National Capital Area Chapter of the U.S. Association for Energy Economics

NCAC Featured Member

 

Profile List

Featured Member
April 2014

 

Abraham HaspelAbraham Haspel
Founder and President of Cogent Analysis Group
and Cogent Energy Services

 

Affiliation and years of experience in energy and/or environment

I am currently the President of two companies that I founded after I retired from the Federal government following 30 years of service. In 2008, I began Cogent Analysis Group, a consultancy in the energy and environment area. Cogent Analysis consults for governments including Indian tribes and for both for- profit and not for-profit entities. In 2012, I began Cogent Energy Services, Inc., a firm established to design, test, construct and deliver compact, modular plasma-based waste-to-energy systems suitable for distributed generation scenarios. The system is expected to economically convert one ton of average energy content municipal solid waste into almost one MW of net electricity. My firm has begun building its first unit.

 

I have been working in the energy and environment areas since 1976 when I taught the first Environmental Economics course offered at the State University of New York at Buffalo. This was followed by 12 years at the Department of the Interior where I was intimately involved in land management including wilderness designation, oil and gas leasing and operations both on- and off-shore, and royalty management, among other energy and environmental areas. I left Interior and joined DOE for the next 12 years where I held numerous positions including Chief Economist, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy, Environment and Economic Policy Analysis in the Office of Policy and International Affairs, and Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning, Budget and Management in the Office of Energy Efficiency And Renewable Energy (EERE). Through these positions I had the opportunity to be at the fore in the development of the 1991 National Energy Strategy, the 1993 BTU tax, the first Clinton-Gore Climate Action Plan, the negotiations leading to the Kyoto Protocol (especially the cap and trade and CDM portions), and the many advances in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

 

In 2002, I returned to Interior for six more years as the Department's Assistant Deputy Secretary. In that role, among many other responsibilities, I led its efforts in land and water management in response to climate change. Many of the recommendations coming from this work were included in Interior's strategy promulgated by Secretary Salazar in late 2009.

 

Finally, I am very proud to be on the Board of Directors of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, an environmental education foundation located in Accokeek, MD, on the banks of the Potomac River. The Foundation is in the process of building a facility that will meet the "Living Building Challenge," (zero energy, zero waste, and zero water among other very stringent requirements) of which there are only 3 facilities currently in the United States.

 

Any particular achievement/interest in energy/environment you would like to mention?

I was recognized by both President Clinton and President Bush for my leadership in the energy and environment arenas by awarding me the Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive. Further, gold leadership awards from Secretaries of the Interior and of Energy recognized my achievements in both areas. I would also note here my three year Chairmanship of the Climate Technology Initiative created by the OECD members of the UNFCCC. I was the Chair during a critical period for the credibility and survival of this Initiative. I am proud to state that it still exists today and continues to contribute significantly to the process of technology transfer, in general, and the UNFCCC process, in specific.

 

In your opinion, what are important issues facing the energy industry nowadays?

There clearly are many. Let me cite just two. First, maintaining and enhancing the infrastructure needed to transmit electricity, natural gas and oil is critical and I'm glad to see the Quadrennial Review taking this on. I'm a proponent of identifying opportunities for distributed generation as part of the solution. Second, is the growing threat of climate change. While at DOE I focused solely on the mitigation of greenhouse gases while at Interior, which is responsible for one in every five acres of land in the United States and a third of the water in the West, I focused on adaptation/resilience. It is paramount that both be indispensable parts of the nation's approach to the climate change issue. Addressing these two issues is part of why I am so excited about the small scale plasma-based waste-to-energy system my company is developing. By using renewable waste as a feedstock and thereby reducing the volume of waste that ends up in a land fill (and becomes methane) by 98-99 percent, and by developing it at a small scale that is widely applicable to distributed generation, the system we are developing contributes to solving aspects of both issues.

 

How long have you been a member of NCAC? Any particular NCAC memory you would like to share with us?

I joined the IAEE and the USAEE in 1990. I finally had the time to be a more active "attender" of NCAC events once I retired from Federal Service in 2008. I find that the NCAC lunches tend to meld together in my mind and in a very good way. Consistently, the attendees are great and interesting. The presentations are always top-notch, and I always learn something. Most importantly, it keeps me feeling connected to the Washington energy community.

I think the reason for being (and becoming) a member is that feeling of community, of belonging to an organization, to a network of like-interested colleagues (though not necessarily like-minded - which is part of what makes things interesting) of all ages. I admit that having a wide age distribution makes NCAC events more interesting. It gives perspective. I enjoy talking with members at the beginning of their careers, those in the middle and those who are my career-point peers. NCAC helps keeps energy fresh.