Search

You searched for: Content Type Working Paper Remove constraint Content Type: Working Paper Publishing Institution Center on Global Energy Policy Remove constraint Publishing Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy Topic Energy Policy Remove constraint Topic: Energy Policy
Number of results to display per page

Search Results

  • Author: Richard Nephew
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: Despite having played a central role in the creation of the international nuclear commercial sector, today the United States is increasingly on the outside looking in when it comes to civil nuclear projects. The United States now accounts for a relatively small number of new reactor builds, both at home and abroad. There are a few rays of sunshine for the US nuclear industry, especially when it comes to new technology. In fact, many of the new reactor builds that are underway do involve US technology and intellectual property, even if others are performing the construction. To take advantage of a similar dynamic, US innovators are looking to both new and forgotten designs as a way of managing the challenges of nuclear fuel manufacture, safety, waste management, security cost, and proliferation. But these new technologies face an uncertain future (and so consequently does the US role), even notwithstanding the advantages nuclear energy would bring to managing climate change and the edge the United States may have in their development. Various factors account for the challenges facing the US nuclear industry, including the complex political, economic, scientific, and popular environment around nuclear technology and civil nuclear energy. Of the various problems potentially plaguing US nuclear energy policy, one remains both difficult to address and controversial: US requirements for nuclear cooperation, and in particular, the demand from many in Congress and the nonproliferation community that the United States insist on binding commitments from its cooperating partners to forswear developing enrichment and reprocessing technology. While this policy is not responsible for the decline of the US nuclear industry, it adds additional hindrance to US nuclear commerce abroad and may even be to the long-term detriment of US nonproliferation policy interests. If so, then the questions that arise are whether this is in the US interest and, if not, how the US ought to respond. If the government believes that having a role in international nuclear commerce is advisable on both economic and strategic grounds, then it needs to decide whether to commit resources to incentivize foreign partners to overlook the problems its nonproliferation policies may cause these partners or seek modifications to those policies. From a pure nonproliferation perspective, it would be preferable for the United States to invest in its nuclear industry to ensure it is competitive globally. But, this does not seem to be a likely course of action for the United States given the myriad political, legal, and budgetary complexities that would be involved. Consequently, this paper recommends several changes to how US nuclear cooperation agreements are negotiated as well as enhancements to overall US nuclear nonproliferation policies. In aggregate, they seek to rebalance and reformulate some aspects of US nuclear nonproliferation policy to make it more effective and efficient, particularly regarding engagement in civil nuclear commerce, but without compromising the core nonproliferation interests the current US diplomatic approach seeks to advance. With respect to nuclear cooperation agreements, the paper recommends the following: Relaxing the current US preference for a legally binding commitment to forswear all enrichment and reprocessing capabilities indefinitely for these agreements, while continuing traditional US policy to discourage these technologies development through various means. Relying on enhanced inspector access and improved verification tools, technology, and practices to provide confidence on the nondiversion of civil nuclear cooperation rather than assurances regarding enrichment and reprocessing that, in any event, are potentially revocable. Adopting a favorable view of “black box” transfers of nuclear power reactors and building this into policy as new, advanced reactor concepts are being explored, developed, and marketed. Creating a new sanctions regime to cover countries that pursue enrichment and reprocessing capabilities after concluding a 123 agreement. With respect to nuclear nonproliferation policy more generally, the paper recommends the following: Developing an annual nonproliferation indicators publication to identify trends in proliferation, including the kinds of goods that proliferators are potentially seeking. This document would also include a list of countries where there are presently enhanced concerns regarding national nuclear programs or concerns about transshipment and export control risk. Its objective would not be to serve as a proxy for future sanctions designations decisions but rather to give a broad perspective of the challenges that exist with particular jurisdictions even—and perhaps especially—if there is no need or justification for sanctions at present. Developing a warning system for sought-after goods. The United States should work with industry to develop a restricted database that identifies sensitive goods that are being sought. This database would be accessible to corporate compliance officers, who would be vetted for access to the information. Within it, the database could also include additional information about the sorts of tactics being employed by proliferators. Making greater use of end use verification as a means of facilitating monitoring of the nonproliferation commitments of countries, particularly regarding dual use technology. This could also be built out to include greater collaboration with partner countries and companies. Amending Executive Order 13382, which provides for sanctions against proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, to add a prong of “willful negligence.”
