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Energy, Security, and Climate

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

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Showing posts for "Innovation"

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

by Blake Clayton

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

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 »

Overselling Energy Innovation

by Michael Levi

Innovation will be critical to confronting the world’s energy problems, but the promise of energy innovation has too often been oversold. In an essay in the new issue of Issues in Science and Technology I explain why.

In the wake of the Copenhagen debacle and the collapse of cap-and-trade, Americans have been searching for new ways to tackle climate change. One of the most popular ideas to emerge has been a call to focus on energy innovation. Proponents of this approach argue that focusing on making clean energy cheaper rather than on making dirty energy more expensive would transform the domestic and international politics (and perhaps economics) of climate and energy policy. Read more »

Could Expensive Oil Rescue Carbon Capture?

by Michael Levi

What a difference a few years makes. Not long ago, power plants with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) seemed to be the key to a low carbon future. Today, with no large-scale pilot plants operating, no appetite for big government subsidies, and no price on carbon in the offing, CCS barely registers in most low-carbon energy conversations. Read more »

Energy Innovation Isn’t Just About Technology

by Michael Levi

For many people, innovation is pretty much synonymous with technology. But when it comes to dealing with our energy and climate problems, we’re going to need innovation on other fronts. In particular, we’re going to need new business models that fit with clean energy. One key part of that that I keep coming back to in my thinking is finance. Read more »

An Important Report on Energy RD&D

by Michael Levi

Now that Cancun is done, it’s time to start thinking hard again about the nitty-gritty of low-carbon development. Harvard’s Energy Technology Innovation Program (ETIP) has a big new report (along with a shorter policy brief) on government investment in energy RD&D in what they call “the BRIMCS”: Brazil, Russia, India, Mexico, China, and South Africa. The report’s headline is that government investment is greater in the BRIMCS than in the OECD. My preliminary read of the report is that the most interesting stuff is elsewhere. Read more »

Two Roads for Energy Innovation

by Michael Levi

Shifting the focus of climate policy to investment in energy innovation has long been touted as a way to cut through international bickering over who should shoulder the cost of cutting emissions. Recent squabbling between the United States and China over whether Chinese government support for clean energy technology violates trade rules, though, should wake us up to the fact that life is not so simple. Read more »