CFR Presents

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

Is China Really More Economically Powerful than the United States?

by Michael Levi Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A couple weeks ago the World Bank reported that the Chinese economy would pass the U.S. one by the end of this year. This led to rather breathless headlines from normally more sober observers (FT: China poised to pass US as world’s leading economic power this year). In an op-ed yesterday in the international New York Times, I argue that GDP is an awful measure of economic power, and explain why Chinese economic power is often less (though sometimes more) than meets the eye. Read more »

FiveThirtyEight’s Data Problem

by Michael Levi Monday, March 24, 2014
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 Tuesday, February 18, 2014
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 »

Is China’s Resource Strategy Changing Radically?

by Michael Levi Thursday, February 13, 2014
Courtesy REUTERS/China Daily Information Corp Courtesy REUTERS/China Daily Information Corp

“China’s leading think tank has outlined a revamped energy strategy,” Xinhua reports today, highlighting a long article published yesterday in People’s Daily. This comes on the heels of a wonderfully titled FT article – “China scythes grain self-sufficiency policy” – claiming that China has given up on its long-standing goal of producing its own food. Chinese resource strategy, it seems, is changing rapidly and radically. Read more »

Is U.S. Fossil Fuel Policy Keeping Millions Poor?

by Michael Levi Monday, February 10, 2014
Reuters/Thomas Mukoya Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

Is the U.S. government keeping tens of millions of people poor by focusing its development assistance on renewables rather than gas and coal? It’s a critical question – particularly as the United States ramps up its Power Africa effort – that’s addressed thoughtfully by Todd Moss and Benjamin Leo in a new Center for Global Development paper that Bjorn Lomborg highlighted in a USA Today column this weekend. Read more »

The Most Important Part of the Keystone XL Environmental Impact Statement

by Michael Levi Saturday, February 1, 2014

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 »