Varun Sivaram

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

The Oil Spill and the Politics of Energy and Climate Legislation

by Michael Levi Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The New York Times and NPR have quoted me at some length in recent days on the limits to the oil spill’s ability to transform the politics of energy and climate legislation. My comments have been framed in opposition to a recent Tom Friedman op-ed, which called the oil spill Obama’s 9/11 and urged a massive and broad-based policy response. I thought it might be worth expanding a bit here on why I think it will be harder for Obama to use the oil spill to move comprehensive legislation forward than many think. Read more »

Do We Have Any Clue Where Renewable Energy Is Heading?

by Michael Levi Monday, May 24, 2010

There is a persistent debate over whether forecasters are excessively optimistic or pessimistic in projecting trends in pretty much anything, including energy. A new World Bank working paper looks at 116 projections over a period of 36 years to try and answer the question. One of the more interesting findings is that projections of future renewable energy production are pretty much random. That doesn’t inspire much confidence in any of the projections we’re working off today. Read more »

Kerry-Lieberman is Looking Like a Nuclear Energy Jobs Bill

by Michael Levi Thursday, May 20, 2010

Trevor Houser and his colleagues at the Peterson Institute have a sharp economic analysis of the Kerry-Lieberman energy and climate bill out this morning. Take a look here. (There’s a lot more in it – on emissions, oil consumption, and energy prices – than I discuss here.) This is the first analysis of any climate bill I’ve seen that actually tells a plausible story of the “green jobs” front. Their conclusion is that the bill would add modestly to job growth during the next decade, while depressing it slightly in the decade after, but still leaving a (tiny) net gain over the two-decade period. This is a big deal if it holds up. Read more »

What the PA-12 Special Election Says About Cap and Trade

by Michael Levi Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The special election to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D) was, as Politico notes, the only House race last night that really matterered to both parties. Democrat Mark Critz decisively beat Republican Tim Burns in a district that voted for John McCain in 2008. Good news for Democrats – but a bad sign on cap and trade. Read more »

Will China Follow Lomborg’s Advice on Carbon Taxes?

by Michael Levi Monday, May 17, 2010

Barbara Finamore at NRDC has a nice rundown of internal Chinese discussions about imposing a carbon tax beginning in 2012. A Chinese carbon tax would be a positive development. But it’s important for observers to understand what it would do and what it wouldn’t. Based on the numbers being discussed, this looks like it’s more about raising money (albeit money that might be earmarked for green “research and development investment”) than about directly altering Chinese emissions: the tax being proposed would be equivalent to about $1.50 per ton of CO2 in 2012 and would rise to a bit less than six bucks by 2020. Praise from the environmental advocacy community for this step is thus more than a bit ironic: it’s pretty much in line with what The Breakthrough Institute, Roger Pielke Jr, and Bjorn Lomborg have called for. Read more »

The Problem(s) with the Iran Nuclear “Deal”

by Michael Levi Monday, May 17, 2010 asked me to write up some quick reactions on the nuclear “deal” announced by Iran, Turkey, and Brazil earlier today. I’m underwhelmed: deals that involve only one major party to a dispute tend to leave me cold. Perhaps the United States and Israel will announce their own deal on military options some time in the future. In any case, my take is here.