Varun Sivaram

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

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Showing posts for "Environment"

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

by Varun Sivaram

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 »

Budget Deal Oil-for-Renewables Trade Would Substantially Reduce Carbon Emissions

by Varun Sivaram and Michael Levi
Solar panels on top of a housing complex in National City, California (Reuters/Mike Blake) Solar panels on top of a housing complex in National City, California (Reuters/Mike Blake)

This post is coauthored by Varun Sivaram and Michael Levi.

Congress is set to vote on a budget deal that would permanently end the long-standing ban on crude oil exports in exchange for temporary extensions of tax credits that support solar and wind energy. Michael wrote on Tuesday about the market, climate, and geopolitical impact of lifting the oil export ban. In this post we’re going to estimate the climate impact of the renewables tax credit extensions. We focus on 2016-2020 for three reasons: (a) it’s the period for which we have the best data; (b) beyond 2020, complex interactions with the Clean Power Plan make things much tougher to model; and (c) most important, beyond 2020, the primary effect of the ITC/PTC extension should be to make reducing emissions cheaper, and thus enable stronger policy, something that can’t be quantitatively modeled. Read more »

Molina and Zaelke: Cutting Short-Lived Pollutants Can Give Quick Wins on Warming

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi
climate change; emissions; pollution; Paris REUTERS/Bret Hartman

Policymakers should look to reductions in potent, short-lived pollutants to reduce warming faster than cuts to carbon dioxide emissions alone, write Nobel Prize-winner Mario Molina and Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development founder Durwood Zaelke in this guest post. This piece is part of our ongoing guest blog series surrounding the Paris climate talks, which has included posts on China’s political rhetoric, international climate institutions beyond the UN talks, and the links between climate and conflict in northern Nigeria. Read more »

John Campbell: Climate Change and Ethnic and Religious Conflict in Nigeria

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi
Nigeria; climate change; conflict REUTERS/Stringer

Climate change is nothing new in northern Nigeria, writes John Campbell, senior fellow for Africa Studies and former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, and its influence in local conflicts can already be felt. In his contribution to our guest series surrounding the UN climate conference in Paris, Ambassador Campbell notes that the changing climate is, if not the cause, then certainly part of the context of the rise of militant groups like Boko Haram.  Read more »

To Succeed, Solar Perovskites Need to Escape the Ivory Tower

by Varun Sivaram
Solar perovskite cells, patterned with gold electrodes, await tests that measure their efficiency at converting sunlight into electricity Solar perovskite cells, patterned with gold electrodes, await tests that measure their efficiency at converting sunlight into electricity (Plamen Petkov)

What will tomorrow’s solar panels look like? This week, along with colleagues from Oxford and MIT, I published a feature in Scientific American making the case for cheap and colorful solar coatings derived from a new class of solar materials: perovskites. In this post, I’ll critically examine prospects for commercialization of solar perovskites, building on our article’s claim that this technology could represent a significant improvement over current silicon solar panels. We argue: Read more »

The Environmental and Climate Stakes in Arctic Oil Drilling

by Michael Levi
Oil Drilling Arctic Environment Climate

On Monday, the Obama administration gave Shell conditional permission to move forward with Arctic oil drilling. The New York Times captures a common sentiment well in identifying this as a “tricky intersection of Obama’s energy and climate legacies”. The reality, though, is that this intersection isn’t nearly a fraught as many assume: decisions about offshore drilling in Alaska are indeed difficult, given the local economic and environmental stakes involved, but climate isn’t a central factor. Read more »

Climate Change: What Is China Doing and Not Doing?

by Michael Levi
zhang gaoli UN climate summit New York Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli speaks during the Climate Summit at the U.N. headquarters in New York on September 23, 2014. (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters)

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli made news on Tuesday with his speech on climate change at the United Nations. My colleague and co-author Elizabeth Economy has an enlightening post on her blog, Asia Unbound, drilling down on the headlines. I’ve reposted it here. Read more »

Energy, Industry, and the Countryside

by Michael Levi

I’ve argued frequently that shale gas and tight oil development can be done safely, given the right practices and the right rules to ensure that those are followed. Over the past month, as I’ve traveled and talked to people about The Power Surge, I’ve heard one powerful countervailing sentiment several times: Even if fracking is done right, aren’t we talking about the industrialization of the countryside? And is that really something we should accept? Read more »

Three Graphs That Resource Pessimists Don’t Want You to See

by Blake Clayton

My last post noted that inflation-adjusted natural resource prices—even for exhaustible resources—tend to fall over time. This trend surprises people who think that prices are doomed to rise indefinitely because it gets more and more expensive to mine/grow/pump these resources in larger volumes over time. So what’s behind the downtrend? Read more »

Could the North American Shale Boom Happen Elsewhere?

by Blake Clayton

The dramatic takeoff in oil and gas production in the United States and Canada over the last half decade has left many people asking whether a similar boom will happen in other countries. It’s a good question. To answer it, you have to start by identifying what critical factors enabled the boom to happen here, then figure out whether these same enabling factors exist elsewhere. Read more »