In this episode, host Daniel Raimi talks with Sarah Ladislaw, senior vice president and director and senior fellow of the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Barry Rabe, a professor of public policy, environmental policy, and political science at the University of Michigan. They reflect on some of the most significant developments in energy and environmental policy of the past year and predict how the federal approach to climate change will shift under a new US president. They note that, in spite of the official US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the rest of the world has continued to raise the bar for climate policy. One intriguing open question is whether the incoming Biden administration will enact climate policy by executive powers or the legislative process, both of which have their own trade-offs. And as various nations try to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, developing countries will have unique challenges as they pull out of an economic and public health slump while continuing to reckon with the impacts of climate change.
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- Ambitious emissions targets have gained traction in 2020: “If you strip away a lot of the ‘COVID parts’ of the 2020 dynamic, the other piece that I think 2020 will be remembered for is as the year when net-zero targets became the price of entry for ambitious climate policy—in the US context, China, the European Union, Japan, Korea, and a number of other places. … I think that that’s a material change from where we’ve been in the past.” ―Sarah Ladislaw (4:56)
- The United States has lagged in climate policy: “Not that long ago, everyone was pointing fingers and looking at how the European Union was stumbling along with their emissions trading system. Yet, as we look at the reforms of their cap-and-trade system, their proposal for a green deal, green bonds, border adjustment issues—Europe has really taken the lead on this. Even in our own backyard, if you go across the 49th parallel into Canada … lo and behold, the prime minister … is now gambling everything in his reelection on the idea of taking that [$50] carbon price, more than tripling it by the end of the current decade, and really making climate a fundamental cornerstone of public policy federalism in Canada. … As [the United States has] been dawdling, other parts of the world … have been moving on and elevating this issue—not just rhetorically, but in pretty substantial public policies.” ―Barry Rabe (9:10)
- Developing countries face unique challenges in recovering from COVID-19: “I think it’s really important to understand all the stimulus dollars that are going to be key for making sure that developed economies and other economies around the world are able to make new investments and pull out of a recessionary position. … There’s just so many countries out there that are deeply indebted. … They’re not going to have the upwards of $10 trillion that countries have spent to try and stabilize their economies. … It’s really important for us to think about how we double down and address that agenda in this new context … to make sure that not only do these places get the health and vaccine attention that they need, but also that we don’t lose ground on these really important [climate] targets that we set for ourselves for a reason.” ―Sarah Ladislaw (12:27)
The Full Transcript
Daniel Raimi: Hello, and welcome to Resources Radio, a weekly podcast from Resources for the Future. I'm your host, Daniel Raimi. This week we say, “So long, 2020!” and look ahead to 2021. To do so, I'm joined by two of the smartest energy and environmental thinkers around: Sarah Ladislaw, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Barry Rabe, from the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. I'll ask Sarah and Barry to reflect on the crazy year that was 2020. In particular, which developments in energy and environmental policy are likely to stay with us? And what will be some of the legacies of the Trump presidency? We'll also talk about what policy might look like under a Biden administration, which has laid out ambitious climate goals, but likely faces a challenging political landscape. Stay with us.
Sarah Ladislaw from CSIS and Barry Ray from the Ford School at the University of Michigan, two of the smartest people I know on energy and environmental topics, thank you so much for joining us today on this special year end edition of Resources Radio.
Sarah Ladislaw: Thanks for having us.
Barry Rabe: Absolutely. Thank you, Daniel.
Daniel Raimi: So, we're going to skip the usual intros this week, because both of you have been on the show before. I'll refer listeners to previous episodes, if you want Barry's background or Sarah's background and how they got into working on energy and environment. We'll just dive in. So, this year, we're going to look back at 2020, and then we're going to look forward into what may be ahead for 2021. I want to let everybody know that we're recording this on December 18th. So if there's anything really exciting that happens in the next couple of weeks, we might not talk about it on today's episode. But let's start off looking back at 2020.
Sarah, can I ask you first, and then Barry, to just reflect on what has happened this year. That's a big question. Obviously 2020 is a year that most of us will want to forget, at least in large part, but we probably won't be able to forget it. It's an important year. So when you look back at 2020, what do you think will be the one or two most important developments in terms of energy and environment that we won't be able to forget?
