What does it take to move the needle on our energy and climate challenges? How can government, civil society, individuals, and businesses work together so our collective action is greater than the sum of individual contributions? To help shed light on these and other issues, Jason Bordoff recently sat down with Andy Karsner, a Managing Partner at Emerson Collective, an organization focused on spurring change and promoting equality.

Jason and Andy discussed Emerson Collective's theory of change, how the organization measures impact, and how those factors lead to a holistic engagement strategy across technology, policy, finance and network building. Their conversation touched on the benefits and the limits of markets as a source of solutions to our climate challenges and the need to transition from static to dynamic policy structures. They also discussed the changing role of utilities and electricity market regulation as well as the privacy and security considerations of internet-enabled clean technology and distributed generation. Finally, Jason and Andy talked about the need for leadership and national strategies and stretch-goals to achieve ambitious outcomes and maintain US competitiveness. 

In addition to his role at the Emerson Collective, Andy is a Senior Strategist and Space Cowboy at Google X, and Founder and Executive Chairman of Manifest Energy. From 2005 to 2008, he served as Assistant Secretary of Energy for Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the US Department of Energy, managing an annual budget of nearly $2 billion across a portfolio focused on applied science, research and development.

View the Transcript

[00:00:02]

Jason Bordoff:  Hello and welcome to the Columbia Energy Exchange.  A weekly podcast from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.  I'm Jason Bordoff.  Emmerson Collective is a nonprofit organization founded by Laurene Powell Jobs that uses a wide range of tools and strategies, partnering with entrepreneurs and experts, parents and policymakers, advocates and administrators to develop and execute innovative solutions, to spur change, promote equality on a broad range of issues.  And there's been an increased focus on thinking about how to use philanthropic and private sector dollars to invest with impact.  So, I wanted to talk about that recently with my friend Andy Karsner.  Andy is well-known to many listeners of this podcast.  He has worked in the energy and clean energy space for many years in government and in the private sector.  Nobody can speak more knowledgeably on a broader range of these issues and with more enthusiasm than Andy.  He's a Managing Partner at Emerson Collective.  He's also Senior Strategist and Space Cowboy at Google X.  I'm sure we all aspire to hold the title of Space Cowboy one day.  He's the Founder and Executive Chairman of Manifest Energy.  And from 2005 to 2008, he served as the Assistant Secretary of Energy for Efficiency and Renewable Energy managing the $2 billion annual federal applied science research and development portfolio.  I sat down with Andy recently to discuss a broad range of issues as you'll hear from OPEC and the global energy markets to the pace of the world's transition toward clean energy.  What we're seeing and the impacts of climate change and climate change policy.  How to think about the potential for more bipartisan cooperation on these issues across the aisle and of course what the future holds for the Emerson Collective and what he's doing now over there.  Here's that conversation.  Andy Karsner, thanks for joining us on Columbia Energy Exchange.

 

[00:02:00]

Andy Karsner:  Great to be with you, Jason.

 

[00:02:02]

Jason Bordoff:  So, you've had a pretty fascinating career and I want to talk about a lot of it.  But what you're doing, tell our listeners what you're doing now at the Emerson Collective, what Emerson is.  What Laurene Powell Jobs is doing with the resources that she has to build this and then specifically within it what you're doing at Emerson Elemental, the environmental piece of Emerson Collective. 

 

[00:02:25]

Andy Karsner:  Right.  Well, as you said Laurene Powell Jobs dedicated…

 

[00:02:32]

Jason Bordoff:  Wife of Steve Jobs for _____ [00:02:32].

