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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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Will the U.S. Oil Boom Make Energy Sanctions Easier?

by Michael Levi
Pump jacks drill for oil in US energy boom REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Ask someone to identify a big geopolitical consequence of the ongoing U.S. oil production boom and odds are high that they’ll invoke Iran. (Every one of the links in that last sentence is an example.) Without surging U.S. oil production, they’ll argue, sanctions on Iranian oil exports would have led to a massive oil price spike. Here is a concrete case of the oil boom yielding greater U.S. freedom of action in the world, and a harbinger, it would seem, of things to come. Read more »

The Other Big Energy Export News

by Michael Levi

The energy world has been abuzz this week with news that the Department of Commerce will allow exports of minimally processed condensate. This has been heralded as a “step towards a rational oil policy” and a shift that “could change the world’s energy balance”. In particular, many are speculating that this is a step toward complete elimination of the ban on crude oil exports. Read more »

FiveThirtyEight’s Data Problem

by Michael Levi
Current_Account_Balances

Nate Silver’s new FiveThirtyEight has been catching a lot of flak since it launched last week. Perhaps the harshest has been directed at the site’s retention of the often-contrarian climate analyst Roger Pielke Jr., with everyone from Paul Krugman to the Center for American Progresspiling on. The onslaught is disturbing. I’ve disagreed with Roger often, but he is genuinely well intentioned. People who care about getting good policy should want more thoughtful voices, not fewer, proposing options – and organized campaigns to run heterodox thinkers out of town are awfully ugly. Read more »

Could Tight Oil Mean the End of Big Oil Price Spikes?

by Michael Levi
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The current Economist has an article on U.S. oil and gas that repeats an increasingly common view: tight oil will make “future oil shocks less severe” since “frackers can sink wells and start pumping within weeks”. (Here’s a variant from The Atlantic last August.) That speedy response means that “if the oil price spikes, [drillers will] drill more wells”, quickly spurring new production, and taming any price spike. Read more »

The Most Important Part of the Keystone XL Environmental Impact Statement

by Michael Levi

The State Department has released its long-awaited final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Keystone XL pipeline. The headline is straightforward: the pipeline is “unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands” and, as a result, world greenhouse gas emissions. This is essentially a status quo conclusion, reaffirming the essence of the draft EIS (released last year). It also allows President Obama to judge that the pipeline meets his requirement that the project “not significantly exacerbate the problem of climate pollution”. The report does, however, carve out one substantial exception. That’s worth drilling down into, because it’s what the President will likely lean on if he decides to say no. Read more »

Energy Independence Isn’t What’s Straining the U.S.-Saudi Relationship

by Michael Levi
saudi

The newest boom sparked by rising U.S. oil and gas production appears to be in articles about the troubled U.S.-Saudi relationship. The latest installment, provoked by the Iran nuclear deal over the weekend, ran today on A1 in the New York Times. “When you look at our differing views of the Arab Spring, on how to deal with Iran, on changing energy markets that make gulf oil less central,” Greg Gause tells the Times, “these things have altered the basis of U.S.-Saudi relations.” “New sources of oil,” the Times informs us, “have made the Saudis less essential.” Read more »

The “Oil Abundance” Narrative is Wrong

by Michael Levi
A mixture of oil, diesel fuel, water and mud sprays as roughnecks wrestle pipe on a True Company oil drilling rig outside Watford, North Dakota, October 20, 2012. Picture taken October 20, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart A mixture of oil, diesel fuel, water and mud sprays as roughnecks wrestle pipe on a True Company oil drilling rig outside Watford, North Dakota, October 20, 2012. Picture taken October 20, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

America has moved from oil scarcity to oil abundance, and our attitudes need to change in order to keep up. If the stream of headlines and panels is any indication, you’d have to be an idiot to disagree with that claim. Read more »