Panel discussion: politics, ethics, and economics of decarbonization policy

Bruggeman Room, CBIS, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Thu, March 05, 2020 at 4:00 PM

Panelists: Mark Jacobson, Inês Azevedo, Kenneth L. Simons, Vivek Ghosal

Date: March 5, 2020

Time & Location: 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. in the CBIS Auditorium


This panel discussion will stage the range of perspectives that decarbonization policy offers—a continuum of possible responses to the implications of climate change for energy infrastructure that have been and will be undertaken by states and nations seeking to reduce carbon emissions. Panelists will present their work on policy concerning the technical, economic, and political feasibility of providing the world’s energy needs from low-impact renewables. The panel will share policy perspectives on the speed with which decarbonization can and should occur; the costs and benefits of various pathways to reducing carbon dependence; and the role of public policy in that crucial aspect of response to climate change.

About the Speakers...

Mark Z. Jacobson is Director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. He is also a Senior Fellow of the Woods Institute for the Environment and of the Precourt Institute for Energy.  He received a B.S. in Civil Engineering, an A.B. in Economics, and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Stanford in 1988. He received an M.S. and PhD in Atmospheric Sciences in 1991 and 1994, respectively, from UCLA and joined the faculty at Stanford in 1994. His work forcuses on better understanding air pollution and global warming problems and developing large-scale clean, renewable energy solutions to them. He has published three textbooks and 165 peer-reviewed journal articles.  He received the 2005 American Meteorological Society Henry G. Houghton Award and the 2013 American Geophysical Union Ascent Award for his work on black carbon climate impacts and the 2013 Global Green Policy Design Award for developing state and country energy plans. In 2015, he received a Cozzarelli Prize from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for his work on the grid integration of 100% wind, water and solar energy systems. In 2018, he received the Judi Friedman Lifetime Achievement Award “For a distinguished career dedicated to finding solutions to large-scale air pollution and climate problems.” In 2019, he was selected as “one of the world’s 100 most influential people in climate policy” by Apolitical. He has served on an advisory committee to the U.S. Secretary of Energy, appeared in a TED talk, appeared on the David Letterman Show to discuss converting the world to clean energy, and cofounded The Solutions Project ( His work is the scientific basis of the energy portion of the U.S. Green New Deal and laws to go to 100% renewable energy in cities, states, and countries worldwide.

Ines Azevedo is an Associate Professor in Energy Resources Engineering at Stanford University. She also serves as Senior Fellow for the Woods Institute for the Environment and as an Affiliate Faculty in the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University. Prior to that, she was as Full Professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, co-leading the Climate and Energy Decision Making Center ( Prof. Azevedo’s research interests focus on how to transition to a sustainable, low carbon, affordable and equitable energy system. She focuses on issues where a systems approach is needed, by combining engineering and technology analysis with economic and decision science approaches. She has published 90+ peer-reviewed publications that have been published in journals such as Science, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature Energy, Nature Climate Change, Applied Energy, Environmental Science & Technology, and Environmental Research Letters. She has participated as an author and committee member in several National Research Council reports from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (Assessment of Solid-State Lighting, 2013; Assessment of Technologies for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles, Phase II, First Report, 2014 and Phase II, Final Report, 2019). She is now participating in the IPCC AR6 as one of the lead authors for the Energy Systems chapter. Prof. Azevedo has received the World Economic Forum’s “Young Scientists under 40” award in 2014, and the C3E Women in Clean Energy Research Award in 2017.

Dr. Vivek Ghosal is the Head of the Department of Economics, and the Virginia and Lloyd W. Rittenhouse ’35 Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Professor Ghosal’s current research and policy interests include: (1) firm strategy related to innovation, M&As, and pricing; (2) impact of environmental regulations on business strategy, innovation and firm reorganization; (3) firms’ decision-making under uncertainty; (4) antitrust/competition laws and enforcement; and (5) regulatory reform to enhance competition and innovation.