 

[00:02:34]

Andy Karsner:  But a rock star, an extraordinary thinker, a design mind and an incomparable intellect in her own right of the type that people like Steve would be attracted to and would attract her.  And Laurene is not one who would sort of go quietly in the night with her opportunities either before she met Steve or after or given the opportunities that she now has and so she's quite dedicated to the platform that she built many years ago.  The namesake of Ralph Waldo Emerson because she is deeply attuned to the idea of unlocking the possibility, the power, the potential of every individual.  And therefore, we're driven by a mission.  It has social justice embodied in it whether we're looking at how we educate the populace or whether we're looking at opportunities for immigration and the fungible movements of people around the earth or whether we're looking at the environment and necessarily energy as a component of the environment.  We look at energy ways rather we look at the environment quite holistically.  Laurene and I originally met on the board of Conservation International many years ago.  And so, we sort of describe what we're not you know we're not a sustainability braggers, we're not a conservation practice, we're not a clean tech practice.  You know we're all of these things because all of these things matter to the consequence of our relationship to the environment.  And since we're about social justice, functionally we're really about healing and strengthening the symbiosis between humanity and nature and we use communities as a metric to focus on.  And then we use our toolkit which is vast in the realm of political advocacy and policy construction and private equity.

 

[00:04:33]

Jason Bordoff:  Not even set up am I right as a foundation, so limited liability company.

 

[00:04:37]

Andy Karsner:  Yes, yes.  The movement it seems to have taken off a bit but Laurene was one of the first to pursue it that way along with Pierre Omidyar and Jeff Skoll, I think were the only ones for quite some time.  And now Chan Zuckerberg and others are moving in that direction.  And but I think motivated in different ways.  In the case of Emerson Collective its primary motivation was that for the most part, from most of its history and even for the most part now in our dealings anonymity is prized.  And it's not prized because we don't care to disclose per se.  It's prized because a prime value is humility.  And those people who are the recipients of funds whether those funds are nonprofit funds whether those funds are philanthropic or for-profit funds it’s really about the receiver who we characterize as doers.  People who think differently, people who have the passion and the relentless acumen to pursue some great source of change.  We want the light on them.  We don't really want the light on us.  Ours is to be…

 

[00:05:45]

Jason Bordoff:  And just to be clear so people understand because listeners may be familiar when people especially people working in the environment and climate space you know you led ClimateWorks.  The foundations that are giving money away to address the suite of problems.  But how is the approach different within Emerson Collective even the word collective, people are trying to understand what that means.  And because you're not a foundation.  You are a limited liability company.

 

[00:06:07]

Andy Karsner:  Yeah.  I wouldn't focus so much on the structure.  Other than that, there are different latitudes of freedom.  Obviously, we don't you know aren’t encumbered with the same kind of filings and everything else from a statutory basis.  But a foundation exist in a foundation ways to disperse grant making and they have a cycle for it.  And those ones that you mentioned we have great admiration for the way they do things.  There's all kinds of different places and characteristics but those are the beneficial estates of people who have set up institutional processes after they have passed.  We as a collective really have a more of a proactive aggregation of folks with some training and leadership capacities who are building out network effects.  To quote our friend Reid Hoffman, I have a sense of what Reid would call blitzscaling are dedicated to change in a contemporaneous way in real time.  And so that requires a certain amount of agility.  It doesn't really come on a funding cycle, grant making systematic methodical profile.  It is actually a bit more selective and opportunistic.  And as I say we use a community basis to focus where we can innovate and develop solutions and then we sort of throw everything we can to surround that.  Whether it is grant making or investments in enterprise or marketing and NPR or other forms of help to lift the community's possibility through all the different angles.

 

[00:07:51]

Jason Bordoff:  And you're looking for entrepreneurs.  You're looking for people who can step forward with new and innovative solutions on the technology front where you personally have been involved in early stage in some of the best-known clean energy brand names today.  _____ [00:08:05] current, Tesla other things.

 

[00:08:07]

Andy Karsner:  Yeah.

 

[00:08:08]

Jason Bordoff:  What are you excited about now? Where’s Emerson putting resources? What kind of technologies do you think you see around the corner that people will be talking about and maybe people aren't yet.

