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Launch of the Center on Global Energy Policy

Past Event

April 24, 2013

9:00 am

Welcoming and Introductory Remarks

Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University
Robert C. Lieberman, Interim Dean, SIPA

On behalf of Columbia University and the School of International and Public Affairs, President Bollinger and Dean Lieberman welcomed guests to the launch of the Center on Global Energy Policy and discussed how, in a short period of time, the Center has already become central to Columbia and SIPA’s intellectual life.

Vision of the Center

Jason Bordoff, Professor of Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs, SIPA; Director, Center on Global Energy Policy

As founding director, Jason Bordoff laid out his vision: a policy-oriented research center to help policymakers navigate the complex and changing world of energy through balanced and rigorous analysis developed so as to maximize real-world impact with concrete, specific, and practical policy recommendations.

The Changing Energy Landscape

Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer-Prize winning author and co-founder of Cambridge Energy Research Associates

Daniel Yergin highlighted the importance of the Center to Columbia University and the larger energy community while discussing the unique leadership role the Center can take on national and global energy policy issues. He addressed three such issues: the changing balance of energy supply and demand in the world, energy security, and the relationship between energy and the environment.

In what he described as “the biggest innovation of this century”, Yergin talked about shale gas and tight oil’s transformation of American energy supply and the shift of global energy demand from the OECD to developing markets. Touching on energy security, Yergin also warned of our growing cyber vulnerability, which was taken to a new level last August as 30,000 computers of Saudi Aramco were shut down after cyber attacks. In the face of increasing globalized energy systems, he said, it is ever more important to be able to prepare for, cope, and recover from integrated energy shocks. He closed on the importance of America’s innovation agenda in continuing to develop new technologies to adapt to climate change, a key challenge at the nexus of energy and the environment.

Opening Remarks

Hon. Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor, City of New York

Mayor Bloomberg lauded the opening of the Center, saying there is no better home for a global center on energy policy than New York City. Quoting former Mayor Ed Koch, Mayor Bloomberg said, “This is where the future comes to audition.” He pointed to New York City’s role as the global leader in energy innovation and its key role continuing to address today’s major energy issues – including nuclear power generation, shale gas development, and energy finance.

Mayor Bloomberg also weighed in on some of the most divisive issues in energy today – including hydraulic fracturing. “Low natural gas prices have been key to reducing New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions by 16% over the past five years,” he said. “We know that today, more than 50% of the natural gas powering New York City comes from shale gas, and we can expect that to grow to 90% by 2020.”

Overall, Mayor Bloomberg promoted a balanced approach that capitalizes on the ability of abundant shale gas to displace coal and oil, sensible regulations to protect the environment, and coordinated state and federal action to support our transition to a low carbon future and improve the resilience of our energy supply and infrastructure.

Full remarks (PDF)

Keynote Conversation

Thomas Donilon, National Security Advisor, National Security Council
and Daniel Yergin

Thomas Donilon, the U.S. National Security Advisor to the Obama Administration, gave keynote remarks, in which he stressed the importance of energy to U.S. national security and foreign policy. “Energy matters because the challenge of accessing affordable energy is one shared by people and businesses in every country in the world—in young democracies, emerging powers and developing economies; in allies and adversaries alike,” he said.

He also focused on the major geopolitical and foreign policy implications of the revolutionary transformation in American energy production. First, he said that the energy boom has been an important driver of the U.S. economy and has helped enhance America’s political and military in the world. Second, he explained America’s new energy posture allows the nation to engage from a position of greater strength. “Increasing U.S. energy supplies act as a cushion that helps reduce our vulnerability to global supply disruptions and price shocks,” he said. “It also affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals.” Third, he explained that a more global natural gas market benefits the U.S. and its allies, for example by enhancing diversity of supply, delinking gas prices from expensive oil indexed contracts, weakening control by traditional dominant natural gas suppliers, and encouraging fuel switching from oil and coal to natural gas.

