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Paul Ruiz | March 2019

4 Mar 2019 7:56 PM | Anonymous member

Please note your affiliation and years of experience in the energy and/or environmental field

I’m relatively “green” to the energy and environmental space, having only been in it for about five years. I like to say I followed a non-traditional path. In graduate school, I studied urban policy with an eye on nonprofit advocacy. Soon after graduation, I accepted a research position at Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), which is working to reduce America’s dependence on oil for economic and national security reasons. The position at SAFE ended up being a great match! It combined my interests in transportation and advocacy, and let me learn a lot about energy in ways my urban affairs background did not fully contextualize.

I am currently a Senior Policy Analyst at SAFE where I conduct research, write and edit publications, and follow developments in vehicle technology economics, oil and gas spending and trade, and autonomous vehicles (AVs). I support SAFE’s geopolitical analysis of the global oil market and transportation work around fleet electrification. It’s a broad portfolio of issues, but the breadth of it also makes the work exciting at the same time.

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

Last fall, my colleague and I published a white paper exploring the U.S.’ fully burdened costs of defending global oil supplies. We interviewed top Defense Department officials and senior military leaders who agreed that national security costs are frequently left out of the federal government’s fuel cost calculations.

At the time, the Trump Administration was soliciting comments on its newly proposed fuel economy program, which identified annual defense costs at zero. A review of the literature and conversations with military officials led us to estimate that the U.S. spends at least $81 billion per year defending global oil supplies.

The white paper’s publication prompted a wider discussion on social media and among the public about important topics in energy economics – implicit subsidies, public goods, and resource economics. Vox’s David Roberts wrote a whole explanatory piece. Importantly, we were also able to use this work in SAFE’s comments to the administration.

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

There is a big question mark over how we manage the coming energy transitions. I’m not necessarily talking about big “Green New Deal”-like programs; I’m thinking more about the mobility decisions of governments that find themselves amid several fast-changing industries.

When I first joined SAFE, it was April 2014, and the United States was producing 4.8 million barrels per day of crude oil from shale deposits. Self-driving cars were largely theoretical. And lithium-ion batteries used to power electric vehicles (EVs) cost around $400 per kilowatt hour. That was almost five years ago.

Since then, shale has helped propel the United States to become the world’s top liquids producer. Companies have deployed AVs in cities and on highways. And EVs are both less expensive and more energy dense.

I think AVs will be the next big energy transition. Self-driving cars may fundamentally reshape the built environment and restructure urban and suburban travel patterns. Because of their widespread deployment, urban planners and policymakers will be challenged to make investments in mass transit and roads today that will have big implications for our nation’s transportation fuel demand tomorrow.

I don’t have the answers, but as a community we should be thinking about how these advanced technologies be deployed, how they will influence vehicle miles traveled, and whether people will use advanced driver assistance technologies in conjunction with ridesharing? All of this, in addition to new forms of micro mobility could profoundly influence future transit modes and by extension, fuel demand.

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

I’ve been with NCAC for a couple of years. I always appreciate connecting with other colleagues in this space. And I love learning and hearing new perspectives. My favorite part of NCAC is meeting new and different people who are working on cool and interesting projects.

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