Comments by Rajat Sen Subscribe

On Lessons of the Move from Hybrids Back to SUVs

 I worry a bit about marrying the power of the government and the power of the market for a sustainable economy. Governments change, policies change and during my career in the energy sector, I have seen energy policies swing wildly. Sustainable energy economy to President Reagan was unlimited use of foosil fuels, while to President Obama it is "all of the above" while curbing carbon emissions. Businesses cannot plan and execute their plans with the prospect of policies changing frequently. Energy investments of any type require long term time frame. I personally think, government policies change energy use patterns only in the margins. The business sector and the markets have a much stronger impact. There is a market driven need to improve efficiency. It is that driver that is going lead to reduced emissions from the transportation sector and over a longer term to electric and/or hydrogen powered vehicles.

May 19, 2015    View Comment    

On Much Ado About Methane? A Little Global Context Helps Separate the Long from the Short

I agree with the author. Carbon di-oxide is a much more important threat in terms of warming that we need to deal with. Also, coal burning causes much more damage to the environment, climate change included, and human health than natural gas. From that standpoint, natural gas is indeed a great "transition" fuel. I know some of my environmentalist friends believe that we can satisfy the worlds energy needs with renewable energy alone. I think that is completely unrealistic. We will burn fossil fuels for a long time -- to me natural gas is the least objectionable among them. We should also continue to encourage nuclear if we are serious about global warming. This is coming from a guy who spent his entire career in the clean energy field.

February 21, 2014    View Comment    

On How Is Expanding Oil and Gas Production Consistent with Addressing Climate Change?

The shift from coal to natural gas to produce electricity is important. Clearly reduces carbon di-oxide emissions. Increased use of natural gas  as we transition to less carbon intensive energy systems. That is why, I do have a problem with some of my friends who oppose fracking under any circumstances. I strongly advocate policies that promote responsible fracking to produce shale gas, not only in the United States, but worldwide.

The transportation sector is also making steady progress in reducing the carbon intensity. Hybrid vehciles, electric vehicles are steadily gaining market share, aided by government policies. I am impressed when I see in recent news reports that the market capitilization of Tesla, an electric vehicle manufacture, now exceeds that of Fiat. I realize that other electric vehicle start-ups have not been all that lucky, but that is the nature of the market place. I hope this trend continue as well.

I am confident that the decarbonization of the energy sector will continue, albeit at a moderate pace as new competritive enrgy technologies evolve. It may be worthwhile to reduce our rhetoric (on both sides) about climate change and encourage and support the decarbonization process already under way.

May 12, 2013    View Comment    

On To Frack Or Not? Just One Of The Questions


Thank you for a well reasoned factual article. I agree with you that we must proceed with fracking, but be vigilant about the potential harm it may cause. Strong, since based regulations to minimizerisk is critical. The federal government must work with states to develop a seto of those guidelines. 


March 31, 2013    View Comment    

On Preparing Transportation for Climate Change

I agree. The "laggards" do "outnumber leaders in climate preparedeness." That is to be expected because of the controversey surrounding climate change in the US. Whether we like it or not, a good portion of our citizens and a sizable number of powerful politicians are still questioning climate change. That must change before any concerted effort to deal with climate change can happen. What will it take for that change? Unfortunately, both sides in this debate have such hardened beliefs that reasoned discussion alone will not bring about change. It will take more Sandy's, droughts and natural disasters for us to wake up and realize that something must be done. As an optimist, I hope that we wake up sonner rather than later.

February 3, 2013    View Comment    

On A Major Setback for Carbon Capture & Storage

I agree that cost-effective CCS is important since our heavy reliance on coal for electricity will continue for a while. I also agree that robust funding of CCS technology development and demonstration is important. My issue, however, what CCS technologies to pursue. It is highly unlikely that the current technolgies will be economic and I am not aware of any new technologies that are practical. I think the focus must be on finding new innovative low cost CCS technologies. Support for research for such an effort should be increased substantiallty.

December 20, 2012    View Comment    

On Cleantech Venture Investing: On the Deathbed or Merely Resting?