 

[00:08:18]

Andy Karsner:  Well so with a breath of fresh air, just pause on that word entrepreneur.  I mean, I've historically been called one most of my life and career.  And even though I change manifestations at some point, I'm an assistant secretary at some point.  I'm a developer.  The truth is there is a certain characteristic to entrepreneurs.  We don't actually use the word entrepreneurs because particularly sitting in Silicon Valley people automatically think of a startup enterprise on a private basis.  I think of you as an entrepreneur.  I think of Ernest Moniz as an academic or policy entrepreneur.  I think of extraordinary social entrepreneurs like Peter Seligmann who founded Conservation International.  These people we tagged them as doers because they think differently people and it doesn't actually matter what domain that they're dwelling in whether they are using the marketplace to create profitability and robustness and build out of enterprise to have impact or whether they're doing it from an academic platform to aggregate and convene and move policy mountains in differentiated ways.  These are differentiated thinkers.  So, we support entrepreneurs across the spectrum.  I think you're asking very specifically about some of our private portfolio in investments and…

 

[00:09:23]

Jason Bordoff:  Yeah, and what technologies you're kind of most excited about now when you think about trying to solve some of the big environmental and climate challenges we have and then I want to talk to you about some policies that you're thinking about supporting and getting behind them and working on too.

 

[00:09:37]

Andy Karsner:  So, as you might expect you know we sitting in the heart of Silicon Valley, we see a great deal.  We're connected in various ways and we're connected orthogonally through conventional.  Some of the older companies in the valley like the Applied Materials or Intels and Hewletts and then some of the newer wilder startups on Sand Hill Road you know, etc.  We choose to try to not be a velocity investor that is to say being a fast follower or seeking out trends that create a unicorn effects even though they may yield some great profitability aren’t the forte of Emerson Elemental.  We're much more after what we call differentiated solutions to the highest value problems.  So, we need differentiated thinkers to come up with differentiated solutions.  It's a little bit counterintuitive, countercultural and then we have to identify the highest value problem set.  And so, I think of a great _____ [00:10:34] like Geo Schneider who's got a company called ____ [00:10:38] who believes deeply in the emission free basis of hydro but is completely counter-conventional when it comes to existing hydro and it wants all kinds of consistent natural methods of run of the river hydro.  That's hard too in the post clean tech 1.0 or 2.0 bubbles that's hard to find funding for what somebody would call tough tech or clean tech.  But it's a differentiated solution.  It's a very high value problem.  How do we harness our waterways and do it in a conservation friendly way and make sure that fish habitats aren't upset and then still change out some of the dams in Brazil and Colombia in Asia etc.  So that's one example but it always sorts of fits the mold of do we have a doer that is extraordinary and committed to it and with a vision to do something great that is truly differentiated.  That it's unique and that we believe has a high probability of manifestation and that we can measure and correlate the impacts to a very high value problem set.  To take another one that's a little bit smaller.  I mean we have a broad range.  We are a true full capital stack investor.  We have Dawn Lippert runs Elemental Excelerator for example and one might say that some of her funding is angel like funding.  And so, we sort of outsource to various platforms angel like funding because we want to sightline to that marketplace.  Then we have sort of venture in PE Type funding kind of in-house and then we do some of the things that are publicly disclosed large scale mergers and acquisitions in media and entertainment.

 

[00:12:12]

Jason Bordoff:  And you mentioned assistant secretary, you were the assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewables in the George W.  Bush administration.  How important is policy to enable all the stuff you just talked about?

 

[00:12:26]

Andy Karsner:  Less and less important to enable it.  Still very significant to scale it in a timeframe that is consequential to the problems that we're seeking to impact.  So, I think libertarians are onto something when they say the market will always solve.  It will.  The question is whether the market solution would be the elimination of our species.  So that you get restorative impact and healthy harmony and balance.  The question is if over time the market solves because you failed to do something and so were paying instead for floods or sea level rise or something like that.  So yes, there will always be a mechanism to do it.  What the market can't solve is collective societal strategy for a net outcome that is good particularly when that good is averting despoiling our own habitat.  And so, you know we wouldn't be the first peoples to despoil our habitat and find ourselves in a precarious position.  But we actually might be the first to have the technology and the solutions to avoid that outcome and then not design ourselves to implement that outcome in a time frame it's consequential which I know is the great work you know that you do at Columbia.

