CFR Presents

Energy, Security, and Climate

CFR experts examine the science and foreign policy surrounding climate change, energy, and nuclear security.

The End of Energy as We Know It… In Three Graphs

by Blake Clayton Friday, March 29, 2013

Want to understand the energy challenges the world might face in the future? There are few better places to turn than this year’s BP Energy Outlook to 2030, an annual publication that shows the company’s projections for energy supply and demand over the next two decades. The three graphs below highlight some of the trends likely to define the energy landscape in the years ahead, in BP’s view. Read more »

Three Graphs That Resource Pessimists Don’t Want You to See

by Blake Clayton Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My last post noted that inflation-adjusted natural resource prices—even for exhaustible resources—tend to fall over time. This trend surprises people who think that prices are doomed to rise indefinitely because it gets more and more expensive to mine/grow/pump these resources in larger volumes over time. So what’s behind the downtrend? Read more »

Bad News for Pessimists Everywhere: Malthus Was Wrong

by Blake Clayton Friday, March 22, 2013

There is a tempting intuition to the idea that the real prices of non-renewable goods like coal, iron ore, or oil should rise, more or less, forever. It’s an easy argument to make, and it sounds right: The world’s population is getting bigger and bigger, so more and more goods like metals and hydrocarbons are being consumed. Every year, the sum total of what we’ve taken out of the ground mounts, never to be replaced. Supply of the stuff is limited—once it’s gone, it’s gone. So, this argument goes, as we exhaust our resources, we’ll have to mine, drill, or otherwise get our hands on it somehow but it will get more and more expensive to do so, because we’ll have exhausted the best stuff. Left to exploit ever-greater quantities of ever-more-marginal deposits, prices will rise indefinitely into the future. Read more »

Can Innovation Make Nuclear Energy Cheap?

by Michael Levi Monday, March 18, 2013

Nuclear power promises zero-carbon electricity but suffers from serious cost challenges. That makes calls for more research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) efforts to promote innovation natural. But ask sixty experts where nuclear energy is heading, or ask them whether innovation could change that, and you’ll get sixty different answers. Who should you believe? Read more »

Could the North American Shale Boom Happen Elsewhere?

by Blake Clayton Friday, March 15, 2013

The dramatic takeoff in oil and gas production in the United States and Canada over the last half decade has left many people asking whether a similar boom will happen in other countries. It’s a good question. To answer it, you have to start by identifying what critical factors enabled the boom to happen here, then figure out whether these same enabling factors exist elsewhere. Read more »

An Enlightening Study on Shale Gas and Water Quality

by Michael Levi Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A team at Resources For the Future (RFF) led by Sheila Olmstead has a neat new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that takes a rigorous look at water pollution due to shale gas development in Pennsylvania. (Hat tip: John Quigley.) The team collected thousands of data points measuring shale gas activity and water quality across a wide geographic area and more-than-ten-year span, and then used careful statistical analysis to test a series of hypotheses about how shale gas development might have affected water quality. What’s particularly interesting about this study is that it doesn’t require physical assumptions. It can also shed light on the cumulative impacts of large-scale shale gas development, going beyond analysis at the level of single pads and wells. Read more »

The Shale Boom Won’t Be Repeated on Federal Lands

by Michael Levi Friday, March 8, 2013
Gray wolves are seen nearing a Bison in Yellowstone National Park in this undated handout photograph released on February 21, 2008. Gray wolves are seen nearing a Bison in Yellowstone National Park in this undated handout photograph released on February 21, 2008 (Ho New/Courtesy Reuters).

A visit to Yellowstone National Park last week has me thinking about federal lands. In the fight over whether the U.S. oil and gas boom is happening because of or despite President Obama’s policies, perhaps the most commonly heard fact is this: oil production is surging on non-federal lands but is down on lands controlled by Washington. This observation, many claim, shows that oil and gas production is up despite U.S. policy to thwart it – and a policy reversal would send oil and gas output far higher. Read more »