CFR Presents

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

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 »

Is Solar Really “Cost-Competitive” with Fossil Fuels?

by Michael Levi Tuesday, January 7, 2014
REUTERS/Carlos Barria REUTERS/Carlos Barria

A finding last week by a Minnesota judge that a proposed solar project is a better way to meet the state’s electricity demand than several competing natural gas facilities has been making news. The decision has been reported as a “landmark” declaration that solar is “cost-competitive” with fossil fuels. Read more »

Energy Risks in 2014

by Michael Levi Thursday, December 19, 2013
pps

Where will the world’s flash points be in 2014? My colleague Paul Stares does an annual survey to provide insight. The Preventive Priorities Survey 2014, based on a questionnaire sent to more than 1,200 experts, is out today. It won’t surprise this blog’s readers that crises in many of the top hot spots could have reverberations throughout the energy world. Read more »

A Faustian Bargain for Ukraine?

by Michael Levi Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Earlier today Russia intervened dramatically in Ukraine’s political turmoil with an offer to sell the cash-strapped country deeply discounted natural gas. The New York Times captured the prevailing wisdom when it wrote that it was unclear what “Russia might receive in return for its assistance”. Here’s an answer: Russia will receive immense leverage over Ukraine. Indeed history suggests that cheap energy is much more effective than expensive energy as a true source of geopolitical leverage. Read more »

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

by Michael Levi Tuesday, November 26, 2013
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 Thursday, November 21, 2013
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 »

How the Copenhagen Climate Talks Succeeded

by Michael Levi Monday, November 11, 2013

Negotiators are gathering in Warsaw this week and next for the nineteenth annual UN climate talks (COP19). Their job will be to prepare the groundwork for a big summit in Paris in 2015 where countries are supposed to ink a new climate agreement. Many diplomats and observers are likely to warn against repeating what they see as the disastrous 2009 Copenhagen summit. That meeting merely produced a voluntary pact, but only legally binding commitments, many will insist, can do the job. Read more »