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National Security Adviser Tom Donilon spoke at Wednesday's energy panel.

Big-name researchers will study the far-reaching effects of climate change at a new School of International and Public Affairs institute.

The Center on Global Energy Policy launched Wednesday with a panel discussion on energy and an appearance from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The center, which will be headed by Jason Bordoff, a professor of professional practice and a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, CC '83, will do research on hot-topic issues like fracking, energy technology, and clean air solutions.

"What got me really excited about leaving the White House to do this was a sense that the world of energy is being transferred pretty significantly right now," Bordoff said in an interview. "When I was in government, we often had policy issues come to our desk, but had a very short period of time to understand them and what we should do about them."

At the helm of the new center, Bordoff will oversee research done by Columbia energy experts as well as government agencies in an attempt to come up with solutions for policymakers around the world.

"The biggest challenge in starting this center is knowing where to start," Bordoff said. "Given our unique resources in New York City and the deep expertise at Columbia across a wide range of disciplines, this is a very exciting opportunity, but it will also be a challenge prioritizing the policy research questions we undertake."

Bordoff said the center will focus first on energy exports, including how to use natural gas over crude oil.

The center announced earlier this month that David Sandalow, the U.S. assistant secretary for policy and international affairs, would serve as a research fellow. Sandalow will focus his research on United States-China energy relations, advanced vehicle technology, and clean energy finance.

"For someone like Sandalow, who is a serious scholar, it's a great combination that he will be able to bring those real-world experiences to students but also produce really thoughtful research," Bordoff said.

On June 1, Nobuo Tanaka, the former executive director of the International Energy Agency in Paris, will join the center as its first nonresident fellow.

Tanaka, who will come to Columbia twice during the next academic year, will study global energy security challenges for Asian economies, including the natural gas trade, power grid connections, and nuclear policy.

The center, which will announce another fellow next week and hire staff this summer, will provide opportunities for students and bring speakers to campus starting in the fall.

Travis Bradford, an associate professor of practice at SIPA and the founder of a nonprofit that researches solar energy-based solutions for the business sector, said that the center's big-name fellows will study a wide range of topics.

"It's almost impossible for a single person to be an expert on global policy," Bradford said. "But, because of the scale of what we do, we can interact with experts who complement one another."

"It's being in the center of this conversation, as Columbia is, that allows them to be able to talk about the entire issue and not just a couple of verticals of expertise," he added.

At the launch event Wednesday, Bloomberg said that the new center will create a space for leading thinkers to come up with innovative solutions to energy problems.

"New York is where the energy future is taking place," he said.

In addition to Bloomberg, Wednesday's event featured National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and Carlos Pascual, special envoy coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, as well as panel discussions on key energy issues.

Renata Saettone, SIPA '14 and co-president of the SIPA Energy Association, said the center will evaluate how leaders in the private and public sectors are handling energy policy.

"As an energy student, I couldn't be more thrilled to have so many interesting people relating Columbia to energy issues," Saettone said. "The opportunity to have energy leaders coming to speak to us and work with us through this center is amazing, and I am looking forward to doing research and connecting with them."

Bordoff said he hopes that the center will break new ground in energy research.

"We can hopefully be able to anticipate what the energy trends are that are occurring ... six months to a year from now," Bordoff said. "When it becomes a hot issue, we can say, 'We already looked at this question,' and provide concrete recommendations for how to solve that problem."  |  @josie_mcgowan

School of International and Public Affairs Michael Bloomberg alternative energy