Prior to joining Rensselaer in 2016, he was the Richard and Mary Inman Professor, and the Director of Graduate Programs, in the School of Economics at Georgia Institute of Technology. His other appointments have included Economist at the Economic Analysis Group of the Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, where he worked on mergers and acquisitions, horizontal and vertical market power, tying agreements, joint ventures, regulatory reform, and innovation and efficiency.  Some of the markets he investigated include electricity, nuclear fuel, natural gas, coal, information technology, radio broadcasting, oilfield drilling services, and postal.

Professor Ghosal’s grants, contacts and research have included industries such as: automobiles; high-speed rail; healthcare; transportation; information technology; telecommunications & media; energy & electricity; and paper products.  His funded research has included issues related to regional economic and business development; infrastructure investments; public-private partnerships; impact of environmental regulations; regulatory assessments; and innovation and efficiency.  The organizations he has received funding from include the U.S. Department of Transportation; the Georgia Department of Transportation; Ragnar Soderberg's Foundation (Sweden); the Woodruff Foundation; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, Paris); the Center for Paper Business and Industry Studies; and the Scripps Foundation.

He has held Visiting Professor appointment at the European Business School (Wiesbaden, Germany) where he conducted research and lectured on regulations and business strategy, with emphasis on environmental regulations, sustainability, corporate social responsibility and innovation in the automobile and other manufacturing industries.  He was also a Visiting Professor at the joint OECD-Korea Development Institute School of Public Policy and Management international program on regulatory reform and competition assessments held annually in Seoul, South Korea. In addition, he was an Economics consultant with the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (Paris) from 2005-2013 where he worked on multiple projects related to competition, regulatory reform, consumer choice, antitrust, and investment and innovation policies.

Professor Ghosal has published two edited books: The Political Economy of Antitrust (Elsevier, 2007); and Reforming Rules and Regulations: Laws, Institutions and Implementation (MIT Press, 2010). He has published in peer-reviewed journals in Economics, Management, and Law & Economics, including the Journal of Industrial Economics, International Journal of Industrial Organization, Journal of Law and Economics, Review of Economics and Statistics, Research Policy, Small Business Economics, Managerial and Decision Economics, Business Strategy and the Environment, Journal of Competition Law & Economics, Review of Industrial Organization, Review of Law & Economics, Journal of Economics and Business, and China Economic Review. His research has also been published as book chapters by publishers such as MIT Press, Stanford University Press, Elsevier Science, Edgar Elgar, Routledge and Springer. 

Dr. Ghosal is currently member of the Editorial Board of the journals: Business Strategy and the Environment (Wiley), Review of Industrial Organization (Springer), Southern Economic Journal (Wiley), Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade (Springer), Business Strategy and Development (Wiley), and Review of Professional Management.

Professor Ghosal has been a consultant for international organizations, governments, consulting firms and companies on issues related to antitrust, regulatory reform, business and economic modeling of markets, industry studies, and statistical and econometric modeling. He has provided project and expert reports and testimony.

Dr. Kenneth L. Simons is Associate Professor of Economics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  He researches industry dynamics and technological change, including innovation and industry emergence, frequency and nature of technological disruptions, causes of industry shakeouts, and evolution of energy generation and efficiency technologies.  His work also analyzes broader economic dynamics, including the ability of new information technologies to provide advantage to upstart companies; estimation methods for the need for environmentally beneficial technologies; firms’ management of employee promotion, job rotation, and firing policies; economic growth; national innovation systems; and mechanisms by which corporate governance changes affect firm productivity.  He has published in journals such as the Journal of Political Economy, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, Research Policy, Industrial and Corporate Change, Explorations in Economic History, International Journal of Industrial Organization, and Public Choice. His research has been funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Dr. Simons is Graduate Program Director for the Economics Department.  He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in economics of innovation and new technologies, industrial organization economics, microeconomics, quantitative methods, dynamical systems, and econometrics. He was previously a faculty member in Economics at Royal Holloway College of the University of London, where he was Chairman of the Network of Industrial Economists and organizer of several conferences.  He completed his Ph.D. in 1995 at Carnegie Mellon University.

Video of Lecture