Sarah Ladislaw: Thanks, Daniel, and thanks for having me back. I think that's great. Having done this with you last year, I'm feeling a little trepidatious about this, because we didn't see at all a what 2020 was going to be. I'm feeling like I've got to be really creative, but happy holidays and happy end of the year to everybody.
I think there's two ways that I look at 2020 and the things that we won't forget. I mean, the first and perhaps most interesting piece to me as an analyst is, we got to experience what a real genuine shock to the energy system looks like. There was a myriad of ways in which that was super interesting. Rather than go through all of them, I think for me taking a look at what the oil market drop in consumption looked like, it was not just a 25 to 30 percent drop in consumption almost overnight in the second quarter of 2020, but it was precipitated by two of the largest oil suppliers in the market running up their contributions to an oversupplied market already.
It was such an amazing thing to watch as the global oil industry came to a screeching halt and had to figure out how to take this massive global supply chain and slow it down. In all of the different intricacies of thinking about what it means for the stability and the longevity of different parts of that market and the oil sector in particular, in the near term, and in the longer term, it was endlessly fascinating and very different from most oil supply shocks that we've thought about over the course of my career and many other people's careers. When I think back on 2020, the impact of a shock will be the thing that I spent a lot of time this year that I didn't expect to spend thinking about that issue.
On a broader level, I would love to be able to say that it was the year when we got some definitive direction in terms of building back better, and really took the opportunity to figure out how to use a shock like this and a global experience like a pandemic to make positive contributions. Maybe we can talk about this later to the global climate challenge and a whole bunch of other issues. I'm still on the fence about whether that's actually going to be an outcome from this year.
I do think if you kind of strip away a lot of the “COVID parts” of the 2020 dynamic, the other piece that I think 2020 will be remembered for is the year when net-zero targets became the price of entry for ambitious climate policy—in the US context, China, the European Union, Japan, Korea, and a number of other places. (Whether we make good on those targets is a totally different question.) In the government space, in the private sector space, this year was the year that said, "If it's not net zero by 2050, then it's not a serious target." I think that that's a material change from where we've been in the past.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, absolutely. Those are two great points and super important things I will definitely remember. Barry, over to you. What do you think we won't be able to forget from 2020?
Barry Rabe: When I was listening to the two of you talk about these kinds of issues about a year ago, I was thinking even then, "How would I be looking toward the future?" If there was a kind of conventional wisdom that I bought into at that time, is that in elections in places like the United States, issues like energy and harm and climate are so important and so interesting. Yet we really would not expect them ever to get close to the very top of a political agenda in an election year. There are just too many competing considerations for that to happen. Yet, if we look back on this Election Odyssey of 2020, including some of the early democratic primaries, the extent to which these issues, particularly climate, surfaced, and we had all of these democratic candidates—all of them trying to top one another in terms of what they would do, their range of policies and approach—that's kind of racing to the top.
Even the idea that you have a special town hall meeting focused just on climate, it's really amazing. Then the Democratic Party nominates someone who's more moderate. Yet what does he do after a remarkable victory? He reaches back to some of his opponents who were calling for more ambitious goals and targets and embrace as many of their positions, running completely contrary to what we expect a nominee to do. Going into the late fall, especially when we were looking at the idea, remember, a Biden double-digit victory. A blowout victory for Democrats in the House and the Senate. Major shifts and changes in governorships and state legislatures.
We had an election where the environment, energy and climate was talked about a lot. A lot of new people came out to vote, some of whom were probably influenced by climate. But at the end of the day, we emerged with an election outcome that leaves us with this set of uncertainties about what really is the future direction—especially at the federal level, but not just at the federal level, if we look at election results.
We can say that 2020 shows that climate change is visible. It's drawing more people in than ever before. But at the end of the day, does it deliver clear mandates or at least candidates and parties who align behind a specific agenda, especially if we're talking about moving legislation through Congress or with broad buy-in across diverse states? Probably not. That, to me, is perhaps one of the bigger takeaways in this area and actually somewhat of a surprise, given the fact that I really never expected to see an election, at least not in 2020, where these issues would figure so prominently for so many candidates.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, that's so true. We're going to come back to that question of what might be feasible in the new administration in a few minutes. But before we do that, I want to ask again each of you to maybe pick a topic that you think was really interesting, or a development that happened this year that you think is really interesting, but that maybe didn't get as much attention as some of these really big picture issues that we've just mentioned. Let's start with Barry this time. Barry, can you tell us one issue that's on your radar that maybe hasn't been on everyone else's?