 

[00:13:37]

Jason Bordoff:  But that requires so having that I guess the question was whether you see the amount of attention being focused to or the capital, the technological innovation enabling us to prevent that sort of cataclysmic outcome or what does it mean that we have an administration now in D.C.  that in its budget proposal at least maybe not what Congress ended up doing was looking to dismantle many of the programs you used to lead a deal not to mention lots of other pilot programs.

 

[00:14:02]

Andy Karsner:  Yeah, which ironically are more robustly funded by this Congress than they would have funded under the Obama administration request.  So, what it really tells me is that the Trump administration's lack of understanding how to maneuver itself politically even for its desires.  Their ineptitude to even execute their own desires has rendered themselves largely irrelevant.  So, to me the Trump administration for the most part is into a damage control exercise of how might they create something of unique goodness correlating to their aspirations to a degree that can be found in their aspirations vs.  how much damage might they do through sort of reckless abandon and a government that's less than half staffed.  Half staff is probably less than half staffed by qualified people.  So, I think of the Trump administration not as a permanent trend but as a significant aberration.  Kind of a Roman candle in time.  I think it tells us more about what's going on in the sociology of America than it tells us about what's going on in Washington and I think we have to pay attention to the signs that led us into this place and figure that out.  But at the same time, I am seeing enormous progress across the states.  I'm seeing enormous coalescing of policy movements with accelerated outcomes and net benefits.  And so, they have the ideological inclinations of this particular administration.

 

[00:15:30]

Jason Bordoff:  But is it just this…

 

[00:15:30]

Andy Karsner:  … has not impeded the practical project.

 

[00:15:31]

Jason Bordoff:  Is it just this administration or do you have the sense and you've been away from Washington for a while now.  But for Republicans in Congress as a whole.  It has become difficult to even talk about climate change and then maybe on the other side you would say you know there's 100 percent renewables.  It's become difficult to support a safe and responsible oil and gas development.  Both sides have seem to move further apart and that seems to me like it's going to make it difficult for us to come together and support sensible policies to achieve shared objectives of economic growth, energy development, national security, environmental protection and dealing with climate change.

 

[00:16:09]

Andy Karsner:  Yeah.  There's no question.  We are…

 

[00:16:10]

Jason Bordoff:  And it’s changed since you worked for Republican administration.

 

[00:16:14]

Andy Karsner:  And it’s you know 2007 was the last time we had a comprehensive bipartisan energy bill of any kind.  And it surprises me to be able to say that.  So much happened in 2010 that really sort of altered the course of politics in America that we haven't that and you asked me the question is what is my prognosis for recovering from that you know which and what that is, is stretching to polarity, stretching the fabric of the reasonable center to inform useful compromise to get durable policy.  And that we're out of whack with polarized ideological ends that are impeding real net progress.

 

[00:16:57]

Jason Bordoff:  Yeah.

 

[00:16:59]

Andy Karsner:  I think that's a real problem.  Do I have faith that we may get back to where we need to be?  I like to think so.  I like to think if you pull the rubber band long enough something has to snap back but it may take a complete restructuring of the kind that we're not used to seeing at least in our lifetimes.  There's no telling whether the future of the Republican Party that I have known for most of my life will rise again like a phoenix from the ashes and embrace the legacy of Lincoln and Ronald Reagan or whether it will marginalize itself into a regional populist party that is bent on xenophobia.  There is that you know I don't actually have the prognosis for that but I do know that there is a middle in America that is under represented and much of that middle is center right.  And that will find a market.

 

[00:17:50]

Jason Bordoff:  And I'm only criticals of sort of one side of the aisle you… If I remember correctly you posted a video online maybe on Twitter with Debbie Dooley the co-founder of the Tea Party and environmental conservationist movement about how to talk to conservatives about climate change.

