Roger Liddell ’63, P’98 is an “unintentional” environmentalist who became inspired by the splendor and beauty of nature at Hotchkiss. For decades, he has used his professional expertise to support solutions for utilities, homeowners, and the environment. As Earth Day is celebrated, Liddell emphasizes the vital need for environmental awareness.
Liddell is vice chairman and investment manager at Clear Harbor Asset Management, and he chairs the Sharon Land Trust’s Stewardship Program. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Princeton University and serving as a U.S. Navy Reserve Officer for four years, he pursued a master’s in finance from Columbia Business School.
The oil embargo of 1973 occurred just as he began his Wall Street career as an energy analyst. Americans were traumatized by a quadrupling of oil prices and long lines at gas stations. “I grew increasingly alarmed by how polarized public discourse became,” he said. “There was finger-pointing and blame games instead of working constructively to provide solutions. There had to be a better way.”
That insight bore fruit three years later when he initiated a behind-the-scenes effort that brought together senior officials from major natural gas producers and environmental organizations at Columbia University’s Arden House. “Within several hours, a joint statement of position on market-based pricing of natural gas was in draft form. Everyone could buy into the policies because the logic was so compelling—prices that bore no resemblance to value were damaging to producers, customers, and the environment alike. ‘Free’ goods get squandered! Think of the Colorado River Basin today and the way water is mispriced there—it’s a regrettable, avoidable replay of 50 years ago for natural gas.”
Liddell recalls how easy it was to fantasize about the potential. “Imagine Exxon, Mobil, and Chevron testifying alongside Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, and Natural Resources Defense Council that the interests of all stakeholders, including the environment, would be best served by implementing the recommendations. Well, it didn’t work out that way. Outside industry opponents derailed it 48 hours before rollout,” he said. “The takeaway for everyone was how much could be achieved when seemingly intractable problems are subjected to rigorous economic analysis.”
Since then, Liddell has continued to advocate win-win-win solutions to utility companies. “By seeking opportunities to identify common interests among utility shareholders and homeowners, programs can be implemented whereby efficiency savings can be shared among them,” he explains. “Utilities earn returns previously approved by state regulators for bearing upfront costs of replacing obsolete equipment, while homeowners benefit from permanently reduced consumption. The environment is the third winner.”
He has worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for years to establish policies supportive of rational energy markets. He also concentrates on direct action. “For a 2007 trip to Costa Rica with NRDC to help establish a national energy efficiency program, I took my best energy-efficient light bulbs and demonstrated their effectiveness in the living room of then-president Óscar Arias. Light bulbs are a small, yet powerful, example of achieving environmental objectives through efficiency at negative costs.” That same year, he donated 1,000 efficient bulbs to Hotchkiss, enough for each dorm room on campus, plus some for the bookstore, which until then had been selling only incandescent bulbs.
Liddell, now a Sharon resident, emphasizes conservation steps at the local level. He is involved with public outreach and gives presentations to businesses, communities, and educational institutions. “My first academic audience was at Hotchkiss on Earth Day 2005, where I served as a panelist. For 13 years I was a guest speaker in the Environmental Studies Advanced Placement Seminar, where I tried to plant the seeds for win-win-win opportunities. The logic is clear: get price signals to reflect internalized costs, minimize hidden subsidies, and allow market mechanisms to inform economic decision-making. That’s how agreement can be reached on hotly contested issues.”
Other organizations have also benefited from his advocacy, including the Sharon Land Trust, where he serves with fellow alumni Chris Clow ’65, P’04 and Nick Moore ’71, P’89’01,’06. In 2001, the organization purchased a 107-acre parcel which was negotiated by Liddell’s dear friend and Hotchkiss classmate, the late Garrett Goodbody ’63. Goodbody served on the Sharon Land Trust board for many years. In his honor, the parcel was named the Goodbody Preserve in 2013. Read more about these three alumni and their dedication to conservation in Hotchkiss Magazine.
Liddell is passionate about both conservation and his alma mater. He coordinated 40 students in removing invasive plants along the Larsen Trail as part of Eco Day on April 20. He is hosting this year’s campus Day of Service event in Hotchkiss woods on Saturday, May 6, from 1-4 p.m. Alumni, parents of current students, and Hotchkiss students are invited to meet at the Cynthia White Childcare Center parking lot next to Sprole Field.
Liddell has served on the Hotchkiss Board of Governors and supports science broadly at the School through his funding of the Environmental Education and Experience Fund, the Liddell Science Fund, and the Roger Liddell ’63 Plant Project Fund. Notably, Liddell made the Hotchkiss Observatory possible through his generosity.
Hotchkiss not only sparked Liddell's initial interest in conservation and gave him a best friend, but also provided him with the skills to articulate his environmental causes with conviction.
Liddell provided a quote by telescope maker John Dobson for the plaque at the Hotchkiss Observatory. It epitomizes Liddell’s own efforts: “What we need is a big telescope in every village and hamlet and some bloke there with fire in his eye who can show something of the glory the world sails in.”
April 2023 Alum of the Month: Roger Liddell ’63, P’98