  • Topic: Energy Policy, International Cooperation, United Nations, Infrastructure, Nuclear Power, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Adele Morris, Noah Kaufman, Siddhi Doshi
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: If the United States undertakes actions to address the risks of climate change, the use of coal in the power sector will decline rapidly. This presents major risks to the 53,000 US workers employed by the industry and their communities. 26 US counties are classified as “coal-mining dependent,” meaning the coal industry is a major employer. In these areas, the industry is also an important contributor to local government finances through a complex system of property, severance, sales, and income taxes; royalties and lease bonuses for production on state and federal lands; and intergovernmental transfers. While climate-related risks to corporations have received scrutiny in recent years, local governments—including coal-reliant counties—have yet to grapple with the implications of climate policies for their financial conditions. Importantly, the risks from the financial decline of coal-reliant counties extend beyond their borders, as these counties also have significant outstanding debts to the US municipal bond market that they may struggle to repay. To be sure, national climate policy in the United States is uncertain. Experts have long recommended strong policy action to reduce emissions, and for years, policy makers have largely ignored their advice. Nevertheless, with growing support by the public and policy makers, meaningful climate policy in the United States may be on the horizon, and those dependent on coal should be looking ahead to manage their risks. This paper examines the implications of a carbon-constrained future on coal-dependent local governments in the United States. It considers the outlook for US coal production over the next decade under such conditions and explores the risk this will pose for county finances. The paper also considers the responsibilities of jurisdictions to disclose these risks, particularly when they issue bonds, and the actions leaders can take to mitigate the risks. In short, the paper finds the following: ● Coal production in the United States fell by one-third between 2007 and 2017. Projections of the US energy system show this decline continuing gradually under current policies. However, even a moderately stringent climate policy could create existential risks for the coal industry, with potential declines in production of around 75 percent in the 2020s. ● A careful look at three illustrative counties shows that coal-related revenue may fund a third or more of their budgets. The exposure is compounded because school districts and other special districts within the counties also receive coal-dependent revenue. The complex system of local revenue instruments and intergovernmental transfers plus a lack of sufficiently detailed budget data makes it difficult to parse out just how reliant jurisdictions are on the coal industry. ● Estimates of the direct linkages between the coal industry and county budgets will almost certainly understate the risks because lost economic activity and jobs will have ripple effects across the economy. Case studies show that the rapid decline of a dominant industry has led to downward spirals and eventual collapses of local governments’ fiscal conditions, including the inability to raise revenue, repay debt, and/ or provide basic public services. ● Coal-dependent communities have a variety of outstanding bonds, and the risk of collapse of the coal industry threatens their ability to repay them. Despite regulations requiring disclosures to reflect risks to the financial health of municipalities, our review of the outstanding bonds indicates that municipalities are at best uneven and at worst misleading (by omission) in their characterizations of climate-related risks. Ratings reports are not much better than official statements in describing the risks associated with the exposure of some local governments to the coal industry. ● Climate policies can be combined with investments in coal-dependent communities to support their financial health. A logical source of funding for such investments would be the revenues from a price on carbon dioxide emissions, a necessary element of any cost-effective strategy for addressing the risks of climate change. A small fraction of revenue from a federal carbon price in the United States could fund billions of dollars in annual investments in the economic development of coal-dependent communities and direct assistance to coal industry workers. ● In considering reforms, several questions emerge for stakeholders. These include whether regulators should develop additional requirements for the disclosure of risks from future climate policies; whether ratings agencies should increase attention to the risks to local governments of climate policies; and whether stakeholders in the municipal bond market, such as borrowers, insurers, and underwriters, are appropriately accounting for risks to the coal industry.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Coal, Domestic Policy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Philippe Benoit
