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Fall 2011, Issue 13

Understanding and Promoting Successful Environmental Policies

Kelly Sims GallagherKelly Sims Gallagher joined the faculty of The Fletcher School at Tufts University in September 2009. She is an associate professor of energy and environmental policy and director of the Energy, Climate, and Innovation Program in Fletcher’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy. Gallagher earned an MALD and a PhD in international affairs from Fletcher and then joined the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University), where she directed the research group on energy technology innovation policy. She continues her affiliation with the Belfer Center as a senior associate and member of the board. In 2010, Gallagher served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Working Group on the U.S. Energy Technology Innovation System. Gallagher’s current projects fall into three areas: the global commercialization and diffusion of clean energy technology, Chinese climate change policy, and the role of government policy in the energy innovation process.

Offering collaboration in

  • cultural aspects of research in China

Seeking collaboration in

  • energy and environmental policy

Gallagher says her work on the global commercialization and diffusion of clean energy technology “is motivated by the problem of climate change and the need to somehow accelerate the adoption of cleaner energy technologies globally in a relatively short time frame—to understand what the barriers are to the transfer of these technologies.” She finds China a good laboratory for this work because, in addition to being among the largest energy markets in the world, it is projected to grow more than any other market in the next three to four decades. China is also a good place for Gallagher to examine issues surrounding intellectual property and infringement. Some of her findings about intellectual property have been unexpected: "There seem to be strikingly different patterns among different economic sectors, where there is much more prevalence of infringement in the media sector and also in pharmaceuticals, and so far I haven’t found any incidents of infringement in the energy sector, which is a big surprise.” Gallagher is using a case study approach, looking at technology transfer into and out of China in four energy sectors (solar photovoltaic, coal gasification, gas turbines, and advanced batteries for vehicles). “I do a lot of interviewing at the firm level, a lot of visits to factories,” she says. “I make a point of interviewing on both sides of the transfer—both the seller and the purchaser.” Gallagher expects her work to reveal practices and policies that both facilitate and hinder the global transfer of clean energy technologies.

Chinese climate change policy is the focus of Gallagher’s second major project. “There’s a lot of evidence about what China’s climate change policy is,” says Gallagher, “but I’m trying to understand better why they’ve done as much as they’ve done. One could make a strong case that they’re being much more aggressive than they need to be from a realpolitik point of view, and yet it’s a very good thing for the global climate that they’re doing as much as they are.” Gallagher is using interviews for the primary research. “It takes a long time to learn how to do research in China,” she says, “and deal with the cultural differences and the language barrier and so forth.” Gallagher has put in the effort to learn needed skills and capabilities, and can advise others on best practices for conducting research in China.

The role of government policy in the energy innovation process, Gallagher’s third major research interest, has generated several papers. One project involved consumer adoption of hybrid cars. “Government policies try to encourage people to buy these cars because of their environmental and security benefits,” she said, “so we wanted to examine which factors actually led to the adoption or purchase of hybrid cars.” Gallagher and her team found that fuel prices and sales tax reductions or exemptions had the strongest effect on the decision to buy a hybrid car. “For me the biggest surprise was that we have very large federal income tax incentives that cost the federal government a lot of money, and we found no relationship between the federal tax deduction and the decision to buy a hybrid car, even though that was more valuable than the sales tax reduction. Interestingly, the Obama administration just proposed a sales tax rebate for electric cars, and I’m told that it’s based on our findings.”

Another project began as a response to the failure of the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen (2009). Gallagher, working with a Fletcher colleague and several Fletcher students, set out to clarify scholarly research needs in global climate policy. “So we interviewed approximately 40 negotiators and experts from different countries—government officials, academic experts, some people from the United Nations—to just get a sense from them as to what they feel are the highest priorities,” says Gallagher. They coded the research results and produced a discussion paper, Key Research Needs for Global Climate Policy, which has received considerable attention.

Gallagher is working to facilitate Tufts-wide collaborations in the area of energy and climate policy through a monthly research seminar that she cosponsors with Professor Gilbert Metcalf of the Department of Economics. “The idea was to have it really be a research seminar, so people could present recent research or research in progress, and get constructive feedback, and certainly have it be open to anyone who’s interested in coming and observing,” she says. “I enjoy working with people with different expertise and different methodological strengths, and look forward to doing more of that in the future.”

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