The role of social movements and political institutions in shaping renewable energy policies
3.1 Hess, David., Quan D. Mai, Rachel Skaggs and Magdalena Sudibjo. “Local Matters: Geographical Scale and Media Support for Green Jobs and Green Economic Development.” Forthcoming in Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions.
We develop an approach to the politics of sustainability transitions by bringing attention to the political opportunity structure at different levels of spatial scale. We focus on policy conflicts in the U.S. as represented in the media during the Obama administration years of 2007 -2013, when the opportunity structure became increasingly closed. We argue that these policies were framed as green jobs and green economic development in an attempt to overcome opposition, and we show that media reports of these policies at the national and global level are less positive than at the local and state-government level. Work on the politics of transitions can benefit from paying to pay attention to scalar differences in political opportunities. The topic is especially important in countries where conservative parties have gained control of the national government and have halted transition policy development.
3.2 Hess, David, Quan D. Mai and Kate P. Brown. 2016.“Red Times, Green Laws: Ideology and Renewable Energy in the United States”. Energy Research and Social Sciences 11: 19-28. (External Link)
We develop a novel, mixed methods approach to examine the relationship between political ideology and support for renewable energy and energy efficiency (REEE) policies. Through qualitative analysis of interviews with state-government legislators in the U.S., we show that when legislators evaluate and justify their support for and opposition to different types of renewable energy and energy efficiency (REEE) policies, they distinguish bills based on frames that are related to ideological differences (e.g., tax decreases, government efficiency, regulation, mandates, government spending). In turn the qualitative distinctions among bills are associated with quantitative differences in levels of support and success for the policies. Using data from a longitudinal analysis of 188 major state-government laws passed from 2004 to 2014 and a cross-sectional set of 709 passed and unpassed laws from 2011 to 2012, we show that REEE policies configured as mandates (e.g., renewable portfolio standards) have consistently lower levels of support than for similar REEE policies configured as tax reductions, reduction of government waste by increasing building efficiency, authorization of local government action, and regulatory reduction. Thus, via both quantitative and qualitative analysis, we show that there are important ideology-associated differences in REEE policy that point to opportunities for more successful policy design.
3.3 Hess, David J., Jonathan S. Coley, Quan D. Mai and Lucas Hilliard. 2015. “Party Differences and Energy Reform: Fiscal Conservatism in the California Legislature”. Environmental Politics 24(2): 228-248. (External Link)
Research building on political economy and ecological modernization theories has paid increasing attention to the conditions that affect the prospects for environmental reform. Much work focuses on variation among political units in support of a single type of energy policy, whereas we examine within-state variation in support of a wide range of energy reform policies. Applying multilevel analyses to the 2011–2012 legislative session in California, we identify bill characteristics associated with divisions between Republicans and Democrats. Expanding the size or scope of government (through spending, government commissions, and business regulations) reduces support for energy reform among Republicans, whereas promoting transparency and other ‘good government’ initiatives reduces support among Democrats. In contrast with the standard view that Republicans oppose almost all energy reforms proposed by Democrats, we identify bill characteristics that increase the likelihood of support from both parties, namely tax reductions and credits, including for bills that promote renewable energy.
3.4 Hess, David J. and Quan D. Mai. 2014. “The Convergence of Economic Development and Energy Transition Policies in State Governments”. Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy 11(1): 1-16. (External Link)
Because elected officials and voting publics in the United States have disagreed with policies to decrease greenhouse-gas emissions and increase renewable energy, research is needed to help guide practitioners toward policy initiatives that are less likely to trigger opposition. This study assesses one type of policy for which disagreements may be less heated: economic development targets for industrial sectors in U.S. state governments that sup- port the renewable energy and clean technology (RE&CT) industrial sector. A review of state-government plans and strategy statements shows that support for plans with a sectoral strategy does not divide strongly along party lines, and likewise there are Republican governors who support plans for targeted economic development strategies that include their state’s RE&CT sector. However, there is some ideological opposition to sectoral targeting in general, and a qualitative comparative analysis indicates that in states with both strong fossil-fuel employment and Republican governors, support is weaker for the RE&CT sector in the plans. Overall, whereas opportunities for political compromise are blocked in many policy arenas for renewable energy and greenhouse gas regulation, the arena of green economic development appears to offer modest opportunities.
3.5 Hess, David J., and Quan D. Mai. 2014. “Renewable Energy Policy in Asia: A Qualitative Comparative Analysis of Factors Affecting Sustainability Transitions”. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 12(1): 31-46. (External Link)
A qualitative comparative analysis was undertaken of 18 Asian countries to determine factors that influence the pace of their sustainability transitions toward increased renewable energy for electricity. We develop a policy index based on renewable electricity targets, feed-in tariffs, and emissions trading schemes in these countries. Countries with a relatively low level of current renewable electricity generation but with relatively high scores on the policy index are wealthier and more democratic. Likewise, countries with a relatively high level of renewable electricity generation and with lagging renewable electricity policy tend to be poorer, more authoritarian, and endowed with higher levels of fossil-fuel resources. Thus, our analysis points to factors other than GDP per capita that could explain the relative stasis or progress of a country toward a sustainable energy transition. Implications for the literature on the political and societal (or “landscape”) dimensions of sustainability transitions are discussed.
3.6, Mai, Quan and Jonathan Coley. “The Ecology of Environmental Association: Spillover, Competition, and Membership in the Sierra Club” – working paper.