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: Policy makers, academics, and others have devoted significant effort over the past three decades to considering how best to incentivize households and private companies to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There has been much less discussion about how best to incentivize state-owned enterprises (SOEs) -- companies that are either wholly or majority owned by a government -- to cut emissions. Yet when it comes to energy sector GHGs, these state companies are among the world’s leading emitters. They are major emitters at both the country and global levels, notably from electricity generation. In the aggregate, they emit over 6.2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year in energy sector GHGs, which is more than every country except China. Public sector companies are also major providers of low-carbon alternatives, such as renewables and nuclear power, and importantly, they often operate under incentives that are quite different from those facing their private sector counterparts. Given the emissions profile of SOEs, the nature of their corporate mandates, and their ownership structure, Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy undertook research to examine how best to engage these companies in efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions as part of its ongoing work on climate change. The paper explores the role of these public sector companies in climate change, examines the effectiveness of market-oriented solutions such as carbon taxes in changing SOE behavior, and evaluates some other potential strategies for reducing their emissions. In short, the paper finds the following: The state-ownership structure of SOEs allows governments to exercise shareholder power to press for the implementation of their climate policy preferences. Providing public sector financing and making associated infrastructure improvements are other ways that a government can encourage its SOEs to invest in low-carbon alternatives. In contrast, many SOEs operate with nonfinancial mandates, market protections, and other conditions that limit their responsiveness to carbon pricing mechanisms that are effective in changing private sector behavior. There are other ways to alter public sector companies so that they embrace a greener pathway without being directed, especially if a firm’s management determines the pathway will serve its corporate interests. This can be especially important for state-owned companies that have the political weight to resist government climate policy pressures. In emerging economies with large SOE emissions and with governments willingly direct their SOEs, using these companies to reduce emissions is a policy tactic that can present implementation and other advantages because it requires the government to target a limited number of companies that the state already owns and controls. How much a government prioritizes climate change relative to other goals is the most critical factor that will determine the extent to which its SOEs prioritize low-carbon investments. Successfully merging climate goals into growth objectives, at both the broader economic and the SOE-company levels, increases the likelihood that a state company will engage in the low-carbon transition in a sustained manner.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Science and Technology, Green Technology
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: David Sandlow
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: In 2018, China was the world’s leading emitter of heat-trapping gases by a wide margin. Its policies for limiting emissions will have a significant impact on the global climate for decades to come. From a historical perspective, China’s status as the world’s leading emitter is relatively recent. During most of the 19th and 20th centuries, Chinese emissions were modest. Then, in the early part of this century, as the Chinese economy boomed, Chinese emissions began to skyrocket, overtaking those from the United States around 2006. China’s cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution are roughly half those from the United States. (Carbon dioxide, the leading heat-trapping gas, stays in the atmosphere for many years once emitted.) China’s leaders have declared that the impacts of climate change “pose a huge challenge to the survival and development of the human race” and that China is “one of the most vulnerable countries to the adverse impacts of climate change.”[11] The Chinese government has adopted short- and medium-term goals for limiting emissions of heat-trapping gases and a wide-ranging set of policies that contribute to meeting those goals. Those policies are shaped in part by other objectives, including promoting economic growth, cutting local air pollution and developing strategic industries. This Guide examines Chinese climate change policies. It starts with a review of Chinese emissions. It then explores the impacts of climate change in China and provides a short history of the country’s climate policies. The bulk of the Guide discusses China’s principal climate policies, explaining the policy tools the Chinese government uses to address climate change and related topics. Appendices provide background on institutions that shape climate policy in China. What are “climate policies”? Monetary and fiscal policies affect emissions and could therefore qualify, as could policies on many other topics. This Guide does not catalog all policies that could affect emissions or the climate, but instead focuses on policies most directly related to climate change, including those on energy, transportation, urbanization, forestry, climate adaptation and climate diplomacy. In choosing policies to focus on, I am guided in part by international convention and in part by governments’ extensive reporting on this topic. The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by more than 160 nations to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change show a broad international consensus that policies on energy, transportation, urbanization and forestry, among others, are considered “climate policies.” The Chinese government’s official documents on climate change show the same.[12] Several official documents are important resources for anyone interested in China’s climate policies. Every year the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) publishes a report on China’s Policies and Actions for Addressing Climate Change.