Building a low-carbon future will bring significant change to the U.S. economy, especially to employment as alternative forms of energy increasingly take hold. And to go smoothly, that transition will require sound public policy and public support.
In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless talks to Richard Trumka, the president and CEO of the AFL-CIO, and former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, the president and CEO of the Energy Futures Initiative. Earlier this year, their organizations formed the Labor Energy Partnership to promote energy policies that promote economic, racial and gender equity based on quality jobs and the preservation of workers’ rights, all the while addressing the growing climate crisis.
In exclusive podcast discussion, President Trumka and Secretary Moniz explain a new report by the Labor Energy Partnership that lays out the opportunities and pitfalls of such sweeping changes in the economy. The report, called “Energy Transitions: The Framework for Good Jobs in a Low-CarbonFuture,” makes the case that this industrial transition is both different from those in the past and urgently needed because of the existential threat of climate change.
The report opens by acknowledging that industrial transitions have rarely been smooth. In fact, it notes they have been typically marked by community and worker dislocations with significant regional disparities, disproportionate impacts on minority communities, and fraying of existing social institutions.
The AFL-CIO is the largest federation of unions in the U.S., and the Energy Futures Initiative is a Washington-based non-profit dedicated to promoting a clean-energy future.
Richard Trumka was elected president of the AFL-CIO in 2009 after having served as secretary treasurer of the federation since 1995. Previously, he was president of the United Mine Workers from 1982 to 1995.
Ernest Moniz founded the Energy Futures Initiative in 2017. He is also the co-chair and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Dr. Moniz was the U.S. energy secretary from 2013 to 2017 and an under secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy from 1997 to 2001.
A long-time member of the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he was also founding director of the MIT Energy Initiative.
In his latest book, The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations,” noted energy historian Daniel Yergin captures a screenshot of the energy world as it stands in 2020, both in the shifting balance and rising tensions among nations, and in the dramatic reshaping of global energy supplies and flows. Understanding how geopolitics and energy interact is no easy feat, as even before this year’s coronavirus-induced shock to the global energy markets, the landscape was already being rapidly transformed by such factors as the American-led shale revolution, a new cold war between the United States and Russia, deep tensions in the U.S.-China relationship, the Middle East’s own reckoning with the energy transition, and of course, the urgent challenge of climate change.
Daniel Yergin is a highly respected authority on energy, international politics, and economics. His classic book, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, became a bestseller, won a Pulitzer Prize, and put Dr. Yergin on the map as one of the world’s leading thinkers on energy and its vast geopolitical and economic implications. In decades since, Dan has continued to chronicle the global energy system. Going back to Shattered Peace, his first book, his writings from The Prize, updated in 20008, to The Quest and many others have provided the historical perspective for understanding many of today’s energy and security challenges.
In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Jason Bordoff is joined by Dr. Yergin to discuss his new book and what's ahead for energy geopolitics and the energy transition.
Daniel Yergin is vice chairman of IHS Markit and co-founder of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. Daniel received the United States Energy Award for “lifelong achievements in energy and the promotion of international understanding,” and the U.S. Department of Energy awarded him the first James Schlesinger Medal for Energy Security.
Dr. Yergin is a director of the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior trustee of the Brookings Institution. He is a member of the National Petroleum Council, a director of the United States Energy Association, and of the US-Russia Business Council. He is a member of the Advisory Boards of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative and of the Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy and of Singapore’s International Energy Advisory Board. Dr. Yergin holds a BA from Yale University, where he founded The New Journal, and a PhD from Cambridge University, where he was a Marshall Scholar.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, California experienced rolling blackouts in August as record high temperatures placed unusual stress on the state’s electric power grid. The inconvenience to millions of Californians raised questions about the reliability of the grid as the state implements aggressive policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through greater reliance on solar and wind power and other cleaner energy solutions.
In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless reached out to Cheryl LaFleur, a former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and a distinguished visiting fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy, for her take on the blackouts, which she wrote about in an op-ed in “State of the Planet,” an online blog at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
They talk about what caused the blackouts during the weekend of August 14, when an extreme heat wave blanketed California and other western states, as well as how they compared to the last such occurrences during the California energy crisis of 2001.
In short, Cheryl says, the problem isn’t California’s solar and wind systems, which operated just as they were supposed to do, but rather the state’s failure to make sure there were other energy resources to meet peak demands for electricity – especially for air conditioning to cope with the heat – when the sun wasn’t shining and the wind wasn’t blowing. Adding to the difficulty is California’s preference to control its own power market rather than participate in a regional market, she says.
Bill and Cheryl discuss that as well as the political fall-out from the blackouts, with critics of the state’s climate policies claiming those measures risk the reliability of the California grid, while supporters of those policies saying they’re as necessary as ever to combat climate change.
Of course, with California and much of the rest of the Pacific Northwest suffering from a record spree of wildfires, there’s no avoiding talking about the magnitude of climate-related catastrophes occurring now and the extent to which they affect efforts to transition to cleaner, reliable forms of energy.
Cheryl was one of the longest-serving members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, nominated by President Obama in 2010 and serving until 2019. She was the chairman from 2014-15 and acting chairman from 2013-14 and in 2017.
Earlier, she had more than 20 years of experience as a leader in the electric and natural gas industry, including serving as executive vice president and acting CEO of National Grid USA.