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From the Director

From the Director

Newsletter Article, Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Summer 2008

Author: Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School

 

Now more than ever, the current economic situation drives home the relationship between the economy and national security. Several of our Belfer Center colleagues—among them Larry Summers, Marty Feldstein, Paul Volcker, and Jeff Frankel—not only warned about the coming economic troubles well ahead of the rest of the pack, they also are leading the search for solutions. (See more on their work on pages 1 and 11.)

Along similar lines, our recent Oil ShockWave Forum event vividly illustrated the security implications of a disruption in oil supplies. Former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin, Meghan O’Sullivan, Summers and others played the role of U.S. Cabinet members developing a proposed U.S. response to a devastating oil crisis.

We also are working with Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) to produce an oil crisis simulation game for use in university classrooms, based on lessons learned in Oil ShockWave. The game provides a useful way to engage students in grappling with a realistic scenario that drives home the vulnerability of U.S. dependence on oil imports.  We believe it will provide a valuable supplement to classes on foreign policy, energy and the environment, public policy, or even general government. (To order the case, see: http://www.belfercenter.org/oil)

After watching the Oil ShockWave simulation several times, and being involved in production of the case, I have several key takeaways:

  • High levels of imports leave the U.S. (and the world) vulnerable to price shocks. We urgently need more robust shock absorbers.
  • We need to coordinate our strategic oil reserves with those of Europe, Japan, and China.
  • A rational U.S. energy policy would increase energy efficiency (note that we are twice as efficient as we were before 1973 as a result of adopting CAFE and other standards, as well as adjusting to higher prices). But we could be four times as efficient—at least as efficient nationally as California or maybe even Japan.

The Oil ShockWave Forum and the broader economic situation underline the need for informed policymaking. But that is not the only subject that needs attention. We have been working closely with Congressional staff, Administration officials, and others in Washington, D.C. on a number of pressing issues. Ash Carter, Matt Bunn, and I have all testified recently before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Former Senator Bob Graham and Eric Rosenbach are putting together a project to train members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. In addition, John Holdren and Kelly Gallagher are helping Congressional staff develop U.S. auto policy, while Rob Stavins is working closely with international policymakers on forging a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

These issues were on the agenda of the Belfer Center International Council’s annual meeting in April, and members were joined by Center scholars and practitioners in discussing these and other critical issues and brainstorming best ways forward. The Council, whose membership consists of leaders in a wide range of fields throughout the world, provided valuable counsel as always.

 

For Academic Citation:

Allison, Graham. "From the Director." Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Summer 2008.

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