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Energy's Digital Future

Harnessing Innovation for American Resilience and National Security

Amy Myers Jaffe is a leading expert on global energy policy, energy and sustainability, and geopolitical risk. She is a research professor and managing director of the Climate Policy Lab at The Fletcher School.

What questions does your research address?

Disruptive digital technologies are poised to reshape world energy markets. A new wave of industrial innovation, driven by the convergence of automation, artificial intelligence, and big data analytics, is remaking energy and transportation systems in ways that could someday end the need for oil. What are the consequences—not only for the environment and daily life, but also for geopolitics and the international order?

Amy Myers Jaffe provides an expert look at the promises and challenges of the future of energy, highlighting what the United States needs to do to maintain its global influence in a post-oil era. She surveys new advances coming to market in on-demand travel services, automation, logistics, energy storage, artificial intelligence, and 3-D printing, exploring how this rapid pace of innovation is altering international security dynamics in fundamental ways. As the United States doubles down on fossil fuels, China is poised to become the global frontrunner in a full-scale global energy transformation. In order to maintain its leadership role, Jaffe argues, the United States must embrace the digital revolution and foster American achievement. Bringing together analyses of technological innovation, energy policy, and geopolitics, Energy’s Digital Future provides insight on the path the U.S. needs to pursue to ensure economic competitiveness and national security in a new energy age.

What are the primary findings?

The COVID era is accelerating adoption of disruptive digital technologies such as telecommuting, e-commerce, and three-dimensional printing in ways that could hasten the post-oil era. The idea that oil’s dominance was inevitable is revisionist. In the early 1900s, cars and trolleys in cities were electrified. Electric taxis were hailed from households by telephone. Then after the outbreak of World War I, the war effort required retrofitting of U.S. factories in ways that hurt the electric car business as machinery, copper and lead were diverted to the war economy. A manufacturing shift took place from which electric cars never recovered.

Now, 100 years later, the United States faces a new round of technological transformation. National security priorities could again influence how drones, e-commerce, robo-cars, and electricity networks are constructed. In her new book “Energy’s Digital Future: Harnessing Innovation for American Resilience and National Security” Amy Myers Jaffe explains how digital energy and transport networks could offer solutions to climate change, but only if policy design prioritizes environmental performance equally with national security.

Publication:

Digital Energy's Future: Harnessing Innovation for American Resilience and National Security