Profitability is the Key to Sustainability, Scholar Says

Stanford's Jeffrey Ball Urges Students to Get Involved in Future Energy Policy Worldwide

The key to future abundant renewable energy is finding a way to generate and distribute that energy in a profitable and sustainable way, scholar and author Jeffrey Ball told an audience at Allegheny College on Tuesday night.

Ball, a former newspaper reporter, said his experience reporting on and researching renewable energy policy has shown him that if environmental progress is to be made, its stakeholders need to find out how to make sustainability profitable. He also said that the future of climate change and worldwide sustainability of resources are in the hands of young people.

“I just turned 50 years old. The people in this room who I really want to talk to are the people less than half my age,” Ball said. “This is maybe the mother of all mega-issues, and if you want to make a difference in the world, you should dig into this, and if you don’t care too much about making a difference in the world but you just want to make a lot of money, you should dig into this.”

Ball, currently a lecturer at Stanford Law School and scholar-in-residence at Stanford’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy, spoke at the Tippie Alumni Center as part of a two-day visit to campus where he also was addressing academic forums.

“Not only is it not the case that renewable energy is a silver bullet, but I’m sorry to tell you that there isn’t a silver bullet, period,” he said, “Not only am I not going to give you easy answers, I don’t think I’m going to give you any answers. What I am going to do is to encourage you to try to ask deeper questions” about climate change, said Ball.

Ball spent 15 years at the Wall Street Journal as both a reporter focusing on energy and the environment and an editor of the paper’s environment section.

In his discussion of global climate change, Ball drew information from his experiences traveling around the globe to report on the evolving nature of energy policy in more than 15 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Germany and China. He told the audience that the key actors in the race toward competitive renewable energy are countries in the developing world, including China and India.

Allegheny sophomore Emily Kauchak encouraged her fellow students to explore the Environmental Law and Policy programs which Allegheny has made available. She said it is also important to share the importance of sustainability with her peers.

“The environment relates to everything that we study here in the world, and on this campus. Every student at Allegheny is an environmental scientist,” she said.

Ball’s lecture on Tuesday, entitled “Sharp Fights and Hard Lessons in the Global Race for Clean Energy,” was organized by Allegheny’s Law and Policy program, and was the start of a short course entitled “The Future of Energy Policy,” which also will incorporate lectures from two other scholars, Robert Glennon, one of the nation’s thought leaders and commentators on the fresh-water supply, and Dr. Julie Sze, professor of American studies at the University of California-Davis.

Photo Credit: Aubrey Hall ’22. Photo Caption: Lecturer Jeffrey Ball, right, discusses a point about profitable sustainability with first-year student Sebastian McRae.