Escalating energy demand may be the most important issue facing the US and the world today. The production, processing, distribution, and conversion of energy consume an increasingly large share of economic activity; they drive international politics and they threaten the long-term health of the planet. As a result, there is little disagreement that R&D is needed to develop the energy technologies of the future. However, there is less agreement over the exact research agenda to be pursued, the timing of related R&D activities, and how those activities should be funded. A key question for the US and other market-based countries is determining the roles of the private sector versus the public sector when setting the agenda for energy R&D. It is generally accepted that basic R&D has public good characteristics and that there is a strong role for government guidance and subsidies. Similarly, in the US and other market-based countries it is generally accepted that commercialization should be left primarily to the private sector because governments are not always best suited to select the winners in emerging technology markets. However, this leaves a sizable gray area in the middle where it is unclear, and case specific, as to the roles the private sector and public sector should play in developing and deploying new technologies to maximize social well-being. Applied R&D, development of generic and infratechnologies, and demonstration of the feasibility of high-risk, high-return technologies are examples of such gray areas. In light of these uncertainties,...
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