Michael Levi

Michael Levi is the David M. Rubenstein senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations. He blogs at "Energy, Security, and Climate."

Energy Policy

Has government spending on energy research been a waste?

Cross-posted from the Council on Foreign Relations. Steve Mufson had a piece in the Washington Post Outlook section this past weekend suggesting that the $172 billion that the U.S. government has spent on early stage energy research since 1961 has largely been a waste. (I say “suggesting” rather than “arguing” because Mufson doesn’t quite make the point explicitly; that said, it’s hard to read his essay without being nudged toward that conclusion.) There’s a lot of smart stuff in the piece, but in the end, it’s unconvincing. The basic reason is simple: it doesn’t take much for $172 billion of …


Can the Keystone XL coalition stop climate change?

Cross-posted from the Council on Foreign Relations. Bryan Walsh, writing at TIME, is right: Bill McKibben and the Keystone XL protestors have pulled off something pretty impressive. I’m not talking about the merits of the indefinite delay to the pipeline that the State Department announced yesterday — the substantive case for blocking Keystone is weak. But you’d have to be pretty blinkered not to acknowledge that, purely as a matter of organizing and impact, the anti-Keystone movement is punching way above its weight. Whether it can translate this victory into something bigger, though, is an entirely different question. I want …

Climate Change

Are we all toast after 2017?

Cross-posted from Council on Foreign Relations. The annual International Energy Agency (IEA) World Energy Outlook (WEO) was published yesterday with an attention-grabbing headline: The chance of avoiding dangerous climate change will “be lost forever” unless the world changes course by 2017. The basic argument is simple. The world is constantly accumulating more fossil fuel-based infrastructure (power plants, cars, and so on). If the infrastructure that’s expected to be in place by 2017 is allowed to live out its economic lifetime — something that seems like a realistic assumption — it alone will generate enough emissions to put the world on …

Election 2012

Can Rick Perry create 1.2 million energy jobs?

Perry and Romney both promised to create over a million jobs in the energy sector. A closer look at the numbers reveals them to be vastly overstated.


What the Nobel Prize tells us about oil

The Nobel Prize in economics was awarded for work on cause and effect, highlighting the difficulty of understanding how oil prices affect the economy.


Separating fact from fiction on the Keystone XL

Both sides of the oil sands debate exaggerate their arguments. The oil sands are neither a climate catastrophe nor an energy security bonanza.

Green Jobs

Why do green jobs pay better than other jobs?

Less-educated workers with green jobs get higher wages than their peers with other low-skill jobs. Could it be because more green jobs are union jobs?

Natural Gas

A must-read report on shale gas

The report could offer the beginnings of a blueprint for compromise on fracking regulation.

ideas for shale

Don't screw up natural gas

Washington should focus first on policies that will deter capital-intensive investment in long-lived sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

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