changes was recently echoed in the Biden administration’s interim social cost of carbon.
  • Principles for pricing carbon and for ensuring that doing so does not harm U.S. businesses and workers, and ideas about how to use revenue from carbon pricing.
  • Proposals that could further the goal of achieving a carbon-free power sector by 2035, including ways to better integrate clean energy into the grid, expand renewable and potentially nuclear electricity generation, avoid power failures like the recent one in Texas and create a clean electricity standard.
  • Specific actions to make fuel efficiency standards more effective and to guide investments in energy efficiency programs.
  • Modifications to oil and gas leasing on public lands to ensure Americans receive fair value.
  • Detailed recommendations to remediate the effects of coal mining and provide support for coal communities. 

—Adapted from a release first published by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. Visit the EPIC website to read the full U.S. Energy & Climate Roadmap.