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Summer Reading

by Michael Levi
August 17, 2010

I’m traveling for the next couple weeks and so will be posting lightly (at best). In lieu of analysis, here are a few things I’ve been reading that I’d encourage others to look at too:

Evaluation of Proposed Tax Changes on the US Oil & Gas Industry”, Wood MacKenzie for API. Fine-grained analysis of how tax changes proposed by the administration would affect production. The administration has argued that since the value of the tax changes is a small fraction of the value of oil and gas produced, the impact would be minimal. So far, industry has given hand-waving arguments to the effect that that since the tax changes would affect different plays and fields differently, the impact could be much larger. This study puts some meat on those bones. It’s pretty convincing at first glance. (And it’s mercifully short.)

Innovation and international technology transfer: The case of the Chinese photovoltaic industry”, Arnaud de la Tour, Matthieu Glachant, and Yann Ménière. The ratio of hype-to-facts in discussions about the Chinese clean energy sector is remarkably high. This surprisingly accessible study looks at how the Chinese PV industry has had far more success breaking into the relatively low-tech (and low value-added) parts of the solar value chain than it has in the high-tech parts, and explains how Chinese firms have gotten to where they are today. I take a lot of things away from it. One of them is that the guy who assembles the solar panel may grab the headlines, but he isn’t necessarily the guy making the real money from solar. Some in the United States seem to be a bit too eager to get into the low-value-added (and hence low-wage) parts of the business.

The Point of No Return”, Jeffrey Goldberg. I’m probably not the first person you’ve heard about this article from – it’s getting a lot of buzz. Goldberg argues that Israel will probably strike the Iranian nuclear program in the next year. I’m not so sure. That said, the article is fascinating, and anyone interested in the future of energy should be paying attention. The prospects for nuclear energy don’t only depend on economics and technology – they will be affected by game-changers from the world of geopolitics too. I’ll be spending part of next week out at Stanford talking about some of these possibilities, and will have more to say on that front soon.

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