Varun Sivaram

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

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 »

The International Energy Agency’s Hybrid Model

by Guest blogger for Varun Sivaram Wednesday, August 24, 2016
IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol at the China-IEA side event during the Paris climate negotiations (IEA/George Kamiya) IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol at the China-IEA side event during the Paris climate negotiations (IEA/George Kamiya)

This guest post is co-authored by Stewart Patrick, senior fellow and director of the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Naomi Egel, former research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations and doctoral student at Cornell University.  Read more »

Time to Repeal U.S. Oil and Gas Tax Breaks

by Varun Sivaram Wednesday, August 10, 2016

This post is co-authored by Sagatom Saha, research associate for energy and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read “The Impact of Removing Tax Preferences for U.S. Oil and Gas Production,” a Discussion Paper from CFR’s Program on Energy Security and Climate Change in the Center for Geoeconomic Studies. Read more »

What Will It Take to Turn Natural Gas Around in India?

by Guest blogger for Varun Sivaram Tuesday, August 2, 2016
An LNG tanker from Qatar bound for Asia. Qatar is one of the major supplier of imported gas to India (Flickr). A Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tanker from Qatar. Qatar is one of the major suppliers of natural gas to India (Flickr).

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 »

Why the Silicon Valley Model Failed Cleantech

by Varun Sivaram Tuesday, July 26, 2016
An organic solar cell is spin-coated onto a glass substrate (BASF SE) An organic solar cell is spin-coated onto a glass substrate (BASF SE)

It’s no secret that venture capital (VC) has fled from the clean energy technology (cleantech) sector, and as a result, new cleantech company formation has slowed. But why did this happen, and is there a future for cleantech?

To answer these questions, today I’m excited to release an MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) paper entitled, “Venture Capital and Cleantech: The Wrong Model for Energy Innovation,” with my colleagues Ben Gaddy at the Clean Energy Trust and Frank O’Sullivan at MITEI. Read more »

Securitization: The Next Big Thing in Solar Energy Financing

by Varun Sivaram Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Vivint Solar technicians install solar panels on the roof of a house in California (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni). Vivint Solar technicians install solar panels on the roof of a house in California (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni).

This post was co-written by Sagatom Saha, research associate for energy and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Recent headlines from the solar energy industry have been bleak. SunEdison—a solar developer which just a year ago aspired to join the ranks of multinational oil companies as an energy “supermajor”—declared bankruptcy in April, after wiping out $9 billion in market value. And the share prices of Yieldcos, the financial vehicles which promised to tap vast capital markets to finance renewable energy projects, have plummeted as well. Last year, I wrote that Yieldcos’ aggressive growth targets and financial model made them vulnerable to the vicious downward spiral that has played out. Read more »

Moving On

by Michael Levi Monday, July 18, 2016

This is my last post on this blog. I start a job on Tuesday on the National Economic Council Staff; blogging isn’t part of the portfolio.

When I started this blog six years ago, I never imagined it would become such an important part of my professional life. It’s been gratifying to know that there’s an audience for analysis-driven blogging on energy and climate from an independent point of view. And it’s been a treat to engage with readers. Read more »

Why the United States Should Respond to Oil Price Volatility By Reducing Oil Consumption

by Varun Sivaram Thursday, June 16, 2016
A service truck drives past an oil well on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota (REUTERS/Andrew Cullen). A service truck drives past an oil well on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota (REUTERS/Andrew Cullen).

This post is co-authored by Sagatom Saha, research associate for energy and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read the report from a recent CFR workshop on oil price volatility. The workshop, hosted by Michael Levi and Varun Sivaram, was made possible by the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Read more »

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve: A Policy Response to Oil Price Volatility?

by Guest blogger for Varun Sivaram Wednesday, June 15, 2016
A maze of crude oil pipes and valves at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas (REUTERS/Richard Carson). A maze of crude oil pipes and valves at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas (REUTERS/Richard Carson).

This guest post is authored by Jason Bordoff, professor of professional practice and founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. For more on the causes, consequences, and policy implications of oil price volatility, read the report from a recent CFR workshop. Read more »

Beyond Climate Confusion: Why Both Energy Innovation and Deployment Matter

by Varun Sivaram Wednesday, May 4, 2016
A simulation of an advanced nuclear reactor design (Idaho National Laboratory) A simulation of an advanced nuclear reactor design (Idaho National Laboratory)

I have a new essay in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs—“The Clean Energy Revolution: Fighting Climate Change with Innovation”—which I co-authored with Teryn Norris, a former advisor at the Department of Energy (DOE). We are grateful for the positive and constructive comments we’ve received, but I do want to respond to a pair of critical posts by Joseph Romm, formerly an acting Assistant Secretary at the DOE under President Clinton. I hope we can put to rest an unhelpful debate among those passionate about confronting climate change, or, at the very least, respectfully agree to disagree. Read more »