Importantly, he made clear that reduced energy imports do not mean the United States can or should disengage from the Middle East or the world. Also of note, he said that the International Energy Agency and other institutions will have to modernize to reflect evolving energy market realities, such as increasing consumption in non-OECD countries like China, India and Brazil. He also explained why policies governing the use of strategic oil reserves should be modernized for the 21st century: ”
When the IEA was established in the 1970s, oil was not a globally traded commodity. There was no financial market in oil. Gasoline prices were heavily regulated. Disruptions in supplies tended to show up as physical disruptions with long lines at gas stations. The global energy market has changed dramatically since then: oil is now traded globally. There is a financial market that dwarfs the size of the physical market. Gasoline prices are deregulated. And disruptions in supply are more likely to show as price spikes than physical shortages. The policies and practices of an IEA for the 21st century should reflect these changes as well.”

Full remarks

Conference Address

Ryan Lance, Chairman and CEO, ConocoPhillips
Followed by Conversation with Jason Bordoff

Ryan Lance, Chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips, spoke of America’s energy boom from the perspective of a major energy producer. In reference to the U.S. shale gas revolution, he credited the U.S. success to its unrivaled combination of strong regulatory frameworks and environmental safety record, privately owned mineral rights, its advanced technological capability, and its large drilling fleet.

Lance highlighted the technical innovations his company has made and how they have advanced projects in onshore shale and tight formations, deepwater in the Gulf of Mexico, and Canadian oil sands. He projected that North America will not need to import liquids by 2020 and in fact will need to consider exports. He concluded by saying that peak oil is not his concern, but rather the idea of “peak engineers and geologists,” as half of the energy workforce will soon retire. In order to continue fostering innovation and ensure continued high investment levels in the energy sector, he said, the U.S. should “let the market consider the best way to provide energy” by allowing exports of surplus tight oil, setting competitive corporate tax rates, and continuing to fund early research in new technologies.

Conference Address

Daniel Poneman, Acting Secretary, US Department of Energy
Followed by Conversation with Jason Bordoff

Acting Secretary Poneman highlighted that energy is the challenge of our generation and that the Center can fill the gap that exists between the business, academic, and policy communities. Poneman noted the importance of continued investment in clean energy technologies including clean coal, nuclear, and smart grid technologies. Though the U.S. has undergone a transformative shift in its energy structure, coal will still remain an important part of our energy supply, he said. It is important to continue investing in technologies such as carbon capture and storage and enhanced oil recovery.

On nuclear energy, Poneman reaffirmed the U.S.’ commitment to nuclear power as a generation source. In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear tragedy in Japan, the international community has rallied together to bring a set of comprehensive recommendations on strengthening nuclear safety, he said. However, more work must be done, he noted, to strengthen governance on the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle and continuing efforts on non-proliferation.

Poneman also discussed the importance of grid modernization. Not only will a 21st century grid ensure greater integration of renewable energy, he said, but building a smart, self-healing grid is important for ensuring national security.

Roundtable, “New Directions for Energy Policy: Domestic and International”

Jason Bordoff
Carlos Pascual, Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, US Department of State
Dr. Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute
Daniel Yergin
Moderator: Dr. Susan Tierney, Managing Principal, Analysis Group

Dr. Susan Tierney, Managing Principal at Analysis Group, led a roundtable discussion featuring distinguished guests Mr. Carlos Pascual, Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Dr. Andrew Steer, President and CEO of Worldwide Resources Institute, Daniel Yergin, and Jason Bordoff.

Mr. Pascual began by stating the importance of continued U.S. engagement in global energy security as instability in any part of the world could affect U.S. productivity at home. He also pointed to the positive linkage between climate opportunities and job creation and how the U.S. should capitalize on this new “market opening”. He also noted that the natural gas revolution in the U.S. and increased supply around the world from countries like Norway, Tanzania, and Russia would also have large implications on global trade and supply. “We are seeing strange swaps that we wouldn’t have anticipated before,” he said. “That’s a real plus to [energy] security.”

Dr. Steer stated that alleviating energy poverty needs to be a guiding light for the Center. He detailed the problems with global fossil fuel subsidies, discussed the benefits of swapping taxes on labor and profit for taxes on pollution, noted the critical linkages between energy production and water usage, and he urged governments to create an “economic revolution” by making it profitable for people to use renewables and pollute less.

The group also discussed the possibility of U.S. LNG exports. Bordoff stressed the need to focus greater public debate on the benefits of free trade. “If we want to push China on rare earth exports,” he said, “we must live by our own rules and lead by example.” He added that the benefits from U.S. gas exports are many – it could delink gas prices from oil prices, push gas prices down, and promote further substitution away from coal.

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