Barry Rabe: For me, although most of my work focuses on the United States, it is to see how rapidly a policy agenda has moved forward outside the United States. Not that long ago everyone was pointing fingers and looking at how the European Union was stumbling along with their emissions trading system. Yet, as we look at the reforms of their cap-and-trade system, their proposal for a green deal, green bonds, border adjustment issues, Europe has really kind of taken the lead on this. Even in our own backyard, if you go across the 49th parallel into Canada, a country which stumbled for decades on the climate file, has huge federalism divides over these issues, has found a way to put not only a climate policy, but a fairly robust carbon price moving toward $50 a ton in place across the country. Lo and behold, the prime minister, elected once, reelected one time, is now gambling everything in his reelection on the idea of taking that carbon price and more than tripling it by the end of the current decade, and really making climate a fundamental cornerstone of public policy federalism in Canada.
For me, it's a reminder that in the United States, we're so often focused on what the United States is doing—Congress and states—and this is all hugely important, but as we've been kind of dawdling, at least other parts of the world that we normally pay attention to and we trade a lot of goods with, have been moving on and is elevating this issue, not just rhetorically, but in pretty substantial public policies.
Daniel Raimi: Absolutely. My sense of that is that it's been such a crazy year for so many reasons and the political turmoil that we've endured along with, of course, the economic and the public health crises that we've been living through. It's made it hard on people's attention spans to look outside of our own borders, but you make a great point that there's so much important stuff happening in these other jurisdictions. How about you, Sarah? What's a topic that you found really interesting that maybe hasn't been talked about quite as widely?
Sarah Ladislaw: I certainly get asked the most about what this year means for aspirant global targets as they relate to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Are we going to be more on track or less on track for hitting some of our climate goals in that sense? Relatively, there's been less focus on the potential longer term impacts of the COVID-19 economic downturn and what that might mean for some of our other sustainable development goals, in particular energy poverty alleviation. I think it hasn't been highlighted nearly to the degree that the other side of the ledger has. When you look at the goalkeeper’s report or the recent Ending Energy Poverty task force has taken a look and is saying, "We were making a lot of progress on this goal of universal energy access and perhaps being able to move past that." But COVID-19, and the potential long-term economic downturn for many developing economies could actually set us back and we need to be very careful about making sure that doesn't happen.
I think that it's really important to understand all of the stimulus dollars that are going to be so key for making sure that developed economies and other economies around the world are able to make new investments and pull out of a recessionary position. All of these things are so fundamental to the energy demand trajectory, which is just such a big part of understanding what the energy system is going to do over the next several years. There's just so many countries out there that are deeply indebted. They don't have the same latitude. They're not going to have the upwards of beyond $10 trillion that countries have spent to try and stabilize their economies. They're not going to have the options to do that.
It's really important for us to think about how we double down and address that agenda in this new context, whether or not developed economies that are spending money on their own recovery are going to be able to, and what is the best strategic way for them to spend that money in developing country contexts to make sure that not only do these places get the health and vaccine attention that they need, but also that we just don't lose ground on these really important targets that we set for ourselves for a reason. That's something that I see relatively less attention on this year that I've been trying to pay a little bit more attention to.
Daniel Raimi: That's all really well said, and so true, and exacerbated or highlighted by the topic you just mentioned of vaccines, and to what extent will vaccine distribution reach lower income people, lower income countries over time. It's going to be really important. One more question looking back, and then we're going to look forward. When we look back at the Trump administration the last four years, there are a large number of critiques that each of us could probably offer around energy and environmental policy. But are there energy or environmental policies that have been developed under the administration that you'd like to see continued, that you think were good ideas, that you hope the Biden administration will follow through with? Sarah, let's start with you on this one.
Sarah Ladislaw: Yeah, Daniel, I particularly like this question, because it allows me to cheat and add another one of my things that really changed in 2020.
