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 "politics"

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 »

Securitization: The Next Big Thing in Solar Energy Financing

by Varun Sivaram
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 »

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

by Guest blogger for Varun Sivaram
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 »

WTO Ruling Against India’s Solar Policies Previews Clashes Between Trade and Climate Agendas

by Varun Sivaram
Workers carry a damaged photovoltaic solar panel at the Gujarat solar park under construction in the Indian state of Gujarat (Reuters/Amit Dave). Workers carry a damaged photovoltaic solar panel at the Gujarat solar park under construction in the Indian state of Gujarat (Reuters/Amit Dave).

This week, a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel decided in favor of the United States and against India in a dispute over Indian domestic content requirements for sourcing solar power. Reading the headlines, one might worry that “The WTO Just Ruled Against India’s Booming Solar Program” or, worse, that the “WTO swats down India’s massive solar initiative.” Read more »

The Supreme Court Just Clarified Rules for Modern Power Regulation…Or Did It?

by Varun Sivaram
The exterior of the U.S. Supreme Court (Reuters/Gary Cameron) The U.S. Supreme Court (Reuters/Gary Cameron)

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government is empowered to regulate wholesale demand response, or targeted reductions in electricity use by consumers in response to peak demand. The ruling, in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) v. Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA), has been hailed by a broad coalition comprising environmental activists, regulators, and companies, because demand response can reduce rates and ease strain on the grid. Read more »

Oil Exports Budget Deal? Market, Climate, and Geopolitical Consequences

by Michael Levi
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

News outlets are reporting that a congressional budget deal could end the oil export ban in exchange for extension of the Investment and Production Tax Credits (ITC and PTC) that support solar and wind energy. Here I want to lay out what ending the oil export ban could mean for markets, climate, and geopolitics. (I suspect Varun may weigh in later on the ITC/PTC extensions if and when details emerge.) Short version: Little immediate impact on anything; a possible boost on the order of a few hundred thousand barrels a day to U.S. oil production over the longer run; a factor of perhaps fifty smaller impact on carbon dioxide emissions than the Clean Power Plan and CAFE (fuel economy standards); and a mixed bag for geopolitics and trade talks. Read more »

One More Reason to Raise the Gas Tax Now

by Michael Levi
Gasoline price gas tax 2015 REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Three months ago gas taxes were untouchable. Now, with oil prices down, they’re having a moment. Public voices from Larry Summers to Charles Krauthammer are calling for hikes. (Summers argues for a carbon tax; Krauthammer says the tax should be raised “a lot”.) More important, serious lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have gotten in on the game. The general thrust of the arguments on offer is that with oil prices falling, it’s now possible to raise the gas tax and still leave consumers better off than they were half a year ago. That right, but I think there’s an even stronger argument to be made. Read more »

Keystone, Science, and Politics

by Michael Levi

Jeff Tollefson has an excellent new piece in Nature exploring the debate within the scientific community over Keystone XL. It makes two things pretty clear. As a matter of substance, there’s pretty much no one beyond Jim Hansen willing to come close to endorsing the “game over” claim. Yet there’s still a ton division among scientists – it’s over political tactics instead. Ken Caldeira captures the situation well: “I don’t believe that whether the pipeline is built or not will have any detectable climate effect,” he tells Nature. Nonetheless, here’s his bottom line: “The Obama administration needs to signal whether we are going to move toward zero-emission energy systems or whether we are going to move forward with last century’s energy system”. That sort of sentiment is political– and there’s nothing wrong with it – but, as the Nature article nicely shows, it’s distinct from any scientific debate. Read more »

How David Stockman Explains Irrational Hatred of Clean Energy Spending

by Michael Levi

Skeptics of government spending on clean energy have reasonable grounds to question whether Washington is capable of effectively investing in efforts to commercialize new technologies. The last few weeks, though, have reinforced a far deeper and more problematic hostility toward government spending on clean energy innovation that makes pragmatic compromise all but impossible. Read more »

State of the Union Hints at Ways to Bridge the Gap Between Old and New Energy

by Michael Levi

The State of the Union address last night was notable for the prominent placement of energy and climate and for its recommencement to what President Obama has called an all of the above strategy. I was particularly struck by the inclusion of two new efforts that would aim to concretely bridge the gap between fossil fuel backers and clean energy enthusiasts: the Energy Security Trust Fund and a new prize for development of natural gas with carbon capture and storage. Read more »