Varun Sivaram

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

The Clean Energy Ministerial: What I Learned about Solar PV and Global Governance

by Michael Levi Thursday, April 26, 2012

On April 25 and 26, I had the good fortune to participate in parts of the third annual Clean Energy Ministerial (known informally as the CEM), a forum launched by U.S. Energy Secretary Steve Chu in 2010. The initiative brings together energy ministers from most G20 countries, along with a handful of others, to learn lessons from each others’ clean energy efforts, and, critically, to identify places where intergovernmental initiatives could boost the odds of success. One thing that distinguishes the forum from other international initiatives is the integral role that the private sector has played from day one. The first afternoon of the CEM was spent in a series of small public-private dialogues that brought together ministers, regulators, operators, investors, and experts in science and technology to discuss areas ranging from smart financing tools to support energy efficiency investment to integration of variable renewable sources in the grid. Read more »

Is Oil Shale the Next Big Energy Battle?

by Michael Levi Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing last week titled “Tapping America’s Unconventional Oil Resources for Job Creation and Affordable Domestic Energy: Technology & Policy Pathways”. I had assumed that the hearing would highlight attacks on Obama administration policies toward shale gas, shale oil, and Keystone XL, all of which have been prominent in the news. Read more »

Is Burning Fossil Fuels Really Immoral?

by Michael Levi Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Prominent climate scientist Ken Caldeira has published an impassioned plea to those who care about climate change in which he essentially says that building (and presumably continuing to operate) any fossil fuel fired power plants is “immoral”. He is particularly upset by support for natural gas as an alternative to coal: if we emit greenhouse gases half as rapidly as we do today”, he points out, “we will wind up in the same place but it will take us twice as long to get there”. Cutting emissions without ditching fossil fuels entirely thus appears to be essentially worthless in his eyes. Read more »

An Anti-Speculative Frenzy

by Blake Clayton Thursday, April 12, 2012

I was worried that my defense of speculation in the oil market, published this week on, was late to the game, but my timing turned out to be right on. Just yesterday, an op-ed appeared in the New York Times by Joseph P. Kennedy arguing that “pure” speculators should be “banned from the world’s commodity exchanges.” Read more »

In Defense of Speculators

by Blake Clayton Tuesday, April 10, 2012

You’re not going to win any popularity contests being a speculator in the oil market these days. As if Occupy Wall Street weren’t bad enough, a significant percentage of the American public is convinced that speculation is the reason why it’s costing them so much to fill up the tank. Comments by President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and Congressional leaders suggesting that speculators may be to blame for pushing oil prices higher over the last few months have added heft to these claims. Read more »

Guest Post: IHS Author Defends Study on the Volcker Rule

by Michael Levi Monday, April 2, 2012

In a post last Thursday, I identified four reasons for skepticism about a new IHS report that estimated the impact on energy markets of the currently proposed implementation of the Volcker rule. Kurt Barrow, Vice President of IHS Purvin & Gertz and lead author of the IHS report, has graciously penned the following guest post addressing the questions I raised. I may comment further on a few of the points below in another post. Read more »