Daniel Raimi: Cool.
Sarah Ladislaw: Another thing 2020 has going for it is that it's the year that it became even more clear that countries are moving closer to enacting industrial strategy as it relates not just to the energy sector, but different portions of its economy. This is an issue that we've spent a huge amount of time on this year. It really seems to have solidified in new ways because of a lot of the things that happened in 2020. Here, while it is very different, the manifestation of protectionism under the Trump administration, there are some things that the Trump administration has done that on the face of it are good things to do.
They could probably be done better, or they could be done more strategically, but they do fit in along the lines of this paradigm shift that we think that we see in terms of the role of government in energy economies around the world. One of them is the reconstitution of EXIM and the creation of the DFC, which used to be OPEC. And really this focus on thinking about export financing and how the United States looks to support the development and deployment of technologies—clean energy technologies, hopefully. I think that was the right move. I think that that's a direction the United States is going to have to keep going in.
I think a Biden administration will probably have a very different color and feel to how they utilize those tools, but the idea that the United States and the government in a more formalized way is going to have to think about how it competes in terms of the global deployment of technologies. The development of those technologies I think is right, and the Trump administration was right to focus attention on those things. It's probably something I would imagine the Biden administration would take forward.
Daniel Raimi: Right, for sure. So, and just to make sure our listeners get the acronyms. EXIM I imagine is referring to the Export–Import Bank?
Sarah Ladislaw: Yep.
Daniel Raimi: And DFC?
Sarah Ladislaw: The Development Finance Corporation. That used to be the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. They've reconstituted it, renamed it to the Development Finance Corporation.
Daniel Raimi: Great. Got it. I think we actually talked about that with Todd Moss on an episode.
Sarah Ladislaw: Yes. Yeah, I'm sure you did.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, great. Okay. Barry, how about you? What, if any, policies do you want to see carried forward from the Trump years?
Barry Rabe: Well, it's not an exhaustive list, Daniel, so I'm not going to filibuster the rest of our time by going through this. But I use a couple of examples that do illustrate perhaps the ability of American government institutions over the last four years to work, at least at times. One of them is something that is passed through the Congress and signed into law by the president—something we haven't seen any president or Congress get together on for a long time. This is the shoring up of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The use of royalties from offshore energy production and putting that into a trust fund that is used to support land and water conservation. This is a policy that has languished, has struggled uncertainties about the royalties, reluctance by various congresses to fully engage in a spending program, possibly to make the deficit look a little smaller than it actually is.
We've actually had Congress do this thing, legislation, and a president signed it. There was the legislation in 2019 named after John Dingell, and the Great American Outdoors Act did pass last year, signed into law by the president with a word we talk about a lot, but more in historical terms that it really happened, bipartisan support in both legislative chambers. $900 million a year annually, a $12 billion fund for deferred National Park Service maintenance—not a massive lift. This is not the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act or a broad carbon bill, but in these times, it is something. I also would say that I would give the Trump administration reasonably high marks for its early implementation of the biggest environmental bill passed in the Obama administration, the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act of 2016.
It had been since 1976 that the Toxic Substances Control Act was passed—a weak program, but one that was never able to be reauthorized. It was in the last gasp of the Obama years. I would say that this is one that the Trump EPA took seriously, began to follow performance measures and basic provisions and put all of the provisions of that legislation in place and set up a Biden administration to keep moving forward in this area of chemical safety.
Those are, again, not landmark kinds of accomplishments, but at least they provided some reminder for me that even in these horribly contentious times, that the basic administrative functions of government can be pursued. Once in a while, it's possible to put something together that has environmental and energy relevance that involves the Congress of the United States with players from both chambers and both parties.
Daniel Raimi: Those are great points. It's so nice to celebrate the wins when they happen, because they've become so rare, unfortunately, in recent years. Thank you to both of you for all of those thoughts. Let's turn now to the future. As I mentioned, we're recording on December 18. There've just been a slew of announcements from President-Elect Biden about some of the major appointments in different cabinet level agencies. So, we've got Governor Granholm taking over at the Department of Energy. We've got Representative Holland at the Interior, Michael Regan, North Carolinian (which I always like), at EPA. Really important roles for John Kerry, Gina McCarthy on climate policy, and many other folks. When you think about this team, you think about the administration, and you look to the year ahead, most likely with the divided Congress, what kind of progress do you think might be realistic to expect in terms of environmental issues, particularly climate change? Going back and forth, we'll start with Barry again on this one.