 

[00:18:07]

Andy Karsner:  Right.

 

[00:18:09]

Jason Bordoff:  The gist was liberals are doing this totally the wrong way.

 

[00:18:11]

Andy Karsner:  Right.

 

[00:18:12]

Jason Bordoff:  Why is that?

 

[00:18:13]

Andy Karsner:  I think, I've got a lot of reasons that, I've got liberal friends who I disagree with.  So, I want to be careful not to offend.  But you know I grew up in the middle of the country and you know there's… We have different cultures across our countries.  Funny how much time and effort we spend on foreign exchange programs and cultural exchange.  We spend so little of it inside of our own country trying to understand one another.  There's just an impoliteness with condescension when you speak to people.  And I know from now living on both coasts that a lot of time when you approach this problem, people approach it as if everybody were as smart as me.  If everyone was as privileged and educated as I were to know these facts, if I could just rid the room of other people less fortunate then everything would be fine.  And that's the wrong approach.  You know and that is actually the approach that produced the Trump effect.  You know people in middle of this country are hurting.  They are detached from opportunity.  They do not have access to the technology diffusion that we've seen burgeoning on the coast or the wealth that goes with it.  And we have to figure out a way to bring all Americans along with the understanding that we're all in this together including the people in the coal communities that are being sold a bill of good that this mine will be there for their children and grandchildren and so that they could have at least the quality of living they had during the Appalachian Regional Commission which wasn't that great to begin with.  We should be doing different things.  We should be figuring out how to have investment zones and how to have, how to direct a full employment economy to share that wealth in a more equitable way across this country.  And while people are suffering that and then at the same time with extreme wealth on the coast that we're hectoring those same people as being the bane of our problems and destroying our habitats.  It's very difficult to connect with them.

 

[00:19:58]

Jason Bordoff:  Let's just talk about where we are with a couple of the clean energy technology issues out there.  The changing role of utilities of state regulation of utilities.  How do you see that moving forward? What is happening and what needs to happen given the kind of disruption that we see happening in the electricity sector right now?

 

[00:20:22]

Andy Karsner:  Well you know when I grew up as you know people used to talk about a Kodak moment as a keepsake at the family Thanksgiving table or if you went to an amusement park.  And nowadays in business school they'll teach you that a Kodak moment is that moment in the boardroom of Eastman Kodak when they decided that technology that they themselves had gestated and had proprietary rights to that would convert the world to digital.  It was something they decided to marginalize to stave off in order to protect their incumbent basis in chemical Processing and paper film and 35-millimeter canisters.  Well we know that one of the greatest chemical companies in advanced technological companies in the world cannibalized itself through its failure to understand the value of integrating technology in a designed way to map its future.  Okay, we've seen now that the oldest and longest company listed on the Dow Jones Industrials has been delisted.  General Electric, the very home of Thomas Edison and the bright idea light bulb that represents innovation.  So, assuming that incumbency protects the position for the future is the worst mistake that management and boardrooms across the utility sectors are making and trying to stave off technologies that are inevitable and declining in price and have a great social good.  If they don't embrace it I think they can follow sort of the other Kodak moments and that's a harsh thing.  But the good news is that anybody particularly some of the people that we're talking with in our meetings here today can rise in a leadership position and say, what do I need to do to be agile in adaptation in an era of accelerations? What do I need to do to morph my enterprise to greet the 21st century instead of rely on income streams that are protected and monopolistic from the 20th century? And if they can make that pivot mentally and exercise leadership around and I know your institute encourages and educates on that.  Then utilities will survive and thrive.  And I suspect a few of them will.  But I suspect as at least as many won't and will be supplanted by greater consumer choice exercising themselves itchy for iPhone type features and not just a Princess Phone evolution.

 

[00:22:35]

Jason Bordoff:  And where the, because we are a policy center I want to kind of make sure to return to policy.  The most important.  You were saying a minute ago that and this is a narrative that's broadly heard that it doesn’t really matter necessarily what happens in Washington.  Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement.  States and cities and the private sector can lead in this transition you know whole movement of we're still in the agreement.  How real is that and what are the policies that are most important? Maybe not at the federal level that are moving forward.  Do you think should be moving forward?

