Michaël Aklin is a PhD Candidate, Wilf Family Department of Politics, New York University, 19 West 4th St., New York, NY 10012 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Johannes Urpelainen is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Columbia University, 420 West 118th Street, 712 International Affairs Building, New York, NY 10027 (email@example.com).
Political Competition, Path Dependence, and the Strategy of Sustainable Energy Transitions
Article first published online: 25 FEB 2013
©2013, Midwest Political Science Association
American Journal of Political Science
How to Cite
Aklin, M. and Urpelainen, J. (2013), Political Competition, Path Dependence, and the Strategy of Sustainable Energy Transitions. American Journal of Political Science. doi: 10.1111/ajps.12002
We thank Michael Bechtel, Andrew Cheon, Ethan Kaplan, Phillip Lipscy, a seminar audience at Columbia University, three anonymous reviewers, and the editor for useful comments and advice. An online appendix and a replication package are available at https://files.nyu.edu/ma1896/public/.
- Article first published online: 25 FEB 2013
Previous research emphasizes the importance of path dependence for sustainable energy transitions, but their strategic nature is frequently overlooked. We examine formally how exogenous shocks, such as changes in international energy prices, interact with positive reinforcement factors, such as the growing strength of the renewables advocacy coalition. We find that political competition modifies the effect of path dependence on policy and outcomes. Specifically, while “green” governments can use positive reinforcement mechanisms to lock in policy commitments (by creating green constituencies), “brown” governments strategically underprovide public support for renewable energy (to avoid creating green constituencies). The effect of positive reinforcement also decreases with international energy prices. Our empirical analysis shows that (1) political competition conditions the policy response to exogenous shocks and market failures, while (2) governments strategically exploit path dependence for political gain.