James Stock Outlines his Vision for the Energy Transition in Newest Episode of “Environmental Insights”

James Stock, who serves as Harvard's inaugural Vice Provost for Climate and Sustainability and director of the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability, expressed his hopes for a smooth domestic energy transition during the newest episode of “Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.” The podcast is produced by the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.
Mar 15, 2023

Listen to the interview here.

Hosted by Robert N. Stavins, A.J. Meyer Professor of Energy and Economic Development at Harvard Kennedy School and director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program and the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Environmental Insights is intended to promote public discourse on important issues at the intersection of economics and environmental policy.

Stock sounded encouraged while speaking about recent developments in climate policy, particularly over the past year.

“The nation has made huge progress over [the course of] 2022 with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act,” he said. “This is a huge piece of legislation. It’s really going to set the stage for driving substantial emission reductions, especially in the power sector. So that’s fantastic, [and] we all have to applaud that passage.”

Stock also commended Congress for its bipartisan infrastructure bill which contains nearly five billion dollars over five years to help states create a network of electric vehicle charging stations. But even with those two significant pieces of legislation, Stock admitted that the most optimistic projection for emission reductions in 2040 relative to 2005 is only about 40 percent.

“So, it’s not even a glass half-full situation,” Stock remarked. “We’ve done this huge amount of work and we’ve passed this really important legislation, but we’re only at 40 percent reduction. There is so much more work that needs to be done, and I think a big part of that work is actually figuring out what the right agenda is.”

Part of the agenda, Stock said, is determining what actions need to be taken at all levels of government and business to achieve meaningful progress. But the potential for significant progress is possible, he argued, because of the tremendous technological advancements in recent years.

“If you think back to 2005 … there really weren’t good alternatives to coal and natural gas in the power sector, and electric vehicles were ridiculously expensive, and we just didn’t have the technology,” Stock said. “Today everything is totally different, where we are looking at technologies, whether they’re light duty vehicles or solar or wind, and now increasingly batteries, even grid storage batteries, are really becoming at a much better cost point and are actually beating out their fossil fuel alternatives. So now the question is, what can we do to spur that? At this point, subsidies can be very effective.”

Stock also spoke of his recent appointment as director of the Salata Institute, saying that it reflects Harvard’s commitment to pursue pragmatic solutions to the climate problem and communicate them to policymakers and the general public.

“The mission of the Institute is to harness the strengths and abilities and powers of Harvard University and its scholars and students to press forward viable solutions and practical solutions in an impactful way in the real world,” he said, emphasizing that the challenge reaches across multiple disciplines. “It spans economics. It spans the sciences. It spans health and spans business, and so you need to have expertise drawing from across the different parts of the university and different fields to really be able to make progress.”

Stock’s interview is the third episode of 2023 in the Environmental Insights series, with future episodes scheduled to drop each month.

“Environmental Insights is intended to inform and educate listeners about important issues relating to an economic perspective on developments in environmental policy, including the design and implementation of market-based approaches to environmental protection,” said Stavins. “We speak with accomplished Harvard colleagues, other academics, and practitioners who are working on solving some of the most challenging public problems we face.”

Environmental Insights is hosted on SoundCloud and is also available on Amazon MusiciTunesPocket CastsPodcast Addict, and Spotify.

LINK TO PODCASThttps://on.soundcloud.com/qxqe6