David B. Spence

Document Type



A national renewable portfolio standard (“RPS”) represents one way to move the American economy toward cleaner sources of energy. By requiring electricity providers to secure a specified percentage of their power from renewable sources, a national RPS would replace some fossilfueled power with cleaner power from solar, wind, biomass, and other renewable energy sources. As such, it represents one tool policy makers can use to reduce American emissions of greenhouse gases, which drive climate change. At the same time, a national RPS imposes its own costs— costs that make passage of a national RPS politically difficult. Renewable energy sources are, generally speaking, more expensive than conventional sources, meaning that increased reliance upon renewables implies higher electricity rates. While those higher rates will fall on today’s voters, many of the benefits of using renewable power will accrue to future generations and to people living outside of the United States. In addition, some parts of the country are blessed with more renewable energy potential than others, meaning that the national standard would impose more costs on some regions than others. This Article examines why these issues make supporting a national RPS politically risky and difficult for members of Congress.