I agree with the main point of the author, however, I do want to express a few words of caution. The time taken in the energy industry, both stationary and transportation, to take a product to the market is much longer than in many of the typical silicon valley start-ups. Many venture capital firms in the cleantech space made money from silicon valley companies. The returns expected from a successful commercialization in the energy sector, I believe, are also smaller than the returns venture capital firms have received with silicon valley start-ups. As a result, it is not uncommon to see, venture capital firms making investments in clean energy technology, only to be disillusioned as they see the waiting time and potential returns. For clean tech invesment to suceed the mind set of the investor needs to change as well -- I am sure it will.

December 18, 2012    View Comment    

On COP 18 and the Future of International Climate Policy

Jim: I am not an expert on OTEC, but I do know that the US DOE looked at OTEC very seriously a while back. I am sure you know about that. The Univeristy of Hawaii was involved as well as The Applied Pyhsics Lab of the Johns Hopkins University. A deep pipe was drilled for a demonstration project in Hawaii, but I believe the actual demonstration did not ever take place. The reason was that apparently the project was not judged to be cost effective. I know the deep water pipe still exists and the nutrient rich deep water pumped by the pipe is being used by companies and the University for innovative agricultural projects. Susbsequent to the US DOE stopping the funding, The University of Hawaii has tried several times to put together consortiums to continue some version of OTEC research, but again none of them, to the best of my knowledge, has succeeded. I am sure, Jim you know all about this. I would be glad to support OTEC if it can be demonstrated to be cost effective and sustainable. Maybe the time has come for another feasibility study.



December 12, 2012    View Comment    

On COP 18 and the Future of International Climate Policy

Jim: I am all for that. That is why I propose we look at specific projects and funding for them rather than an over arching global agreement. If I am proven wrong, however, and a good global agreement is reached, I will be the first one to stand up and applaud.

December 12, 2012    View Comment    

On COP 18 and the Future of International Climate Policy

The UNFCC contributes by providing an inclusive forum for discussing the complex set of issues that arise out of the climate change conundrum. However, I believe that it is highly unlikely that a meaningful global treaty of climate change will evolve out of this forum or that a global traety with teeth is even possible. I think, as long as policy makers all over the world continue to see the rising impact of climate change, actions unilaterally, bi-laterally and regionally at the national and sub-national level will be the key vehicles through which concrete steps will be taken to adapt to and also to mitigate climate change. The debate about how much funds should be allocated by developed countries to mitigate climate change related problems in developing and less affluent countires is well intentioned, but counter productive . Instead of focussing on the issue in that manner, we should work to identify practical credible projects that have measurable impacts and seek funding. Funding for such projects, I believe will be much easier to secure than a grand principle of transferring wealth to developing nations from the developed nations as a reparation for past sins.

December 12, 2012    View Comment    

On Would a North American Energy Pact Lead to Energy Independence?

I am not sure what the North American Energy Pact would include. Surely, it will not constrain the countries to sell oil and gas only amongst themselves. For example, if we refuse to allow the Keystone Pipeline to be built, pact or no pact, surely Canada  will find a way to export that oil to Asia. Neither will a pact constrain the countries to trade in oil and gas at below world market prices. Finally, as we produce more and more natural gas, I am sure we would not want any pact to constrain us from sellling the gas to highest bidder. So I am not sure what that pact actually accomplishes.

"Energy Independence" is a red herring. Oil is a global commodity that is being traded openly. If someday we become a net oil exporter -- we would want it that way. Right now we are free to buy oil from whomever we want. In fact our import of oil from unstable regions of the world has been decreasing steadily. However, that does not mean our friends give us a price break when we buy from them. I think oil should remain a openly traded commodity, with the price determined by supply and demand. I know some worry that OPEC manipulates oil prices. They try, but their track record is not that stellar. Also, as we discover more oil and gas, OPEC's clout clearly decreases. My view is to leave oil trading to the free market --even though it is imperfect.


November 4, 2012    View Comment    

On How to Protect Our Communities from Climate Change and Extreme Weather Like Sandy

Climate change has been a fact forever. Antropogenic climate change is also a fact and I agree with the suggestions Frances makes in her article. However, getting a consensus and implementing some of the steps she suggests will take time. I think we must also look seriously at mitigation strategies that also include, sea walls where appropriate, disincentives for construction in flood prone areas, better water management, and finally geo-engineering. I know geo-engineering is controversial and scary. But I believe we must carefully select and support geo-engineering pilot projects to clearly establish the pro's and cons of those approaches.

November 3, 2012    View Comment