By Will Marshall, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Will Marshall is the president of the Progressive Policy Institute. The views expressed are his own.
No country has embraced renewable energy more avidly than Germany. But a host of untoward realities – soaring electricity bills, rising carbon emissions and growing dependence on Russian gas – are intruding rudely on Germany’s green dream.
In response to such worries, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved a plan last week to trim subsidies for solar and wind power. The proposed law would also exempt fewer companies from paying a stiff renewable energy surcharge, an exemption that has come under heavy fire in Europe for giving German industry an unfair competitive boost.
In truth, the proposed energy reform law would merely slow down Germany’s drive toward green energy. It doesn’t alter the visionary (some would say utopian) goals of the country’s policy of Energiewende, or energy switchover. Launched in 2000, when Social Democrats ran the government, the Energiewende calls for abolishing nuclear power and envisions renewables providing 80 percent of Germany’s power by mid-century.
By Russ Carnahan and Michael Shank, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Russ Carnahan was a U.S. Representative from Missouri and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is now a partner at Carnahan Global Consulting, a consultancy that also advises firms in the energy sector. Michael Shank is associate director for legislative affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the advocacy arm of Friends (Quakers) in the U.S. The views expressed are their own.
At the heart of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is the question of energy independence and energy security. We’ve witnessed this before in previous violent conflicts – whether in the Middle East, Central Asia or North Africa. Energy wars are real and they will continue to dominate our geopolitical agenda for the coming years unless the United States and its allies decide to act.
In discussions with our European Union counterparts in Berlin and Warsaw in the past month – as part of a U.S.-E.U. transatlantic dialogue on, among other salient topics, the annexation of Crimea – energy was very clearly at the core of this conflict. There was also consensus that the present moment couldn’t be a more historic opportunity to ensure an energy transition happens – and soon – lest more wars be fought, more territories acquired, or more people literally left out in the cold. The urgency of this effort cannot be overstated.
To be clear, when it comes to energy security and energy independence, anything that’s got a valve on it and has to be transported thousands of miles across borders decreases a country’s capacity for stability. That pipe – whether carrying oil or gas – is a target for acts of sabotage, political and physical. In 2009, for example, Russia turned off the spigot to gas exports to Ukraine, leaving the country out in the cold in the dead of winter. The Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. is proving similar in serving as a political target, whether erroneously or accurately.
By Christiana Z. Peppard, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Christiana Z. Peppard Ph.D. is assistant professor of theology and science in the Department of Theology at Fordham University and a Public Voices Fellow with The Op-Ed Project. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
World Water Day today is as good a time as any to consider one of the most important issues you’ve probably never pondered before. It’s a subject you’re going to hear about all the time in the coming decades. Oil and gas are important, yet there is one resource that is irreplaceable, but which is going to become increasingly scarce, with serious implications for agriculture, health, our economies – even civilization itself.
If you live in the longitudinal belt of the United States between Nebraska and Texas, then the water used for those fields – and now the suburbs – comes from the Ogallala Aquifer. Unfortunately, it’s depleting and polluted. Or perhaps you live in Israel or the West Bank, atop the Mountain Aquifer. There, a new study by NASA and University of California Irvine charts how groundwater depletion is accelerating. Likewise, Maryland residents may be surprised to learn that last year, the U.S. Geological Survey found the dwindling Patasco Aquifer to be over a million years old.
By Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber is United Arab Emirates special envoy for energy and climate change and CEO of Masdar, an Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy initiative. The views expressed are his own.
Four months ago today, U.S. President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency for five states and the District of Columbia over the approach of Hurricane Sandy. The super storm was a reminder that climate change is blind to faith, socio-economic status and geography. It also underscored that supplying cheap, sustainable energy and mitigating climate change is not a challenge for future generations – it is our challenge today.
And energy-rich nations have a shared responsibility to do more. After all, they have the financial and technical ability, as well as decades of expertise, to create the necessary growth of a new energy industry balanced by renewable sources of power.
This is the fifth in a series of entries looking at what we can expect in 2013. Each weekday, a guest analyst will look at the key challenges facing a selected country – and what next year might hold in store.
By Jonathan Kay, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jonathan Kay is the Managing Editor for Comment at Canada’s National Post newspaper and a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him @jonkay. The views expressed are his own.
Canada is in a fortunate position relative to other developed Western nations. Our government is stable. Our budget deficit is small. Our real estate market is healthy (if somewhat overheated). And unemployment is relatively low. Only the occasional flourish of Quebec separatism keeps things lively in the Great White North. The biggest challenge my country will face in 2013 – and for many years after that – will be the problem of plenty. Specifically, how will Canada manage its large and growing oil wealth?
Canada currently produces just over 3 million barrels of oil per day (b/d), making us the world’s 7th largest producer, and the single largest supplier of oil imports to the U.S. market. Thanks to the ongoing expansion of Alberta's oil sands, production is expected to more than double by 2030, to 6.2-million b/d, transforming Canadian into an energy superpower.
By Michael Levi, CFR
Michael Levi is director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change at the Council on Foreign Relations. This entry of Energy, Security and Climate originally appeared here. The views expressed are his own.
A new term has been getting a lot of play in recent weeks. The International Energy Agency (IEA) kicked things off when it projected that the United States will be “almost self-sufficient in energy, in net terms” by 2035. The idea of “net energy self sufficiency” has gotten play everywhere from The Economist to Scientific American. Even a State Department blog has trumpeted projected developments using similar words.
All of this is enough to make one wonder what net energy self sufficiency means. These reports and analyses all define it the same way: the energy content of whatever energy the United States imports will be less than (or equal to) the energy content of whatever energy the United States exports. “Net imports” will thus be zero or lower.