[13] These reports provide detailed information on a range of topics. Other key sources for understanding China’s climate policies include: China’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in June 2015;[14] Work Plan for Controlling Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the 13th Five-Year Plan, issued by the State Council in October 2016;[15] China’s First Biennial Update Report on Climate Change, submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2016;[16] China’s Second Biennial Update Report on Climate Change, submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2018;[17] and China’s Third National Communication on Climate Change, submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2018[18] Several themes run through these documents, including strong commitments to low-carbon development, cutting coal use, scaling up clean energy sources, promoting sustainable urbanization and participating actively in climate diplomacy. Implementation is fundamental to any policy. This is especially true in China, where policy implementation can be a considerable challenge. Key ministries may fail to coordinate. Resources for enforcement may be lacking. Policies designed to achieve different objectives may conflict. The priorities of provincial leaders may not align with policies from Beijing. For these reasons and more, stated policies—while important—are just part of the picture when it comes to understanding the Chinese response to climate change. The organization of this Guide reflects that. Most chapters start with a section of background facts. This background provides context and can help in forming judgments on the impacts of policies to date and potential impacts of policies in the years ahead. Where implementation has been especially challenging or successful, that is highlighted. This Guide can be read in parts or as a whole. Individual chapters are designed to stand alone and provide readers with information on discrete topics. The Guide as a whole is designed to provide an understanding of China’s response to climate change and the implications of that response for China and the world. The Guide can be accessed in three ways: by purchasing it as a book on Amazon.com by visiting the Guide to Chinese Climate Policy website at https://chineseclimatepolicy.energypolicy.columbia.edu/, and by downloading it for free from the website above or the website of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy—http://energypolicy.columbia.edu/ This is a “living document.” Many of the facts and policies it describes will change in the months and years ahead. As that happens, this Guide will be updated. New editions of the Guide will be released regularly.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Science and Technology, Green Technology
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Erica Downs
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: Pakistan is increasing its use of coal to generate electricity at a time when many other countries are reducing coal use in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions or pollution. China is helping Pakistan expand its coal-fired generation capacity through the financing and construction of coal power plants as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC is a component of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to forge greater global connectivity in part through infrastructure development. Nearly 75 percent of the generation capacity of CPEC power plants is coal-fired. Pakistan’s National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) expects that CPEC coal power plants will be largely responsible for the projected increase in the country’s coal-fired generation capacity from 3 percent as of June 30, 2017 (fewer than six months after the first CPEC coal plant began commercial operation), to 20 percent in 2025. As part of its series on the Belt and Road Initiative, Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy initiated research into the CPEC power sector projects, which account for the majority of the cost of CPEC projects. This paper examines two of the key concerns critics have about the BRI: environmental sustainability and debt sustainability. Concerns about environmental sustainability center on the ways in which an expansion of the amount of electricity generated globally by fossil fuels, especially coal, will increase greenhouse gas emissions, making it more difficult if not impossible to meet the emissions targets in the Paris Agreement. Concerns about debt sustainability focus on whether China’s lending in support of infrastructure projects will lead to problematic increases in debt, with some analysts maintaining that Beijing is intentionally seeking to push countries into debt distress in an attempt to gain control over strategic assets or decision-making in borrowing countries. The main findings of this study are threefold. First, the heavy focus on coal in the new generation capacity added by the CPEC power projects stems from both “pull” factors from Pakistan and “push” factors from China: The CPEC coal power projects reflect Pakistan’s long-standing goal of diversifying its generation mix away from fuel oil toward domestic coal in an attempt to decrease generation costs and conserve foreign exchange. They also reflect the perception of the administration of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whose pledge to end power outages helped his party win the 2013 election, that coal was the best option to bring on a large amount of new capacity in the short term. Although Pakistan has vast renewable energy potential, solar and wind power were considered too expensive and difficult to integrate into electric grids. Meanwhile, Chinese companies had several reasons to sell coal power plants to Pakistan, including exporting rather than warehousing excess power generation equipment, financial incentives provided by Beijing and Islamabad, and the ability to execute projects fast enough to help Sharif eradicate the blackouts hurting