Changing the State of State-Level Energy Programs: Policy Diffusion, Economic Stimulus, and New Federalism Paradigms

  • Benjamin H. Deitchman
Keywords: Energy


This article will pose the question: What led to the climate and clean energy policies in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, and Utah (four states for which current or former governors ran for president in the 2012 election) and around the country since 2001? It will highlight the role of governors and the $3.1 billion investment of federal resources into state-level clean energy activities through the Recovery Act as a foundation for assessment and will provide a framework for analyzing policy decision-making. Public policy theory, including the policy diffusion model, will provide background to understand the influences on state-level policy adoption. With the primary goal of the Recovery Act to improve a struggling economy, this article will explore the critical connection between economic development and clean energy resources that impacted these choices under expedited procedures. In addition, the approach to clean energy policy will show changes in American federalism and the potential of polycentric governance. While it is a unique confluence of events that led to the current policy environment, the results of further study will provide generalizable information on state-level learning, policy-motivations, economic decision-making, procedures in environmental policy, and the relationships of actors at multiple levels of governance. In a dissenting Supreme opinion in 1932, Justice Louis Brandies wrote, “A single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country. … ” This article and proposed research program will analyze the policy experiments in states across the country—often led through gubernatorial initiative— in tackling the interrelated challenges of climate change and energy security in the twenty-first century.


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Author Biography

Benjamin H. Deitchman

Benjamin Deitchman is a doctoral candidate in the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he works as a member of the Climate and Energy Policy Laboratory (CEPL) and expects to finish his degree in 2013. His policy analyses focus on overcoming barriers to energy efficiency in commercial and industrial facilities, green jobs, and the co-benefits of clean energy programs, particularly at the state and local levels. Mr. Deitchman also conducts research and evaluation in education policy. He has taught courses in government, energy policy, and engineering ethics. He previously served as the regional program coordinator at the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) and holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the George Washington University and Bachelors of Arts in History from the Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Deitchman was the founding president of the Public Policy Graduate Students Association at Georgia Tech and his email address is This article is part of Benjamin Deitchman’s dissertation effort, “Why U.S. States Became Leaders in Climate and Energy Policy: Innovation Through Competition in Federalism.”


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