The future of energy policy: A conversation with BECC keynote speaker Phil Sharp

(ACEEE blog, 16 Sep 2019) At a time of partisan bickering and talk about the Green New Deal, the politics around energy and climate change can be difficult to navigate. Still, policy change at the federal and state levels has never been more crucial for protecting our environment.

This topic will be central to the upcoming Behavior, Energy & Climate Change (BECC) conference, the premier international conference that explores how human behavior and decision making can accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future.

We discussed the future of energy politics with BECC 2019’s keynote speaker Phil Sharp, a former 20-year member of the US House of Representatives, D-Ind., who served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and was a driving force for landmark energy legislation that included the Energy Policy Act of 1992. Sharp is now a fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

Here are excerpts of our conversation:

What made you care about energy and the environment?

When I came to Congress in 1975, we were in the midst of the so-called oil crisis, which dominated politics for much of the 1970s. Serving on that [House Energy and Commerce] committee got me very engaged in energy policy and the environmental issues that affect energy policy. I served as a Congressman from 1975 to 1995. I was involved in the Clean Air Act of 1990, which lead to my interest in climate change.

When I became president of Resources for the Future [in 2005] there were a number of skilled scholars doing work on a number of environmental issues, particularly about climate change. I have also taught a course on climate and energy policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and Georgetown University.

What will it take to build a movement in Congress that tackles climate change?

Tackling climate change is a broad-based proposition. It will take a movement among the American people, it will take a movement among people in business, and of course it will take an environmental movement and a movement at the state level. We’re really on the cusp of action; I anticipate that we are going to see significant federal action soon. It’s already emerging, but most of it will probably come when we have a new presidential administration.

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ACEEE blog, 16 Sep 2019: The future of energy policy: A conversation with BECC keynote speaker Phil Sharp