Pakistan’s economy before he stood for reelection in 2018. Second, there is a mismatch between the dominance of coal in the CPEC power generation mix and Beijing’s recent emphasis on green development as an important feature of the BRI. This gap between Beijing’s rhetoric and the reality on the ground can be explained in large part by Pakistan’s preference for building coal-fired generation capacity. Ultimately, it is up to the host country to decide the composition of its electricity mix. The Chinese government has a long-standing reluctance to interfere in decisions of this type. Moreover, China regards some of the CPEC coal power plants as environmentally friendly because they use relatively modern technologies and are expected to emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the fuel oil plants Pakistan is replacing. Third, there is a risk that the CPEC power projects will add to Pakistan’s sovereign debt burden, but multiple factors indicate that any increase in sovereign debt from these projects is unlikely to be the result of a deliberate strategy on the part of China. Although the debt financing arrangements for CPEC power sector projects primarily involve loans from Chinese banks to project companies wholly or partly owned by Chinese firms, these projects may increase Pakistan’s debt because of sovereign guarantees issued by Islamabad to support CPEC power projects and the liquidity crisis in Pakistan’s power sector known as circular debt. That said, several aspects of the China-Pakistan relationship and the large stake that China’s government and companies have in the success of CPEC indicate that Chinese interests are better served by sustainable CPEC projects than unsustainable ones.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Regional Cooperation, Green Technology, Electricity
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, China, Asia
  • Author: Julio Friedman
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: Recent studies indicate there is an urgent need to dramatically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from heavy industrial applications (including cement, steel, petrochemicals, glass and ceramics, and refining). Heavy industry produces roughly 22 percent of global CO₂ emissions. Of these, roughly 40 percent (about 10 percent of total emissions) is the direct consequence of combustion to produce high-quality heat, almost entirely from the combustion of fossil fuels. This is chiefly because these fuels are relatively cheap, are widely available in large volumes, and produce high-temperature heat in great amounts. Many industrial processes require very large amounts of thermal energy at very high temperatures (more than 300°C and often more than 800°C). For example, conventional steel blast furnaces operate at about 1,100°C, and conventional cement kilns operate at about 1,400°C. In addition, many commercial industrial facilities require continuous operation or operation on demand. The nature of industrial markets creates challenges to the decarbonization of industrial heat. In some cases (e.g., steel, petrochemicals), global commodity markets govern product trade and price. Individual national action on the decarbonization of heavy industry can lead to trade disadvantage, which can be made acute for foundational domestic industries (in some cases, with national security implications). This can also lead to offshoring of production and assets, leading to carbon “leakage” as well as local job and revenue loss (with political consequences). In many cases, lack of options could lead to dramatic price increases for essential products (e.g., cement for concrete, an essential building material). Risk of carbon leakage, price escalation, and trade complexity limits the range of policy applications available to address this decarbonization need. To explore the topic of industrial heat decarbonization, the authors undertook an initial review of all options to supply high temperature, high flux, and high volume heat for a subset of major industrial applications: cement manufacturing, primary iron and steel production, methanol and ammonia synthesis, and glassmaking. From the initial comprehensive set of potential heat supply options, the authors selected a subset of high relevance and common consideration: Biomass and biofuel combustion Hydrogen combustion (including hydrogen produced from natural gas with 89 percent carbon capture (blue hydrogen) and hydrogen produced from electrolysis of water using renewable power (green hydrogen) Electrical heating (including electrical resistance heating and radiative heating (e.g., microwaves) Nuclear heat production (including conventional and advanced systems) The application of post-combustion carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS) to industrial heat supply and to the entire facility, as a basis for comparison The authors focus on substitutions and retrofits to existing facilities and on four primary concerns: cost, availability, viability of retrofit/substitution, and life-cycle footprint. In short, the paper finds: All approaches have substantial limitations or challenges to commercial deployment. Some processes (e.g., steelmaking) will likely have difficulty accepting options for substitution. All options would substantially increase the production cost and wholesale price of industrial products. For many options (e.g., biomass or electrification), the life-cycle carbon footprint or efficiency of heat deposition are highly uncertain and cannot be resolved simply. This complicates crafting sound policy and assessing technical options and viability. Most substitute supply options for low-carbon heat appear more technically challenging and expensive than retrofits for CCUS. Even given the uncertainties around costs and documented complexities in applying CO₂ capture to industrial systems, it may prove simpler and cheaper to capture and store CO₂. CCUS would