Listen Now: New PolicyCast Episode on Transitioning to Clean Power Without Workers Absorbing the Shock
Harvard Kennedy School Professor Gordon Hanson and Harvard University Vice Provost for Climate and Sustainability James Stock talk about how applying the lessons from prior economic upheavals can smooth the green power transition for workers and communities who depend on the fossil fuel industry.
Talking about the clean energy transition conjures up images of commuters riding sleek electric trains and cars powered by the sun and wind, and of workers with good-paying jobs installing the infrastructure of the future. But the outlook for communities that are economically tied to the fossil fuel economy isn’t quite as sunny. Stock is director of Harvard’s Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability, which brings together researchers from around the university to collaborate on climate solutions. Hanson is co-director of the Reimagining the Economy Project at the Kennedy School’s Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. Both of them say making the green energy transition is urgent and vital, but to do it successfully will mean planning a different sort of transition for almost a million workers in just the American fossil fuel extraction and refining industries alone—not to mention millions of workers further up the fossil fuel ecosystem. Thanks to previous economic shocks like globalization, automation, and the decline of the coal industry, we’ve seen first-hand the devastation that large-scale job loss can wreak on regions and towns that depended too heavily on a few sources of jobs like coal and manufacturing. Hanson and Stock say harnessing the lessons from those prior transitions can help create and power a future that’s both green and inclusively prosperous.
Gordon Hanson is the Peter Wertheim Professor in Urban Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. He is also chair of the Social and Urban Policy Area at HKS, co-chair of the Reimagining the Economy project at the Malcolm Weiner Center for Social Policy, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Hanson received his Ph.D. in economics from MIT in 1992 and his B.A. in economics from Occidental College in 1986. Prior to joining Harvard in 2020, he held the Pacific Economic Cooperation Chair in International Economic Relations at UC San Diego, where he was founding director of the Center on Global Transformation. In his scholarship, Hanson studies the labor market consequences of globalization. He has published extensively in top economics journals, is widely cited for his research by scholars from across the social sciences and is frequently quoted in major media outlets. Hanson’s current research addresses how the China trade shock has affected US local labor markets, the causes and consequences of international migration, and the origins of regional economic divides.
James H. Stock is Harvard University’s Vice Provost for Climate and Sustainability, director of the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability, the Harold Hitchings Burbank Professor of Political Economy for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; and a member of the faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School. His current research includes energy and environmental economics with a focus on fuels and on U.S. climate change policy. He is co-author, with Mark Watson, of a leading undergraduate econometrics textbook. In 2013-2014 he served as Member of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, where his portfolio included macroeconomics and energy and environmental policy. He was Chair of the Harvard Economics Department from 2007-2009. He holds a M.S. in statistics and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Berkeley.
Ralph Ranalli of the HKS Office of Public Affairs and Communications is the host, producer, and editor of HKS PolicyCast. A former journalist, public television producer, and entrepreneur, he holds an AB in Political Science from UCLA and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University.
The co-producer of PolicyCast is Susan Hughes. Design and graphics support is provided by Lydia Rosenberg, Delane Meadows and the OCPA Design Team. Social media promotion and support is provided by Natalie Montaner and the OCPA Digital Team.