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Federalism in Action: Renewable Energy (classroom activity)

The Brazos Wind Farm near Fluvanna, Texas. CREDIT: Leaflet (CC)

The United States has a federal system of government in which different policies can be made on national, state, and local levels as long as they are consistent with the American constitution. The attached activity applies the concept of federalism to energy policy and has students analyze how and why energy consumption varies across the country.

Students will first examine energy consumption on a national level and compare it to a state of their choice. They will then research and evaluate factors that cause the discrepancies between the state and federal consumption. Are the state's energy policies dependent on availability of resources, political views, subsidies, affordability, and/or employment economics? Are state leaders acting "morally" and in their constituents' best interests when it comes to energy?

This activity was inspired by Shalini Kantayya’s documentary "Catching the Sun" and subsequent 2017 talk at Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. The lesson can be used as a follow-up after students watch the film, or independently.