On "Fareed Zakaria GPS" this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET – debating the natural gas boom.
By Peggy Williams, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Peggy Williams is editorial director of Hart Energy, an energy publisher that advises natural gas companies. The views expressed are her own.
As nations seek alternative fuel sources in an effort to reduce petroleum use, the world is paying increasing attention to natural gas as an efficient option. Multi-stage fracturing and horizontal drilling have allowed natural gas supply to grow in North America, and if these techniques continue to be implemented, the door will be open for a number of countries to start producing potentially vast amounts of energy.
Consider Russia, which has the largest amount of recoverable natural gas in the world – more than 4,500,000 billion cubic feet of natural gas, not including potential undiscovered resources in the region. Between Russia and Siberia, there’s a mean of 1,385,046 billion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas, offering impressive potential for expansion.
Fareed Zakaria GPS is premiering its fourth and final edition of its “Global Lessons” series, tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. Powering America looks at how to quench the country’s growing thirst for energy – cheaply and cleanly.
In the next decade, the world will consume 50 percent more energy than it does today. How can this need be met without a devastating impact on the world’s climate? Is the solution wind energy? Solar? Nuclear? Shale gas? Efficiency? Or something entirely new?
Watch the latest "Fareed Zakaria GPS" special, ‘Global Lessons: The Road Map for Powering America,’ this Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.
By Michael Graetzel, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael Graetzel is a professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, where he directs the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces. He has consulted for technology firm G24i. The views expressed are his own.
For two centuries, we have been burning billions of years of photosynthetic residue, better known as fossil fuel, to power our factories, homes, vehicles and cities. But we may not need to do this much longer – solar resources are great enough for all of us. Indeed, it may surprise many to learn that the amount of solar energy striking the earth in one hour is equal to the total energy consumed by all of humanity in a whole year. Learning to capture more of this resource could yield huge dividends for humanity.
Here at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland we have developed a solar cell technology that takes its cue from photosynthesis: dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs). By separating the components for light absorption (which determines the cell’s color) and the transportation of electrical current, this technology is remarkably similar to natural photosynthesis and provides unique benefits for integrating solar cells into everyday life. The color tunability and transparency of the cells, as well as an enhanced efficiency in indoor light – power conversion efficiencies can reach over 12 percent at full sunlight intensity and more than 25 percent for interior lighting – afford DSCs the opportunity to extend solar power generation seamlessly and conveniently into our office buildings and living rooms.
Over the past decade, America has experienced a technological revolution–not, as expected, in renewable energy but rather in the extraction of oil and gas. As a result, domestic supplies of new sources of energy–shale gas, oil from shale, tight sands and the deepwater, natural-gas liquids–are booming. The impact is larger than anyone expected.
In 2011, for the first time since 1949, the U.S. became a net exporter of refined petroleum products. Several studies this year have projected that by the end of this decade, the U.S. will surpass both Russia and Saudi Arabia and become the world's largest producer of oil and liquid natural gas.
Watch the latest "Fareed Zakaria GPS" special, ‘Global Lessons: The Road Map for Powering America,’ this Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.
By Frank Verrastro, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Frank Verrastro is director of the Energy and National Security Program at the Center for Strategic and international Studies. The views expressed are his own and were in part included in testimony to the U.S. Senate.
As the political rhetoric surrounding U.S. energy “independence” heats up, it is worth pointing out a few things to help provide much needed context. After all, there are plenty of things at play here in the coming months and years – resource access and regulatory policy, fuels choices, infrastructure build out, industrial policy, imports and exports, tax and investment decisions, the role of nuclear, subsidies for alternatives, efficiency priorities, SPR policy, environmental concerns and the use of energy as a geopolitical or foreign policy tool. Whew!
For starters, the United States is already over 80 percent (up from 70 percent a decade ago) self sufficient when it comes to energy production and use. We are routinely described as the Saudi Arabia of coal, and have the largest nuclear fleet in the world. We are the world’s largest natural gas producer and the 3rd largest oil producer. Renewables account for roughly 10 percent of our energy mix and we have in place a variety of efficiency standards, mandates and incentive programs. That said, our transportation fleet is more than 94 percent dependent on liquid fuels, mostly petroleum based, and as oil is a globally traded commodity, changes in worldwide supply and demand consequently impact U.S. consumer prices.
By Scott Tinker, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Dr. Scott W. Tinker is the acting associate dean of research at the Jackson School of Geosciences at UT Austin. He is the state geologist of Texas and recently co-produced the global energy documentary ‘Switch.’ He also serves on the Technical Advisory Council for BP.
Several years ago, I briefed a U.S. Senate hearing on the possibility of energy independence. “Probably not in our lifetimes,” I said boldly. “Energy security is a better goal.” That probably wasn’t what the senators wanted to hear, and as it turns out, in terms of energy independence, I may well have been wrong.
The concept of independence is deeply embedded in the American psyche. Our nation began with a declaration of it. But what does independence mean in the context of energy? Most would agree that energy independence is achieved when a nation produces more energy than it consumes – countries such as Brazil. So, how does the United States stack up?
Today, oil represents just over one-third of total U.S. energy consumption, and we import about half of that oil. One way to become independent would be to replace imported oil with a substitute. Easy to say, hard to do: hundreds of millions of cars, trucks, and planes run almost exclusively on gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel that come from oil. So why are we still dependent on oil? Because fuels made from it have physical properties – tremendous energy density, easy to transport globally and no solid residue or ash, making them nearly perfect transportation fuels. Just fill up in three minutes and drive some more! And all those fill-ups add up to about 10 million barrels of imported oil every day. Substituting something else will take time.