 

[00:23:07]

Andy Karsner:  I think it's real in terms of incubation.  I also think it's incomplete in terms of fulfillment.  Right.  And so, you know with California being the sixth or seventh largest economy on earth implementing a lot of these policies and showing you can do so with economic growth.  And so, it shows that you can do it with a social conscience even as you clean up habitat.  There is real benefits in having policy leadership.  And so, we're deeply invested in places where we can make progress where we see doers like Kevin Daley on and the legislation he passed in California for both pricing and now for the SP-100 Bill.  So, there is useful state and local laboratories.  And I deeply believe in community-based analysis because it's so much closer to the pulse points.  It's the arteries and the veins of the country.  But you're asking about the heart and you're saying how good is it if you clean all your arteries and veins but your heart isn't working fully.  And so, I also subscribe that you've got to be acting on every level because you can't do this as a halfway exercise.  Ultimately nature which is what we're trying to solve for our habitat that thing that supports our species and secures our future is endangered as a common.  And so just as you wouldn't build a dam halfway across the river and claim victory before how sturdy the dam is.  You have to have a universal way of limiting the harm to the commons.  Okay, so any state, any jurisdiction, any locality should do their part and be strong in helping form the next piece of construction.  But it's got to be a complete and holistic construction and therefore it has to involve the federal government which is largely absent right now.

 

[00:24:49]

Jason Bordoff:  You've spoken about security being a serious threat to the diffusion of clean energy technology.  How much are you either focused on that now or are you seeing progress being made toward taking cyber security and other security risks more seriously in clean energy?

 

[00:25:08]

Andy Karsner:  Well I think, you know as you know I was quite early in this discussion because of my involvement with Nest which was really one of the first private enterprises that represented the Internet of Things entry into the energy industry.  And I think that we knew then that at the rate of explosion of devices we had from a single device and a few different outlets that a revolution was upon us.  That it was simply tip of the spear.  Now you can take non-energy devices like Alexa or your watch or your phone and you're already up to a dozen or two dozen listening devices in your home.  Something that would have made us incredibly paranoid growing up in the Cold War.  By the time we come out with new TVs the next year or two we're going to have a hundred listening devices in our home.  We're going to have video devices in our home and we have not given attention to the necessary security.  Now that's our own home and how we feel about our constitutional rights to be private or our kids remaining sensibilities about privacy and sense of self.  That's before you get to the security of load centers and pipelines and transmission grid and the vulnerabilities we've known about for years.  So, you know when I was asked by my Chinese counterparts in a dialogue, a diplomatic dialogue on climate what I thought to be the greatest conundrum.  I said that we were at a moment not unlike in the 1950s talking about splitting the atom where we could diffuse this for peaceful uses and manage it intelligently in our interests to have large scale emission free power.  Or we could weaponize it and make everybody insecure, paranoid and spend billions of dollars to drain our society in a useless arms race.  And of course, history would say that we did a little bit of both but much more of the latter than the former.  And I deeply worry that we are running down a course of weaponizing data rather than employing it for massive new efficiencies to mitigate the greatest problems we've got.  We've got the same conundrum between our better angels and our worst angels and we need to be proactive in the design of security around data and management of data if we want the revolutionary benefits it's going to bring.

 

[00:27:18]

Jason Bordoff:  If you were back at DOE and ignoring the political realities in Washington today, if you had freedom of implementation or what would you be prioritizing from a policy standpoint?

