Varun Sivaram

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

Russia’s Nuclear Diplomacy: How Washington Should Respond

by Guest blogger for Varun Sivaram Friday, April 7, 2017
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest, Hungary, on February 2, 2017 (Reuters/Alexei Druzhinin) Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest, Hungary, on February 2, 2017 (Reuters/Alexei Druzhinin)

This is a guest post by Sagatom Saha, the research Associate for energy and U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Follow him on Twitter at @SagatomSaha.

Last week, Westinghouse Electric Company, the firm that once marked America’s dominance in nuclear power, filed for bankruptcy.  Over the decades, the United States has since been reduced to a minor player in the global nuclear market it created. And although some of the world’s largest developed economies like Germany and Japan have taken a step back from nuclear power, in rapidly emerging economies keen on securing clean, reliable, and affordable power, nuclear is poised for growth. In Foreign Affairs, I explain how Russia is benefiting geopolitically in America’s absence. Read more »

India Makes Progress on Solar, But Barriers Remain

by Guest blogger for Varun Sivaram Friday, February 17, 2017
A worker cleans photovoltaic solar panels inside a solar power plant at Raisan village near Gandhinagar, in the western Indian state of Gujarat (Reuters/Amit Dave) A worker cleans photovoltaic solar panels inside a solar power plant at Raisan village near Gandhinagar, in the western Indian state of Gujarat (Reuters/Amit Dave)

This guest post is co-authored by Sarang Shidore, a visiting scholar at the LBJ School at the University of Texas at Austin, and Joshua Busby, associate professor of public affairs at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the LBJ School at UT Austin. Read more »

Climate Change Could Enhance Risk of Conflict

by Guest blogger for Varun Sivaram Thursday, January 26, 2017
A Syrian man carries a water container as he is accompanied by a woman at a refugee camp in the Turkish border town of Yayladagi (Reuters/Umit Bektas) A Syrian man carries a water container as he is accompanied by a woman at a refugee camp in the Turkish border town of Yayladagi (Reuters/Umit Bektas)

This is a guest post by Joshua Busby, Associate Professor of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and author of the CFR discussion paper, Water and U.S. National Security. Read more »

Curious About Clean Energy Innovation? Take This Class

by Varun Sivaram Monday, December 19, 2016
Fabrication of an organic solar photovoltaic cell in the lab (BASF) Fabrication of an organic solar photovoltaic cell in the lab (BASF)

This fall, I created and taught a course at Georgetown University called “Clean Energy Innovation.” The course, offered to undergraduates studying Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA) in the School of Foreign Service (SFS), introduced the science, economics, and public policies related to breakthrough technologies that could jumpstart the U.S. economy and are the world’s best hope to confront climate change. Read more »

Under Trump, Private Sector May Lead U.S. Climate Action

by Guest blogger for Varun Sivaram Thursday, December 15, 2016
The Googleplex, Google's corporate headquarters, generates much of its power from rooftop solar installations (Reuters/Erin Siegel) The Googleplex, Google's corporate headquarters, generates much of its power from rooftop solar installations (Reuters/Erin Siegel)

This post is authored by Shayle Kann, the head of GTM Research and Senior Vice President at Greentech Media: a Wood Mackenzie Business.

As the inauguration of President Donald Trump approaches, the future of federal action on energy and climate change remains highly uncertain. And although nothing is set in stone, there is mounting evidence that the new administration will drastically change course from the path set out by President Obama. Among the most recent news: Read more »

An Energy Innovation Agenda for the Trump Administration

by Varun Sivaram Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Secretary of Energy nominee Rick Perry speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio Reuters/Mike Segar) Secretary of Energy nominee Rick Perry speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio Reuters/Mike Segar)

Democrats and Republicans are girding for battle over energy policy. The two parties are far apart on most issues, like the future of the Clean Power Plan and federal restrictions on oil and gas drilling. But with the Presidential election in the rearview mirror, Donald Trump and the 115th Congress have a chance to embrace a mainstream energy agenda with support from both sides of the aisle and deliver on campaign promises to create manufacturing jobs and boost exports. Read more »

Climate Change and U.S. Leadership Under President Trump

by Guest blogger for Varun Sivaram Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Charleston, West Virginia as the Republican presidential candidate in May 2016 (Reuters/Chris Tilley) Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Charleston, West Virginia as the Republican presidential candidate in May 2016 (Reuters/Chris Tilley)

This guest post was written by Lindsay Iversen, associate director of climate and resources at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In the week since Donald Trump’s election, the energy and environment community has struggled to come to grips with candidate Trump’s positions on climate change and energy policy—positions that were not deeply explored during the campaign or raised by the moderators in any of the debates. If enacted, the policies Trump has proposed will reverberate beyond American borders, with potentially serious ramifications for U.S. leadership in other foreign policy realms. Read more »

Sustaining Fuel Subsidy Reform Should Be a Top U.S. Priority

by Varun Sivaram Tuesday, October 25, 2016
People jostle for a pump nozzle at a petrol station during a fuel shortage in Cairo (Reuters/Abd El Ghany) People jostle for a pump nozzle at a petrol station during a fuel shortage in Cairo (Reuters/Abd El Ghany)

Last week, I released a new CFR discussion paper entitled, “Sustaining Fuel Subsidy Reform,” with my colleague Jennifer Harris. Over the last two years, governments around the world have taken advantage of the plunge in global oil prices to reduce or eliminate consumer subsidies for fuels like gasoline or natural gas. However, these reforms are often unpopular and crumble under political pressure despite their economic, security, and environmental benefits. Read more »

Four Things I Learned from Visiting Argonne National Laboratory

by Varun Sivaram Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Simulation of charging the Chevrolet Volt’s lithium-ion battery, developed jointly with Argonne National Laboratory (General Motors) Simulation of charging the Chevrolet Volt’s lithium-ion battery, developed jointly with Argonne National Laboratory (General Motors)

For seventy years, Argonne has hosted cutting-edge scientific research. The first national laboratory in the United States, Argonne was created in 1946 as an extension of the Manhattan Project to develop nuclear technology. Today, its research spans high-energy physics, supercomputing, and advanced materials, but I paid a visit to Argonne last month for one reason in particular: the Laboratory has established itself as a thriving hub for research on battery energy storage. Read more »

Pairing Push and Pull Policies: A Heavy-Duty Model for Innovation

by Varun Sivaram Tuesday, September 27, 2016
The Peterbilt SuperTruck makes a stop as its tests in fuel efficiency on the road (U.S. Department of Energy) The Peterbilt SuperTruck makes a stop as it tests its fuel efficiency on the road (U.S. Department of Energy)

This post is co-authored by Sagatom Saha, research associate for energy and U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

When policymakers mandate adoption of a particular technology, they run the risk that the technology may not yet exist or is too expensive for consumers. Similarly, when the government funds research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) of new technologies, it can’t be sure that any advances it underwrites will get picked up by the private sector and successfully taken to market. Even if the government pursues both activities separately—“pulling” technologies into the market through mandates or standards and “pushing” the development of new technologies through RD&D funding—these risks don’t go away. Read more »