A Broad Ranging Conversation from Energy Policy to Social Injustice

As readers of this blog know, in our monthly podcast – “Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program – produced by the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, I chat about policy and practice with interesting people who are working at the interface of economics, energy, and the environment, whether from academia, NGOs, business, or government.  My guest in our most recent podcast fits that description to a tee.  Vicky Bailey has had over 30 years of experience in high-level, national and international, corporate executive, and government positions in the energy sector.  You can listen to my conversation with Vicky Bailey here.

I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of knowing and working with Vicky for more than 20 years, originally as part of a multi-year Harvard energy project directed by my colleague Professor Bill Hogan

Vicky has served as Commissioner of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, appointed by President Bill Clinton, and as President and CEO of PSI Energy, Inc., Indiana’s largest electric utility, now Duke Indiana.  Reflecting her bipartisanship, she was appointed by President George W. Bush to be the first Assistant Secretary of Energy for both International Affairs and Domestic Policy.  In the Obama administration, she was appointed by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, and in 2014, to the National Petroleum Council by Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

Vicky is the founder of Anderson Stratton International LLC, management advisory services.  She has served on numerous corporate and non-profit boards, including the Board of Directors of Resources for the Future, the Washington-based think tank, which has brought Vicky and me together again!

At the outset of our conversation, Vicky notes that the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way people work and live, and thereby having profound effects on energy demand.  “Working from home will change energy demand. We can plan for some things, but this is something probably we hadn’t planned for, but we’re seeing energy demand come back.  Things are coming back, but it’s very slow and coming back in a different way.”

Reflecting upon what she thought might be the most significant change in the energy sector that she has witnessed, Vicky responds that discussions about energy, the environment, and climate change are much more politicized today than they were 20 years ago.  

“The words ‘climate change’ seem to now conjure up positions or sides. That wasn’t the way it was for me coming along.” She cited the important work of late Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, a moderate Republican who saw the threat of global warming through the lens of a farmer.  He was a strong supporter of climate because he recognized that the environment can cause stress on crops, which then has an issue as it relates to feeding, getting that produce, and getting that out to feed people.”  Validating how times have changed, we discuss the fact that the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 passed in the House of Representatives with the support of approximately 97 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Republicans.

Near the end of our conversation, I note that the brutal killing of George Floyd in May of this year – and brutality toward many other black men and women over the years – has greatly increased national consciousness about personal and systemic racism – both in the United States and globally.  In this regard, I ask Vicky if she can share her perceptions, given her truly diverse set of experiences in business and government. Her response is heart-felt and full, and so I want to share with you an extended, albeit edited, part of what Vicky Bailey has to say:

“Yes. It has been a hard time. The murder of George Floyd that we all witnessed, or those of us who did see this video and see it on TV and other areas, you can’t unsee that.  And you have to say, why? Why is that happening? Why did it turn into that? And even if you thought, Well, okay, he did something bad, he did something criminal, doesn’t he at least get to make it to the jailhouse?   Can we make it to the jailhouse? Others seem to be able to do that, even though they commit horrendous crimes. They seem to be able to make it to the jailhouse, and our men and women don’t.  And so we’re weary of that.”

“And people are angry about that. They see other segments of society treated differently and given latitudes and benefits of the doubt, that other segments are not.  So, I don’t agree with violence and those of you who know me, I’m not a sharp elbow. I’m not a loud and boisterous kind of individual.  But there are those who feel that you don’t hear them. You don’t hear their cries.  You don’t feel their pain. Unless we come out and speak loudly, this behavior is just going to continue.  It just seems to continue. And for me, it’s a time for reflection. It’s a time for conversation. It’s a time to lend your voice. Don’t be afraid to do so.”

“But I am optimistic. I believe in America. I have said that through my own public service. And I believe we always aspire to do better, but we need our leaders. We need our leadership:  leadership and character, what we teach our children from kindergarten on.  We are a great country, but we continue to strive to do better.  And that’s what I want to appeal to. I want to appeal to that. That better side of us.”

All of this and more is found in the latest episode of “Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.” Listen to this latest discussion here.  You can find a complete transcript of our conversation at the website of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.

My conversation with Vicky Bailey is the fourteenth episode in the Environmental Insights series.  Previous episodes have featured conversations with:

“Environmental Insights” is hosted on SoundCloud, and is also available on iTunes, Pocket Casts, Spotify, and Stitcher.


Author: Robert Stavins

Robert N. Stavins is the A.J. Meyer Professor of Energy & Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, Director of Graduate Studies for the Doctoral Program in Public Policy and the Doctoral Program in Political Economy and Government, Co-Chair of the Harvard Business School-Kennedy School Joint Degree Programs, and Director of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements.