Varun Sivaram

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

Is Climate Pragmatism a Climate Strategy?

by Michael Levi Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A new paper sponsored by the Breakthrough Institute and signed by a pretty diverse group of fourteen analysts and academics is starting to get some buzz from some of my favorite people in the blogosphere. Climate Pragmatism, which is well worth reading, makes two basic points. First, internationally, we’re heading (or at least should be heading) away from a focus on universal and binding treaties to a more heterogeneous and less law obsessed approach. I’m all for that, and hope that they’re right. I have a much bigger problem, though, with the second thrust of their argument, which basically boils down to a call to stop thinking about climate change and instead pursue policies with climate co-benefits that appear to be attractive in their own rights. Specifically, they want more spending on energy innovation and disaster resilience, and they want more regulation aimed at addressing conventional pollution. Read more »

Oil and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Nutshell

by Michael Levi Thursday, July 21, 2011

The State Department yesterday released Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume XXV, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1973 (PDF). Oil, of course, played a central role in that conflict. The following excerpt from the transcript of an interagency meeting held on October 7, 1973 tells you everything you need to know about how oil fits into U.S. foreign policy. Read to the end. Read more »

Is There A Resource Curse?

by Michael Levi Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Liberia is in the news as Chevron has announced plans to begin oil exploration there later this year. That has led to predictable (and quite reasonable) worries about the country succumbing to the so-called resource curse, in which natural resource development ultimately hurts, rather than helps, the country involved.

The news reminded me of a paper published earlier this year in the American Political Science Review that I’ve been meaning to blog about. In “Do Natural Resources Fuel Authoritarianism? A Reappraisal of the Resource Curse”, Stephen Haber and Victor Menaldo argue against conventional wisdom on the subject. Specifically, they argue that resource extraction does not make democracy less likely. Indeed many variations of their statistical analysis lead to “results that suggest a resource blessing”.

Read more »

Why Shale Gas Needs Better Regulation

by Michael Levi Monday, July 18, 2011

I’ve been pretty consistent in defending shale gas from some of its most vocal opponents. But that doesn’t mean I think that the shale gas industry is all roses. In a new essay for The New Republic, I observe that the industry is increasingly losing public confidence, not only to its own harm but also to the detriment of the public interest. Why? As I put it in the article, “The problem with the attacks on shale gas isn’t that the gas producers need our sympathy; it’s that we’re in need of their product.” Read more »

Why Brazil Matters

by Michael Levi Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A new Council on Foreign Relations task force report always gets my attention. Task forces are painstaking efforts (trust me, I’ve directed one) spanning about a year each that bring together a couple dozen diverse figures to form consensus on a particular area of critical policy importance. The latest installment, released yesterday, is entitled Global Brazil and U.S.-Brazil Relations. It’s interesting in its own right, but it’s particularly relevant to those who focus on energy and environment. Read more »

How Much Is Being Spent on Energy Poverty?

by Michael Levi Monday, July 11, 2011

Regular readers of this blog know that I wish that delivering greater access to modern energy services were higher up policymakers’ priority list. In a paper last fall, several coauthors and I estimated the cost of delivering universal access to electricity at $12-$134 billion (best guess: about $60 billion) over the next couple decades. Read more »