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Hey, did anyone notice that we released an RPS paper this week?

Whew! Quite a discussion.

I am not an RPS expert, so I don't have a lengthy thread coming on the substance of the paper or the responses. But I do have a few thoughts on releasing a paper like this.
First, a lot of the responses have kept largely to substance. While I do not agree with all of @JesseJenkins responses to the paper, I think it is noteworthy that he has kept his comments focused on the paper's analysis.

That is the core of what makes #energytwitter so good.
But many of the responses have veered into other areas that I think are less valid.

A big one is that many people seem to think we did something special by releasing this paper or hosting an event to discuss it.

That is just not correct.
It is quite common in economics to release working papers to the public and media. NBER produces a roll-up of new economics working papers every week:

The list is popular hunting ground for reporters, and these papers are frequently in the media.
EPIC releases lots of papers this way. We did not do anything different in this case.

We also do events on papers. These are open to the public and are specifically designed to openly grapple with the findings from papers. I think it is something everyone should do.
I find it especially rich to see people decrying the public release of a working paper by unconflicted academics with a long and stellar track record, while simultaneously being perfectly happy to send around unreviewed think tank work, as long as it fits their priors.
I have also seen people question whether we have some kind of ulterior motive in releasing a paper like this.

It is really insulting to say the least.
If you look at the breadth of EPIC research, it is vital, trailbalzing work quantifying the effects of climate change, measuring the deadly consequences of air pollution, identifying cost-effective solutions for regulation and energy access in developing countries, and more.
But yes, as an economics -driven institute, we are also obsessed with cost-effectiveness. We all should be!

So a lot of the work is by leading economists who are trying desperately, frantically even, to construct an evidence-based cost curve for climate policy.
Because I have been watching this debate unfold, I saw the clip of the guy in Ohio asking about cost at an RPS hearing. (I tried not to click, but failed.)

I understand that he is not harboring secret support for a carbon tax and just trying to drive the debate there. But...
I also believe that policymakers should absolutely ask about cost. To do otherwise is just an abject failure.

So much of the reaction here seemed to suggest he was out of line for asking that question. Is that really where we want to be? I think it is a mistake.
To the paper itself and the reactions, I will just note a few things.

1. A bunch of commentary has suggested that because the paper looked at the period from 1990 to 2015, its estimates are only high because it ignores technology costs.

This is incorrect.
The paper finds that high costs were driven by indirect (no-tech) costs, and in fact costs increased over the period. At a minimum, this suggests that falling technology costs did not offset the other costs.

This is important and offers real insight about policy going forward.
2. Other reactions have focused on the fact that many RPSs have differences, and looking the average is wrong.

Look, all RPSs have this in common: they mandate a set of technologies that the market is not choosing on is own. That raises costs!

100% of RPSs have wind and solar.
And I disagree that it is a mistake to look at the average. At this point, RPSs cover a huge part of the country. They are becoming a stand-in for a national climate policy.

In that context, it is important to have an understanding of what they cost in the aggregate.
Others may want to measure it differently. Great! But don't cast aside the idea of measuring it in this way.
3. To the point about whether the paper captures all costs and benefits of RPS policies, the researchers are quite clear that the paper does not attempt to quantify technology benefits.

That point is in the paper abstract, so it is not as if the researchers ignored it.
As far as I can tell, there isn't great evidence on this question one way or the other. But saying it was not included in this analysis is a long way from definitively saying that RPS programs were a successful technology policy.
I will just finish by stressing that I think this kind of research is vital, and that grappling with its implications, strengths, limitations, etc. is equally vital. I am 100 percent on board with that debate.
But I think that devolving into nastiness is a dead end.

The great thing about #energytwitter is that that element is frequently absent. (More light than heat!)

It is the reason I stay on here, only follow energy people, and would never dip a toe in Facebook.
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