CFR Presents

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

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 »

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 »