CFR Presents

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

Big Oil Price Moves Reveal Less Than You May Think

by Michael Levi Tuesday, October 13, 2015

What do the remarkable swings in oil prices over recent months tell us about the state of the oil production, consumption, and the global economy? One would think a lot: rising prices signal weakening production, growing demand from consumers, and a relatively healthy global economy; falling prices reveal robust output, slow consumer demand growth, and, more broadly, a faltering global economy. Take the August oil price collapse: many observers of the world economy took it as a sign that the Chinese economy was stumbling. The remarkable behavior of oil inventories, though, suggests that recent price moves tell us much more about market sentiment and beliefs about the future, and considerably less about fundamentals, than one might imagine. Read more »

Guest Post: Financing to Protect Forests: Will Carbon Markets Deliver?

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi Monday, October 12, 2015
deforestation climate REDD+ forests REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

Carbon markets, once touted as a golden ticket for funding efforts to reduce deforestation, have yet to deliver on their promise. In this guest post, Brian Murray, research professor of environmental economics at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, explains why and proposes alternative financing options. For more on global efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation, see the report from CFR’s recent workshop on the subject, at which Dr. Murray was a speaker. Read more »

What Big Data Can Tell Us About the Oil Price Crash

by Michael Levi Thursday, October 8, 2015
Gasoline price gas tax 2015 REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The oil price collapse was supposed to boost the U.S. economy by prompting consumers to spend their savings on other goods and services. During the first half of this year, though, data seemed to suggest that they were saving the windfall instead, damaging economic growth. But new big data research from the newish JP Morgan Chase Institute appears to provide strong evidence that consumers did, indeed, spend most of their savings. It’s an intriguing energy result that also offers a glimpse into how changes in data availability and computational capacity are changing the sort of energy research that’s possible. Read more »

Can Deforestation be Stopped?

by Michael Levi Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Figure-1_web

Why has Brazil slashed deforestation over the last decade while Indonesian deforestation has accelerated? The two countries lead the world in deforestation, which, after energy use, is the top source of greenhouse gas emissions. In the last week, each country has released an emissions-cutting plan in anticipation of the Paris climate summit that relies heavily on avoiding deforestation. Figuring out why Brazil has succeeded while Indonesia has lagged can provide insight into how both countries can do more. Read more »

Now What’s That Got to Do with the Price of Oil?

by Varun Sivaram Tuesday, September 8, 2015
The 300MW Stateline wind farm, owned by Nextera Energy Partners (NYSE: NEP), a renewable energy Yieldco (Nextera Energy) The 300MW Stateline wind farm, owned by Nextera Energy Partners (NYSE: NEP), a renewable energy Yieldco (Nextera Energy)

This post was co-written with Peyton Kliefoth, an economics major at Northwestern University and research intern at the Council.

Over the weekend, I published a piece in Fortune Magazine explaining a surprising correlation between falling oil prices and tumbling shares of Yieldcos, which are publicly traded holding companies mostly comprising renewable energy assets in the U.S. and Europe (see chart below). Read more »

Guest Post: Cleaning Up the Mess at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation

by Michael Levi Thursday, August 6, 2015
Nigeria oil NPPC Buhari Joseph Thlama Dawha (R), group managing director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), listens to Bernard Otti, deputy group managing director and executive director for finance and accounts, at a news conference on the forensic audit of the company which was conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, in Abuja February 11, 2015. NNPC said on February 5 that the audit has cleared it of the allegation that it failed to remit $20 billion owed to the state. President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the audit in early 2014 after former central bank governor Lamido Sanusi said an estimated $20 billion in oil revenues had been withheld from the Federation Account. The news conference was held by NNPC to reiterate its position on the matter. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

This was originally posted by my colleague John Campbell on his Africa in Transition blog. John was formerly U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and is currently the Ralph Bunche senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more »

Five Takeaways on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan

by Michael Levi Monday, August 3, 2015
Solar_panels,-nellis-afb

The final version of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (his carbon dioxide regulations for new and existing power plants) will be released later today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many details are already online. The new rules are an important step forward but certainly not without their flaws. Here are five important things, good and bad, that today’s dueling press releases might not tell you. Read more »

Five Things I Learned About the Future of Solar Power and the Electricity Grid

by Varun Sivaram Wednesday, July 15, 2015
The entrance to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado The entrance to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado (U.S. Department of Energy)

Nestled in the foothills of the Rockies in Golden, Colorado, the Energy Department’s  National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was established in 1977 to help bring new energy technologies to market. Today it is one of seventeen national laboratories overseen by the Energy Department and the only one whose sole focus is renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. I spent a full day touring the facilities and interviewing researchers working on a range of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies and on integration of clean energy into the electricity grids of the future. Here’s what I learned: Read more »

New Article: How Asia is Shaping the Future of Energy

by Michael Levi Thursday, July 9, 2015
Chinese woman struggles with air pollution A woman wearing a mask rides her bicycle along a street on a hazy morning in Beijing, February 28, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily

What caused the big oil crash of 2014? If you said the U.S. oil boom or Saudi strategy, you’re only partly right. As I argue in a new essay in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs, if you want to understand current energy developments and future prospects – whether you’re talking about oil or gas or coal or renewables, and about economics or security or environment – you need to pay attention to Asia. Read more »