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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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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 »

New Website on the Speculation Debate

by Blake Clayton

One of the most misunderstood topics in energy markets is the role speculation plays in them, and specifically how buying and selling by financial market participants affects market behavior. Public attention to these questions tends to increase when commodity prices rise, which means that it’s been a relatively hot issue over much of the last decade.  A lot of what gets said about it, though, simply isn’t well informed. Read more »

Unexpected Energy Headlines for Obama’s Second Term

by Michael Levi

When you ask energy experts what headlines to watch for in President Obama’s second term, you’re likely to hear about issues that are hot right now: the possibility of new greenhouse gas regulations, growth of U.S. oil and gas, prospects for wind energy and distributed solar, LNG exports, and the like. All of these will almost certainly be in the news. But I’ll hazard another guess: odds are high that many of the biggest headlines and decisions will be about things that we aren’t even thinking about today. Read more »

Trading Volumes Underscore Brent’s Ascendance as World Oil Benchmark

by Blake Clayton

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent have been locked in a multi-year wrestling match for the exalted status of the definitive world benchmark price of oil. WTI’s glaring deficiencies as a barometer of supply-demand fundamentals in the global crude market, owing to an oversupply of oil at its land-locked pricing hub of Cushing, Oklahoma, have been plain for several years now. But a close look at recent futures trading volumes shows that Brent has steadily surpassed its rival as traders’ preferred way to gain exposure to oil, marking an important moment in the North Sea benchmark’s arrival as the “real” price of oil, at least for now. Read more »

Five Critical Questions About the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve

by Blake Clayton

Constant chatter about an impending oil release from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) was a prominent feature of the oil market last year. Much of the speculation was driven by the ongoing loss of crude from Iran, due to sanctions, and the possibility of a confrontation with Tehran over its nuclear program, which could have cut off traffic through the vital Strait of Hormuz. Read more »

Drilling into the American Energy Boom, in Four Charts

by Blake Clayton

One interesting feature of the U.S. hydrocarbon boom is the widening gap between the industry’s interest in drilling for oil and other liquids versus dry natural gas. It’s all about economics: the disparity in prevailing market prices and outlook between these commodities is dictating companies’ willingness to sink money into, and bear the risk of, trying to produce them. Read more »

An Update to the EIA’s 2006 Survey of Estimates of the Effect of Oil Prices on the U.S. Economy

by Blake Clayton

Various studies try to quantitatively relate real U.S. GDP growth, employment growth, and changes in consumer price levels to oil prices. For those of you who work on modeling these relationships, here’s an updated survey of studies in the public domain conducted over the last decade or so about how an oil price increase affects real U.S. GDP and the GDP price deflator. I’m putting these data together for some related work I’m doing here at CFR. Read more »

Three Takeaways From This Week’s OPEC meeting

by Blake Clayton

OPEC ministers met in Vienna on Wednesday to discuss the current oil market outlook and make a decision about future production levels, as well as to select a new secretary general. After deliberating, the group opted not to alter the current production ceiling of 30 million barrels per day (though they are currently pumping more than that). Nor could they agree on a replacement for the current secretary general, Abdalla Salem el-Badr, a Libyan national, choosing instead to extend his tenure an additional year starting next month. Read more »