CFR Presents

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

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 »

How to Improve the LNG Export Approval Process

by Michael Levi Friday, June 14, 2013

One of the odder aspects of how applications to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) are being handled is the “first come, first served” approach. The Department of Energy (DOE) has said that it will consider applications to export LNG to countries with which the United States does not have applicable free trade agreements (non-FTA countries) in the order that they are filed with the DOE, regardless of any other merits or weaknesses of the individual applications. This is led to a stampede of questionable applications driven by a desire to be first in line. Read more »

Is China the Real Winner from Iraq’s Oil Boom?

by Michael Levi Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Iraqi oil production has boomed in recent years, and Chinese companies have been deeply involved in producing and buying the oil. That prompted headline writers to go with this for a New York Times story on Sunday: “China Is Reaping Biggest Benefits of Iraq Oil Boom”. There’s a lot of good stuff in the article, but the headline rests on a wrongheaded view of how oil trade is intertwined with countries’ economic fortunes. Indeed one could easily argue that the United States, not China, has been the biggest winner (aside from Iraq) from the surge in Iraqi supplies. Read more »

Is OPEC a Paper Tiger? A New Study Says Yes

by Michael Levi Thursday, May 23, 2013

We all know that OPEC colludes to keep oil off the market and prices high. Or do we? There is actually remarkably little agreement on whether OPEC is any good at what it aspires to do. Does membership in OPEC really make countries more likely to constrain their oil output? It’s a question with wide-ranging consequences for everything from the economy to security to climate change. Read more »