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 …