Why do even successful
clean energy policies fail to create momentum for more renewable energy? In her new book Short Circuiting Policy: Interest Groups and the Battle Over Clean Energy and Climate Policy in the American States
(Oxford University Press, 2020), Leah Stokes
analyzes policy-making in Texas, Kansas, Arizona, and Ohio to understand the dynamics of clean energy policy. This remarkably ambitious work urges political scientists to refocus on the manner in which interest groups prevent or reverse clean energy policies. Her case studies reveal the particular conditions and mechanisms through which interest groups “short circuit” policy by undermining and obscuring policy feedback.
This rich and nuanced qualitative study of several cases yields insights on the role that ambiguity plays in policy change. The “fog of enactment” (the gap between actors expectations and the policy’s actual outcome) helps explain why it is so difficult to implement
clean energy policy. Because ambiguity shrinks after implementation and actors learn and update their beliefs, powerful fossil fuel interest groups can drive policy changes after implementation in ways that thwart clean energy policy. The book translates climate science for political scientists – and presents political dynamics in a manner accessible to all readers who care about climate change.
The podcast includes a fascinating discussion of how the findings of the book map onto the policies and priorities of the Democratic candidates for the presidency.
Susan Liebell is associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Democracy, Intelligent Design, and Evolution: Science for Citizenship