Barry Rabe: Well, as you know, listing all those names, this is a very, very experienced team. These are folks who have a lot of federal experience, state experience, in some cases both. It's a very strong team and it's reasonable to anticipate that this is an administration that will hit the ground running. With that, there are some big questions and choices, and there is an executive path here and a legislative path. The executive path is obviously an intriguing one. A Biden administration will not be the first one to weigh and think about this. It has now been 30 years since the last Clean Air Act was passed. 33 years since Clean Water. Presidents tend to get in and try to move the administrative levers as much as they can. Clearly team Biden is going to move in that direction, going back to the Clean Air Act, but possibly lots of other new permutations, innovations, and twists, and really kind of push out the outer boundaries of executive power—as much as Barack Obama did, much as Donald Trump did, but probably in some new ways that are even hard to anticipate right now. Of course, that is promising and exciting, because you can get things done without going through Congress. On the other hand, there's always the fragility issue, or the lack of durability. I've lost track of the number of policies at both the federal and state level that I've tracked over the years that really bore the embrace of a governor or president. You work out the executive orders, you start the regulatory process, but 10 years later, there's not much there. As we saw in the Obama administration, unless you know exactly what you want to do early, you can be confident that you can run the gamuts through the courts. A federal judiciary that'll have over 230 new Trump appointees waiting for the next administration.
A great many of these proposals will immediately face challenges in the courts and resistance from a great number of states. That's a gauntlet that any administrative action has to weigh and consider. It means that executive action as attractive as it is, is not necessarily a slam dunk. Especially if we're talking about something that is enduring, sets clear market signals and policies that can last for decades, and really guide us in the directions we need to go in terms of carbon and everything else. That then turns to the legislative side. And I don't want to revisit the Great American Outdoors Act, but the whole question begins to emerge. What can ruin realistically expect of a Congress at least over the next couple of years, really, regardless in some respects of what happens in Georgia. Here, clearly, this is going to be difficult, but I do think we've even seen in the last few weeks, with the movement for the Energy Innovation bill and the role that Lisa Murkowski is playing in the Senate. The possibility of a real phase out of HFCs, if not in this legislative term, into the next one.
There will be uses of the reconciliation process and stimulus spending coming forward. One thing that clearly we are going to see next year is the need and demand for more revenue to pump up the economy, that is going to include states. I do tend to think that there'll at least be some opportunities for congressional engagement, relevant to climate and energy and environmental considerations that involve money. Raising money through some kind of a tax mechanism, spending that money in greener ways. Hopefully we bring both of these paths together, both the legislative and the executive and develop something robust, but it's not going to be the kind of bold dynamic legislative output that one might have expected based on some of the earlier thoughts about where the Congress was going to go in the election.
Daniel Raimi: Absolutely. And I know you didn't really do this, but it sounded like, Barry, you just predicted a carbon price.
Barry Rabe: I would never say never. There are possibilities and paths, but you know, one of the powers that Congress clearly does have is tax and spend. As we think of different kinds of taxes, fees, other kinds of things, I do think at some point we will be revisiting that issue, both because of the importance of the pricing role on carbon, but also because of the need for revenue long term to pay for things. And I think we're seeing this pattern all over the world. Places that do carbon prices are doing it, not just to put that proverbial price on carbon, but then also using that for transition revenue for multiple purposes. So, I don't think near term, but I don't think it's off the table entirely.
Daniel Raimi: Right, great. Sarah, how about you? What do you think is realistic in the months and years ahead?
Sarah Ladislaw: A lot of what Barry said makes a lot of sense, and I agree with most of it. Maybe starting where you ended, I too would never take a carbon price off the table. I'm also not putting it on the table anytime soon. It makes so much sense, and trust me, I would be the first person out of the gate to welcome it should it happen. I'm at much more fundamental levels of where partisan rancor will be at the federal level period. It would be amazing to have genuine interest in deficit reduction and all of those types of things, but I don't really feel like that's where we're going to be. I think it's going to be a conversation about how cheap money really is and how much you can spend before you have to worry about getting your house in order.
