CFR Presents

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

Lessons in Cleantech Success from Scandinavia (Pt. 1)

by Varun Sivaram Monday, November 23, 2015
Department of NREL engineers review a simulation of the Lillgrund Wind Farm in Denmark (U.S. Department of Energy)

This post is co-written by Ben Armstrong and Varun Sivaram. Ben is a Ph.D. Candidate at MIT focused on Political Economy and a researcher at the MIT Governance Lab.

Part 1: The Puzzle

A global race is underway to dominate the clean technology (“cleantech”) sector. As international efforts to curb climate change intensify (the Paris climate talks kick off next week), demand for cleantech products that generate energy from renewable sources and reduce emissions will grow.  Countries that invent and scale such products will reap the economic benefits. For those seeking to understand why some countries are successful at building thriving cleantech sectors and others less so, a pair of Scandinavian neighbors—nearly twins in many economic and political respects—present a puzzle worth pondering. Read more »

What the TPP Means for LNG

by Michael Levi Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Japan LNG TPP trans-pacific partnership trade natural gas REUTERS/Issei Kato

This post was co-written with Cole Wheeler, CFR’s research associate for energy and the environment. 

Unfettered access to U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) was reportedly a prime motivation behind Japan’s decision to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks. The United States already gives automatic approval of exports to 18 other countries with which it has special free trade agreements (FTAs), but requires distinct permits for exports to others, including Japan. Yet there has been scant (if any) reporting on this issue since the release of the final TPP text two weeks ago, and there appears to be considerable confusion about what the deal actually does. A look at the text of the agreement in the context of U.S. law confirms that it grants automatic approval of exports to Japan and the other TPP member nations. Read more »

TPP: A Small Step in the Right Direction on Climate

by Varun Sivaram Friday, November 6, 2015
President Barack Obama attends the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting at the ASEAN Summit at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 20, 2012. (White House Photo/Pete Souza) President Barack Obama attends the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting at the ASEAN Summit at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 20, 2012. (White House Photo/Pete Souza)

Yesterday, after five years of negotiations, the Obama administration released the final text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement between the United States and eleven other countries. Ahead of the text’s unveiling, environmental groups had already voiced their displeasure at what they expected to see—indeed, the Sierra Club warned that “TPP would impose additional limits on the ability of governments to tackle climate change”. Read more »

CAFE Standards Protect Innovation From Low Oil Prices

by Varun Sivaram Thursday, November 5, 2015
The Tesla Model S is presented during the media day at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany, September 15, 2015. (Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach) The Tesla Model S is presented during the media day at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany, September 15, 2015. (Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach)


Should the government require automakers to improve the fuel economy of new vehicles each year? If so, at what pace should such improvements proceed? Responding to those questions, this week Michael Levi and I released a peer-reviewed discussion paper urging the next administration to maintain President Obama’s planned Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. We argue: Read more »

China Recalculates its Coal Consumption: Why This Really Matters

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi Thursday, November 5, 2015
china coal climate pollution paris A laborer works at a coking plant in Changzhi, in north China's Shanxi province, July 7, 2007. (Stringer/Reuters)

This was originally posted by my colleague and co-author Elizabeth Economy on CFR’s Asia Unbound blog. Liz is the C.V. Starr senior fellow and director for Asia studies at CFR. Read more »

Why University Research Is More Important Than Ever

by Varun Sivaram Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Stanford University, California (Wikimedia Commons) Stanford University, California (Wikimedia Commons)

A dangerous ideological current is coursing through the intellectual circuit, a political conviction dressed up as an empirical theory. Its proponents argue that public funding of basic scientific research is, at best, a waste of money and, at worst, an actively counterproductive endeavor that crowds out the private sector’s innovative instincts. And the institutions in the crosshairs of these broadsides are U.S. research universities, the country’s most valuable assets in a global economy driven by innovation. Read more »

Big Oil Price Moves Reveal Less Than You May Think

by Michael Levi Tuesday, October 13, 2015

What do the remarkable swings in oil prices over recent months tell us about the state of the oil production, consumption, and the global economy? One would think a lot: rising prices signal weakening production, growing demand from consumers, and a relatively healthy global economy; falling prices reveal robust output, slow consumer demand growth, and, more broadly, a faltering global economy. Take the August oil price collapse: many observers of the world economy took it as a sign that the Chinese economy was stumbling. The remarkable behavior of oil inventories, though, suggests that recent price moves tell us much more about market sentiment and beliefs about the future, and considerably less about fundamentals, than one might imagine. Read more »

Guest Post: Financing to Protect Forests: Will Carbon Markets Deliver?

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi Monday, October 12, 2015
deforestation climate REDD+ forests REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

Carbon markets, once touted as a golden ticket for funding efforts to reduce deforestation, have yet to deliver on their promise. In this guest post, Brian Murray, research professor of environmental economics at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, explains why and proposes alternative financing options. For more on global efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation, see the report from CFR’s recent workshop on the subject, at which Dr. Murray was a speaker. Read more »