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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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What the TPP Means for LNG

by Michael Levi
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 »

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

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi
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 »

Now What’s That Got to Do with the Price of Oil?

by Varun Sivaram
The 300MW Stateline wind farm, owned by Nextera Energy Partners (NYSE: NEP), a renewable energy Yieldco (Nextera Energy) The 300MW Stateline wind farm, owned by Nextera Energy Partners (NYSE: NEP), a renewable energy Yieldco (Nextera Energy)

This post was co-written with Peyton Kliefoth, an economics major at Northwestern University and research intern at the Council.

Over the weekend, I published a piece in Fortune Magazine explaining a surprising correlation between falling oil prices and tumbling shares of Yieldcos, which are publicly traded holding companies mostly comprising renewable energy assets in the U.S. and Europe (see chart below). Read more »

Guest Post: Cleaning Up the Mess at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation

by Michael Levi
Nigeria oil NPPC Buhari Joseph Thlama Dawha (R), group managing director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), listens to Bernard Otti, deputy group managing director and executive director for finance and accounts, at a news conference on the forensic audit of the company which was conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, in Abuja February 11, 2015. NNPC said on February 5 that the audit has cleared it of the allegation that it failed to remit $20 billion owed to the state. President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the audit in early 2014 after former central bank governor Lamido Sanusi said an estimated $20 billion in oil revenues had been withheld from the Federation Account. The news conference was held by NNPC to reiterate its position on the matter. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

This was originally posted by my colleague John Campbell on his Africa in Transition blog. John was formerly U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and is currently the Ralph Bunche senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more »

New Article: How Asia is Shaping the Future of Energy

by Michael Levi
Chinese woman struggles with air pollution A woman wearing a mask rides her bicycle along a street on a hazy morning in Beijing, February 28, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily

What caused the big oil crash of 2014? If you said the U.S. oil boom or Saudi strategy, you’re only partly right. As I argue in a new essay in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs, if you want to understand current energy developments and future prospects – whether you’re talking about oil or gas or coal or renewables, and about economics or security or environment – you need to pay attention to Asia. Read more »

The World Needs Post-Silicon Solar Technologies

by Varun Sivaram
A Prototype of a Perovskite Solar Coating (Boshu Zhang, Wong Choon Lim Glenn & Mingzhen Liu) A Prototype of a Perovskite Solar Coating (Boshu Zhang, Wong Choon Lim Glenn & Mingzhen Liu)

In his 2007 keynote address to the Materials Research Society, Caltech Professor Nate Lewis surveyed global energy consumption and concluded that out of all the renewable options, only solar power could meaningfully displace human consumption of fossil fuels. However, he warned, the cost of solar would need to fall dramatically to make this possible—Lewis targeted less than a penny per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy and dismissed any prospect of existing silicon solar technology meeting that goal.[1] Solar, he argued, “would have to cost not much more than painting a house or buying carpet…Do not think ‘silicon chip,’ think ‘potato chip.’ ” Read more »

Why Moore’s Law Doesn’t Apply to Clean Technologies

by Varun Sivaram
Silicon solar cells during the manufacturing process for solar panels (Wikimedia Commons) Silicon solar cells during the manufacturing process for solar panels (Wikimedia Commons)

Over the weekend, Moore’s Law—the prediction that the number of transistors (building blocks) on an integrated circuit (computer chip or microchip) would double every two years—turned fifty years old. It so happens that the silicon solar panel, the dominant variety in the market today, is about the same age—roughly fifty-two years old. And over the last half-century, while the computing power of an identically sized microchip increased by a factor of over a billion, the power output of an identically sized silicon solar panel more or less doubled.[1] Read more »

The Oil Lesson of 1986 is Wrong

by Michael Levi

When I was on the road promoting The Power Surge in 2013, I regularly said two things: First, oil prices could easily plunge for a year or two, though it was far from certain that that would happen. Second, we would not see a repeat of 1986, when the hangover from a price crash lasted for well over a decade before high prices finally returned. Read more »

Booming Coal Use Isn’t Just About China – It’s Increasingly About India Too

by Michael Levi
Reuters/Hannibal Reuters/Hannibal

Coal has been the world’s fastest growing energy source for a decade. That’s largely been driven by China. Increasingly, though, it’s about India too, which has important climate implications.

The chart below shows annual changes in global oil, gas, and coal consumption. (The figure for a given year is the change from the previous year; all numbers in this post are based on the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014.) Between 1988 and 2002 coal led the pack only once. But between 2003 and 2013, coal led in every year but 2008. Read more »