CFR Presents

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

Another Reason that Changing Course on the Climate Diplomacy is so Hard

by Michael Levi Thursday, October 31, 2013

Difficulties in the UN climate talks in recent years have prompted calls for shifting negotiations to a smaller and more nimble group. The argument for doing this (and I’ve made it myself) often turns to an analogy with the GATT. That foundational trade agreement, people point out, didn’t start with every country on earth. Instead it began with a small group, figured out how to make that relatively tractable arrangement work, and then built on success. Climate negotiators should do the same. Read more »

Two New Looks at Energy and Security

by Michael Levi Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Three years ago, convinced that U.S. thinking about energy security was stuck in the past, my colleagues and I launched a new CFR effort on energy and national security. Today, forty years after the first oil crisis, CFR is publishing two new products of that effort. These follow earlier publications on energy market transparency, the pivotal role of spare capacity, Iran-related oil market contingencies, transformations in U.S. energy, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and cyber security for oil and gas, among others. Expect to see more work published in the coming months. Read more »

A Sticking Point for Climate Diplomacy

by Michael Levi Monday, October 14, 2013

President Obama’s big climate change speech in late June has spurred a lot of optimistic talk about the possibility of concluding an international deal in 2015, the deadline set last year for a new climate agreement. By pursuing new regulations under existing authority, the United States could deliver on its Copenhagen promise of cutting its emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, presumably strengthening its bargaining hand. The draft 2014 U.S. Climate Change Report, released late last month, admirably reinforces the message, modeling a range of plausible policy shifts that could deliver on the 2020 goal. Read more »

Keystone, Science, and Politics

by Michael Levi Thursday, August 8, 2013

Jeff Tollefson has an excellent new piece in Nature exploring the debate within the scientific community over Keystone XL. It makes two things pretty clear. As a matter of substance, there’s pretty much no one beyond Jim Hansen willing to come close to endorsing the “game over” claim. Yet there’s still a ton division among scientists – it’s over political tactics instead. Ken Caldeira captures the situation well: “I don’t believe that whether the pipeline is built or not will have any detectable climate effect,” he tells Nature. Nonetheless, here’s his bottom line: “The Obama administration needs to signal whether we are going to move toward zero-emission energy systems or whether we are going to move forward with last century’s energy system”. That sort of sentiment is political– and there’s nothing wrong with it – but, as the Nature article nicely shows, it’s distinct from any scientific debate. Read more »

Thoughts on a New Methane Study

by Michael Levi Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A new paper in press at Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) claims to show methane leakage of between 6.2 and 11.7 percent in Uintah County, Utah. This is the same study that got pre-review press in January after a co-author claimed, in a conference presentation, to have observed 9 percent leakage. The study team, which includes many of the same people who claimed last year to have observed massive methane leakage in Colorado, once again uses their results to question the “bottom-up” estimates upon which the EPA relies, saying that those lowball actual emissions. Read more »

Energy, Industry, and the Countryside

by Michael Levi Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I’ve argued frequently that shale gas and tight oil development can be done safely, given the right practices and the right rules to ensure that those are followed. Over the past month, as I’ve traveled and talked to people about The Power Surge, I’ve heard one powerful countervailing sentiment several times: Even if fracking is done right, aren’t we talking about the industrialization of the countryside? And is that really something we should accept? Read more »

Cyber Threats to Oil and Gas Supplies: How Much of a Worry Are They?

by Blake Clayton Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What harm could a cyber attack do to oil and gas production? Could it cause a catastrophic if temporary loss in supplies, sending prices soaring?  Does it pose a serious threat to oil companies’ operations? Or is talk of a new age of cyber insecurity in oil and gas—which has been in the air ever since a virus destroyed some 30,000 Saudi Aramco computers—overblown? Read more »

Reading Between the Lines of Obama’s Climate Change Plan

by Michael Levi Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Anyone who reads a newspaper has probably heard about President Obama’s climate change speech today and seen more than enough commentary on its highlights. Instead of piling on, I thought it would be enlightening to reflect on five things that are buried in the plan released alongside the speech but could have important consequences. Read more »