Faculty Research Profiles


In the discussion of climate change in the media, experts often talk about the latest and greatest solution. We hear about nuclear power, hybrid vehicles, wind power and hydrogen, all with claims that these technologies will end our oil dependency while keeping the economy strong. Kelly Sims Gallagher, Associate Professor of Energy & Environmental Policy, said anyone who has taken her classes knows that she believes solving global energy challenges will not come through one magic technology, but rather through a diversity of policies and innovations.  “I believe that there are no technological silver bullets. No single technology is going to save us or help us to achieve all of our objectives. Similarly, there are no policy silver bullets—no single policy can achieve all our goals,” she said.   

Gallagher is the director of the new Energy, Climate and Innovation (ECI) program housed at Fletcher’s Center for International Environment & Resource Policy. The goal of ECI is to advance policy-relevant knowledge about energy-related challenges and opportunities. ECI’s outlook is global, but fitting with Gallagher’s interests, the main concentration is on energy and climate policy within, and between, the United States and China.

Gallagher’s research mainly investigates the role of policy in processes of innovation, in particular the development and deployment of cleaner and more efficient technologies.  Her first book, China Shifts Gears  (The MIT Press, 2006), for example, focused on how Chinese automotive firms acquired advanced technology, and the extent to which technology that was transferred to China was cleaner and more efficient.  She authored a seminal review article on energy-technology innovation with John P. Holdren and Ambuj Sagar, published in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources.  She is currently working on a new book on the global diffusion of energy technologies.      

Her most recent book, Acting in Time on Energy Policy (Brookings Institution Press 2009), explains the repeated failures in U.S. policy to “act in time” to avert energy-related problems.  She and her contributing authors examined U.S. policy for climate change, electricity regulation, carbon capture and storage, innovation, and transportation, drawing lessons for future policy in this realm.  She also recently published an article in the journal Energy Policy, which examined the relative effectiveness of different policies in achieving the dual goals of reducing U.S. oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.  She and her co-authors W. R. Morrow, G. Collantes, and H. Lee modeled alternative policy scenarios using the National Energy Modeling System (NEMS) and found that only an escalating gas tax proved effective.  These findings were discussed in The Washington Post, Fox News, and the dot.earth blog of the New York Times.

Known for her expertise on energy and environmental policy in China, she is increasingly focusing on the relationship between the United States and China, the two largest energy consumers and greenhouse-gas emitters in the world.  In 2009, she published two discussion papers that examine the barriers and incentives to greater energy cooperation between these countries.  One, “Breaking the Climate Impasse with China: A Global Solution,” was published by the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements.  The other, “Key Opportunities for U.S.-China Cooperation on Coal and CCS,” was published by the Brookings Institution, and served as a discussion paper for the Strategic Forum for U.S.-China Clean Energy Cooperation, held in Beijing in late 2009.  She is an expert advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy and Office of Science and Technology Policy in The White House on China.

Gallagher says since coming to Fletcher she been surprised by just how many students are interested in energy and climate policy. “I have been overwhelmed by student interest, but also delighted. It’s very exciting,” she said.

Beyond Fletcher, Gallagher is a Senior Research Associate with Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in the Technology Innovation Policy research group, where she is also a member of the Board of Directors. She also is a lead author of the Global Energy Assessment, which is being funded by several governments and UN agencies to assess scholarly literature that pertains to energy security, energy access, and environmental issues.