 

[00:27:30]

Andy Karsner:  You know, it doesn’t feel like a revolution now.  But it was a revolution then to talk about stretch goals and long-term plans.  So, we advocated for national clean energy standard.  President Bush put that in front of Senator Bingaman and Domenici in a bipartisan way.  I believe you were in the White House when President Obama advocated in the State of the Union.  And so, we successfully passed a renewable fuel standard along the same line which of course should have been dynamic and revised as I know you've advocated for but it has become sort of static and outdated.  But nonetheless taking a stand on what stretch goals ought to be for a reasonable period in time that gives durability and predictability and price signals into the marketplace is precisely what we need to have markets perform.  And so, all the standards that happened in 2007 the last time we had statute that the successive administration implemented through promulgating the various rules.  Those are now outdated.  Technology is move fast.  They have either fulfilled or outpaced or outlasted the utility of those goals.  So, we need a fresh update and where some people might say oh well that's that standard or industrial policy.  I say it's national strategy.  I'm as big a fan of maximizing the market's potential with the least touch of anybody you will ever meet amongst fiscal conservatives.  But there is no possibility that a market can proactively make strategy towards an outcome and a date in the future.  We have that in our own personal homes where we want to set aside retirement income.  We should have that amongst our good governance when we want to set aside what a good society looks like for our children with the same inheritance.

 

[00:29:16]

Jason Bordoff:  Setting out a vision for the attributes that we want an energy system to have maybe not picking technologies today to meet it because…

 

[00:29:22]

Andy Karsner:  Now we never pay.

 

[00:29:24]

Jason Bordoff:  Nobody knows better than you how that outlook can change dramatically.

 

[00:29:26]

Andy Karsner:  That’s right.

 

[00:29:27]

Jason Bordoff:  How dramatically new technologies won't work.

 

[00:29:29]

Andy Karsner:  And you know from the shale that we're completely blindsided.  We don't know about the shale, the middle of the oil crisis.  We probably would have never had a renewable fuel standard.  But at a time where we needed the credible threat of liquid substitution and we were seeing Ahmadinejad meeting with Chavez and Putin to discuss a new cartel.  We needed immediate relief and a new bumper.  And so, biofuels presented a little bit of that.  Now it should have been dynamically adjusted the minute that we came to understand what was happening in battery storage, what was happening in the shale place and no adjustment has been made.  So, policy can go static when it needs to be dynamic.  That's a problem.  That's sort of the first thing to fix as a policy making principle.  But beyond that you've got to continuously have a forward strategy where we can't be the only country in the world drifting along on the largesse of a feeling that our resources are inexhaustible and have no impact.

 

[00:30:21]

Jason Bordoff:  Do you think we are the only country? Do you think everyone else is it more kind of rhetorical or do you think other countries are way ahead in terms of actual leadership?

 

[00:30:28]

Andy Karsner:  Every other country that we compete with and there's a lot of countries on earth.  But if we just sort of say well who are the countries we are truly in a competition with you know for jobs and opportunity and the kind of life that we would like our children to have.  Those countries all have plans.  We may not like their plans.  We may think they're bad plans.  But they do have plans and you know classically they were horribly social and central plans, five-year plans.  Increasingly we're actually seeing that the erstwhile communist in Beijing are far better at executing capitalism and far more creative to technology and innovation that we are creating and invested in here then we are simply because we don't have a plan.  So, it's not really enough for us to invest the treasure of generations hard fought and hard won and then let it all get vacuumed up by our competitors simply in the absence of a strategy and a plan for the outcome we want for the future our children deserve.

 

[00:31:25]

Jason Bordoff:  And what does that mean for how do we think about energy geopolitics and leadership as the clean energy transition presumably, hopefully progresses? Does that mean China's investing big to lead in solar and batteries and electric vehicles and are those, I mean they're doing that in part because they see strategic opportunities for where the growth is going to be in the future and what does that mean for balance of power and our diplomatic relationships?