have the added benefit of capturing emissions from by-product industrial chemistry, which can represent 20–50 percent of facility emissions and would not be captured through heat substitution alone. Critically, CCUS is actionable today, providing additional GHG mitigation to industrial heat and process emissions as other options mature and become economically viable. Hydrogen combustion provided the readiest source of heat of all the options assessed, was the simplest to apply (including retrofit), and was the most tractable life-cycle basis. Today, hydrogen produced from reforming natural gas and decarbonized with CCUS (blue hydrogen) has the best cost profile for most applications and the most mature supply chain, and it would commonly add 10–50 percent to wholesale production costs. It also could provide a pathway to increase substitution with hydrogen produced by electrolysis of water from carbon-free electricity (green hydrogen), which today would increase costs 200–800 percent but would drop as low-carbon power supplies grow and electrolyzer costs drop. Hydrogen-based industrial heat provides an actionable pathway to start industrial decarbonization at once, particularly in the petrochemical, refining, and glass sectors, while over time reducing cost and contribution of fossil sources. However, substitution of hydrogen will prove more difficult or infeasible for steel and cement, which might require more comprehensive redesign and investment. Most of the other options appear to add substantially to final production costs—commonly twice that of blue hydrogen substitution or CCUS—and are more difficult to implement. However, all options show the potential for substantial cost reductions. An innovation agenda remains a central important undertaking and likely would yield near-term benefits in cost reduction, ease of implementation, and a lower life-cycle carbon footprint. Prior lack of focus on industrial heat supplies as a topic leave open many possibilities for improvement, and dedicated research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) programs could make substantial near-term progress. To avoid commercial and technical failure, government innovation programs should work closely with industry leaders at all levels of investigation. New policies specific to heavy industry heat and decarbonization are required to stimulate market adoption. Policies must address concerns about leakage and global commodity trade effects as well as the environmental consequences. These policies could include sets of incentives (e.g., government procurement mandates, tax credits, feed-in tariffs) large enough to overcome the trade and cost concerns. Alternatively, policies like border adjustment tariffs would help protect against leakage or trade impacts. Because all options suffer from multiple challenges or deficiencies, innovation policy (including programs that both create additional options and improve existing options) is essential to deliver rapid progress in industrial heat decarbonization and requires new programs and funding. As a complement to innovation policy and governance, more work is needed to gather and share fundamental technical and economic data around industrial heat sources, efficiency, use, and footprint.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Infrastructure, Green Technology
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Daniel Raimi, Ron Minsk, Alan Krupnick
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: Growth in US oil production has created substantial economic and energy security benefits for the nation. Over the course of a decade, new oil production has virtually eliminated the US trade deficit in petroleum and, in 2020, the Congressional Budget Office projects that US GDP will be 0.7% higher than it would have been without shale development. However, the rise in oil output has also expanded the number of communities closely tied to swings in crude prices—the boom and bust cycles that have confounded producers since the first commercial wells were spudded in the mid-19th century. US oil producing regions enjoy significant economic growth during boom times, boosting state and local investment, employment, and household income. This growth often comes with its own challenges—such as strains on local housing, school, and infrastructure—which are amplified by uncertainty over when, and to what extent, prices and production will fall. When oil prices drop, local and state economies can face sharp declines, and decisions or investments made during the boom period may become obsolete. This volatility creates planning challenges for both the public and private sectors, along with substantial risks for residents of oil producing regions. In this report for Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, the authors address whether the federal government can and should intervene to reduce the challenges associated with this volatility. In their research, the authors convened two expert workshops, reviewed the existing evidence, and analyzed a range of potential policy options. The report recommends a modest intervention: establishing a federal interagency Oil Volatility Advisory Board. The board would synthesize data on local economic, fiscal, and social conditions in producing communities. With this information, the board would play a coordinating role by connecting public and private institutions in producing regions with existing federal programs designed to manage near-term challenges and diversify local economies over the longer term. While this proposal is unlikely to eliminate all of the local challenges associated with oil price volatility, it could help smooth fluctuations, providing the basis for a higher quality of life along with more stable economic growth in producing regions. The paper finds that: The experience of booms and busts in oil producing regions is distinct from other regional economic challenges, as