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Breaking America's Addiction to Oil

I returned to the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) for my third "tour of duty" in 2006. I accepted an appointment as  Senior Fellow to work on energy security.

President Bush had called for a campaign to break America's addiction to oil and had appointed my old boss at Fidelity, Sam Bodman, as Secretary of Energy.

Sam was promoted to President of Fidelity in the 80's after a spectacular run as an energy and technology guru for our venture capital arm.

Under Sam, I was assigned to energy and technology investing and as manager of Fidelity Contrafund.

Zero progress has been made in auto fuel economy or renewable fuels in the subsequent 25 years and the political consensus was that nothing would be possible before 2010.

 

Nevertheless, I made the case to HKS that a renewed push in this area can pay dividends in the near term.

My thesis was straightforward.

Since the days of Jimmy Carter our primary policy was a military/diplomatic strategy of keeping the global oil supply side running smoothly.

This led to continual military entanglements and alliances of convenience with some of the worst dictators and religious zealots in the Arab world.

Yet, in the interim, there had been a technological revolution in the fields of thermodynamics, biotechnology and nanotechnology.

With the right policies for encouraging the development and deployment of these technologies in the markets for advanced engines and fuels we could move away from our total dependence on crude oil for transportation and add an industrial strategy leg that can ease the burden on the military/diplomatic legs for keeping global energy markets in balance.

Under the guidance of gurus John Holdren, Graham Allison and Dan Yergin, I spent 18 months immersed in the fields of Middle East affairs, science and technology policy, climate change, auto industrial organization and cleantech venture investing.

Miraculously, between November 2006 and April 2007, the Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court each changed their mind and called for immediate action.

The result, The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 enacted last December 19th, has been hailed as the most important piece of energy legislation in our generation.