 

[00:31:49]

Andy Karsner:  I think it's a real risk.  I think it's a real risk.  I mean we're basically posturing ourselves to follow the strategy by default of many lesser developed country.  Countries we used to call third world that were only about extracting their resources and exporting it elsewhere.  And that is what we're becoming saying hang on a second.  Let's keep that last mine open because the Chinese may need it and depending on the price they'll pay we can go dig some more.  So, it's just completely bizarre that the country that is not only brought us vehicles and efficient vehicles and vehicles built with new material science and vehicles that can communicate and vehicles that are now electrified and are emission free, that that same country that is in now are bringing artificial intelligence so the vehicles can drive themselves.  That we're now even bringing new forms of propulsion so those vehicles can fly.  That, that same country that has that amount of entrepreneurship and innovation meeting science and commerce would be willing to let it all go away and accrue to the benefit of others at no cost.  So that potentially we might re-import a piece of it.  So that potentially we might re-import it with a balance of trade based on the extractive natural resources we're willing to send away.  It's absolutely the wrong thing in America to think about an era of not rewarding and pricing innovation.  So, the first thing is we've got to get our priorities straight and say we can invent the future we want.  We always have.  We need to come together as Americans.  We've got to invest in it.  We've got to fund it.  We've got to have policy for it and we've got to reap the benefits for it.

 

[00:33:25]

Jason Bordoff:  So, we're just about out of time but just to finish.  So, you spent a lot of your career trying to see around the corner with energy technology and there are things that capture the public imagination now like self-driving cars will shuttle us around and presumably be electric.  Tell us what people aren't talking about enough.  What's coming around the corner 10, 20 years now in terms of how we're going to get the energy we need and power of the planet.

 

[00:33:51]

Andy Karsner:  I think it's a good question.  I think what people aren't talking about enough, it might be as much a question of what they're talking about in the wrong way.  Right.  And so, and usually to go back to the Kodak example they talk about digital as a threat instead of an opportunity.  You know when I think of 3D additive manufacturing and printing some people will say well that's going to put out of work a big mill.  And I think it's going to minimize and dematerialize the amount of waste we have.  It's going to introduce material ecology and bio materials that can fade away into the ocean with no harm.  And above all it's going to create economic engines of entrepreneurship in progressive localities where people want to train their kids not on a PC like when you and I grew up but on a Maker's device where they can create anything.  They can make their own tennis shoes.  They can sell their own products in an interconnected way.

 

[00:34:43]

Jason Bordoff:  They might also make it so easy and cheap to do that that I'll make a pair shoes and then I don't like it, I'll make another, I'll make another and you could end up sorting having so much manufacturing that you use more materials and energy.

 

[00:34:52]

Andy Karsner:  Well, so a key is what materials are we using.  And so, we're big followers of Neri Oxman and the movement of material ecology and how to make those materials as natural as possible is why we don't separate conservation from energy.  We think it's all a holistic ecosystem and a habitat and it's not a compartmentalized thing that you tie to but rather that you integrate into your forward planning.  But there's a tremendous amount that excites me about the future.  But the question is what is it going to be in our nature to take advantage of it.  I think that all of these things you hear about machine learning, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, all the visualization, all the things that I see in a continuation of Moore's Law are all ultimately equals something new like a shared economy where we still have individual ownership and responsibility of our portion of the commons.  But there's a great deal more sharing.  You know and we're seeing this already where the driver's license applications are going down and it's no longer a measure of your manhood about what size car you've got but how intelligent you are about having an On-Demand chauffeur to take you where you want after you have a drink at the end of the evening.  Right.  So, we're already moving into a shared economy in a way that most of us didn’t even realize it could happen five years ago.  And I see that trend continuing based on where we lived, how we drive, how we interact and ultimately how we form our communities to hopefully strengthen bonds amongst one another.

 

[00:36:12]

Jason Bordoff:  Andy Karsner, always a pleasure to have a chance to spend time with you and learn from you and appreciate your letting all of our listeners do that as well.  Thanks for making time to be with us today.

 

[00:36:20]

Jason Bordoff:  You're a great doer Jason.

 

[00:36:22]

Andy Karsner:  For more information about the Columbia Energy Exchange and the Center on Global Energy Policy visit us online at Energypolicy.columbia.edu or follow us at columbiauenergy.  I’m Jason Bordoff.  Thanks for joining.  We’ll see you next week.