I see us arguing to the upside of what you can spend and not worry about it in this new world, versus deciding we're going to do anything that would be painful for a politician to do—particularly given the fact that I think we have to reflect on how divided the electorate really is. I mean, here we are, three weeks into December, and we're just getting the Republican Party, hopefully more of them, to agree to the fact that the election outcome is what it is. So we're in a difficult place and I'm hoping that there's going to be an area for compromise going forward, but that's why I'm not looking for any real breakthroughs on things like carbon taxes.
I think the couple of things that I would add to Barry's really great points are, there's so much about the Biden administration that is very similar to the Obama administration in the idea of coming in at a time of economic crisis, looking to stimulus for opportunity, and having a plan that you came in with that you were sort of hoping would be the reality, and it's not necessarily that. There's parts of that that make me kind of think, "Oh, well, why won't this just be a story we've seen before?" I think the answer is because the real economy has changed. To the extent that the executive branch starts to send signals in all sorts of ways about the primacy of climate thinking in regulatory policy making, not just in the normal places you would expect to see that language, but across the board.
Through every economic policy made through the NEC under the leadership of Brian Deese, through Janet Yellen at the Treasury Department and thinking about all of the ways in which they intervene in the economy. I just think it's going to be everywhere. It won't be everywhere in the pace that the Obama administration had to ramp up, like Barry said. It's going to be what they knew at the end of the administration and how to implement all of that. I think the real economy will be so much more receptive to those signals, because we've just made a lot of progress in terms of improving the cost of clean energy technologies and thinking about what the next phases are for integration. I would be very surprised if this team wasn't super creative about how to create new avenues and vectors of change that are not necessarily just how do we reimplement regulatory policy that has a new strategy and therefore might be more durable in the courts.
I do expect them to do that. What I'm thinking about is, what about looking to states and regions for compliments of activity with public private sector collaboration to create industrial strategies for those regions. How do you get willing counterparts at the state and regional and private sector level, at the investor level, to really mobilize strategies that the federal government on its own is going to be pretty hampered to do. I see that potential also existing on the international side. There's lots of different ways in which the United States can intervene in a post-Paris environment to say, "Let's set some new goals. Let's try and revitalize some momentum here."
I have a lot of hope that it's going to actually be productive. What I don't have a lot of hope for is that it's going to be clear and unmessy. It's not until the administration will have to go ahead and put forward some sort of NDC [nationally determined contribution], probably through some sort of long-term target that we'll see how all of these activities might add up to something substantial. But it just won't look like what people would hope to see is, "Okay, well, here's exactly how we're going to meet these emissions reduction targets. Here's the policy signal that's long-term. I just, I don't think that's going to happen. I think it's going to be more of a scrappy game than that.
I do think that if you look at the kind of people that have been put into this team, they're smart enough and they're empowered enough to try and be creative along those fronts. I think those new vectors of activity that may not just be executive branch to the legislative branch negotiations are areas that I'm looking for kind of new approaches.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, that's so fascinating. The idea that they're going to be lots of different arrows shooting at the same kind of target and how to piece those (really mixing metaphors here!)—how to put those puzzle pieces together to create an entire picture is going to be really interesting and important. It actually reminds me of a metaphor I've been thinking about lately with administrative action, policy carried out through administrative action. It reminds me of this rule they have now in European soccer called the Virtual Assistant Referee, and—stay with me for a second …
Sarah Ladislaw: What?
Daniel Raimi: So the way that soccer works these days is you score a goal. Or, if a player scores a goal, there's an automatic review period that gets carried out. There's a video referee watches replays of the goal and decides if it really was a goal or not, or if there was some infraction, minor infraction that took place beforehand. When a goal is scored, you really don't know if the goal is going to count. You sort of have to wait for it to go through this arbitration period. Then, maybe a couple minutes after the goal is scored, you'll know if it's going to show up on the scoreboard or not. That's kind of how I've been thinking about executive action on climate policy. Does that make any sense?
Sarah Ladislaw: I just want to say I'm so convinced that if we paid as much attention to policy as we do to like innovations in sports, we'd be set, you know?
Daniel Raimi: I'm all for it. So Sarah and Barry, I could ask you so many more questions and learned so much, but we're at time. I'm going to close us out with the same question that we ask all of our guests at the end of our shows to recommend something that's on the top of your literal or metaphorical reading stack. Sarah, last year you recommended The Wizard and the Prophet, which I quickly picked up and read and thoroughly enjoyed. So I'm really looking forward to your and Barry's recommendations. Sarah, why don't you start us off?
Sarah Ladislaw: This will be a little bit different. I've read a lot of energy books. There's been just a, I would just say to everyone who I know and has sent me a book that they've written on energy this year, there's been a proliferation of them. They are all excellent. So I'm going to go with one that has surprised me, which is that I just recently finished Pete Buttigieg's book, Trust. I was fascinated, because there was a chapter in there on trust and climate change. It really resonated with me, because I'm a human being that's also an energy and climate wonk that was wondering, What is going on in our society, and how do we figure out how to put it all back together again?
It was so interesting to see these questions of trust and trust in society and policymaking applied to the issue of climate change. I won't give away what it says, but I do think it was refreshing. I mean, particularly we have a podcast called Theories of Change. Sorry; I don't mean to podcast-drop to anyone.
Daniel Raimi: Everybody has a podcast, and they’re all welcome.
Sarah Ladislaw: But we all have podcasts now, so that's just a new one of ours. But it's really about how to think about climate change from very different perspectives, this one about trust. I don't think we typically think about that, but it is. I think there were really interesting insights in that chapter in his book. So if you were inclined to read the book anyway, or you want to check it out, I thought it was well worth considering it from that vantage point.
Daniel Raimi: Great. Barry, how about you?
Barry Rabe: Well, so for the record, I don't have a podcast to plug. Daniel, I keep thinking of you now in a referee uniform, waving a flag to decide whether an executive action is credible or not. It's going to change the way I think about this area. But back to your question: I've been reading much more outside, un-American context. One book in particular that has caught my attention by Paasha Mahdavi, professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, called Power Grab: Political Survival Through Extractive Resource Nationalization. So much of what we see in sort of external energy production, oil, petrostates, is so heavily focused from a lens of economics. What Mahdavi does is look at this in terms of politics, elections, particularly in those governments around the world that have large oil and gas deposits, petrostates, and what this means in terms of their ability to function as political systems. I found that very rich.
Somewhat relatedly, but on a little bit of a different vein, a terrific book for those who want to understand what's going on with our neighbors in the north—Canada—is Douglas McDonald from the University of Toronto, a book called Carbon Province, Hydro Province, where he really explains why energy climate environment is so hard in a big sprawling federal system like Canada. Yet, at times they can begin to get it right. I especially like this book, as it talks about federalism and the conditions under which different regions, Sarah, this goes back to your point about states and regionalism, which I think is so important in the United States and a lot of other places—why that's so hard in Canada, but why at times it's been possible to pull things together.
Daniel Raimi: Two fantastic recommendations. I'm familiar with both of those scholars' works and would just second your comments, Barry. Well, it's been a crazy year, everybody—2020! Goodness gracious. But this is a really wonderful way to close it out, I know, for me, and hopefully for our listeners, too. So, Sarah and Barry, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your expertise with us. It's been great and really fun.
Sarah Ladislaw: Thank you. And a happy and safe holiday to everybody.
Barry Rabe: Thank you so much. Happy New Year.
Daniel Raimi: You've been listening to Resources Radio. Learn how to support resources for the future at rff.org/support. If you have a minute, we'd really appreciate you leaving us a rating or comment on your podcast platform of choice. Also feel free to send us your suggestions for future episodes. Resources Radio is a podcast from resources for the future. RFF is an independent nonprofit research institution in Washington, D.C. Our mission is to improve environmental, energy and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. The views expressed on this podcast are solely those of the podcast guests, and may differ from those of RFF experts, its officers or its directors. RFF does not take positions on specific legislative proposals. Resources Radio is produced by Elizabeth Wason, with music by me, Daniel Raimi. Join us next week for another episode.