local businesses, governments, and residents must prepare for—and respond to—large, rapid, and unpredictable changes in local economic conditions. While the federal government has established programs to assist with long-term economic decline in some coal, military, and trade-impacted communities, no analogous program exists for supporting oil-producing communities experiencing economic volatility. State governments in Texas, North Dakota, Colorado, and elsewhere have shown varying levels of interest in assisting localities manage the challenges of volatility. Where they exist, these efforts have mostly focused on managing infrastructure demand during “boom” periods. However, some states have done little to address local impacts during booms, and no states have taken major steps to support economic diversification or other efforts that could soften the local impacts of “busts.” In some states—particularly Texas—existing tax policy exacerbates, rather than smooths out, revenue volatility for local governments. Several existing federal offices and programs can provide a base of knowledge to support oil-producing communities. These include the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment, and federal Trade Adjustment Assistance. We believe that EDA offers the clearest model to support long-term economic diversification in oil producing communities. If Congress were to fund EDA to support oil producing communities, clear guidelines would need to be established to determine eligibility criteria. In the absence of new, devoted federal funding, a federal Oil Volatility Advisory Board may provide the best option to mobilize and align federal resources to meet the needs of oil producing communities. This interagency body would synthesize data to identify communities most in need of support, conduct outreach efforts to these communities, and assist them in accessing available federal resources.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Federalism
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Noah Kaufman, John Larsen, Peter Marsters, Hannah Kolus, Shashank Mohan
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: Growing public concern about the social, economic, and environmental impacts of climate change, along with pressure for lawmakers to introduce policy proposals that reduce emissions, have brought carbon taxes to the center of policy discussions on Capitol Hill. Thus far in 2019, seven different carbon tax legislative proposals have been introduced in Congress. The proposal with the most cosponsors, totaling 64 Democrats and 1 Republican as of the end of September 2019, is the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA), introduced in February 2019 by lead sponsor Ted Deutch (D-FL). This study assesses the potential impacts of EICDA on the US energy system, environment, and economy. EICDA establishes a fee on each ton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It covers over 80 percent of gross national emissions. The fee starts at $15 per metric ton and increases by $10 or $15 each year, depending on future emissions levels. Revenue raised by the carbon fee is used for “carbon dividends,” a rebate to every eligible US citizen or lawful resident. The bill also includes measures to protect US competitiveness and to reduce the risk that companies will relocate their operations to a different country with laxer climate laws. Through the carbon fee and additional regulations if necessary, EICDA targets 90 percent emissions reductions by 2050 compared to 2016 levels. This study is part of a joint effort by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) and Rhodium Group to help policymakers, journalists, and other stakeholders understand the important decisions associated with the design of carbon tax policies and the implications of these decisions. This analysis uses a version of the National Energy Modeling System maintained by the Rhodium Group (RHG-NEMS) to quantify the energy and environmental implications of EICDA, focusing on outcomes through 2030. Supplemental analyses provide insights on how EICDA would affect households, the economy, and government budgets. The following are key results: GHG emissions decline substantially. Compared to 2005 levels, implementing EICDA as a stand-alone policy leads to economy-wide net GHG emissions reductions of 32–33 percent by 2025 and 36–38 percent by 2030. These emissions reductions exceed the targets in the EICDA proposal through 2030 and exceed the US commitments to the Paris Agreement over this period. Most of the near-term emission reductions occur in the power sector, where emissions fall 82–84 percent by 2030. Air pollution also declines. EICDA reduces local air pollution from power plants. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and mercury emissions from the power sector decline by more than 95 percent and emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) decline by about 75 percent by 2030 relative to a current policy scenario. Electricity generation shifts to cleaner sources. The price on carbon causes the US economy to shift from carbon-intensive energy sources to low- and zero-carbon energy sources. Coal is nearly eliminated from the power sector by 2030, with solar, wind, nuclear, and natural gas with carbon capture and storage all providing significantly larger generation shares compared to a current policy scenario. Energy prices rise but do not skyrocket. The price on carbon causes energy prices to increase for all carbon-emitting fuels, which leads to significantly higher overall energy expenditures, though within the range of recent historical variation. Taking two prominent examples, results show EICDA causing national average gasoline prices to increase by about 12 cents per gallon in 2020 and 90 cents per gallon in 2030 and causing national average electricity prices to increase by about 1 and 3 cents per kilowatt hour in 2020 and 2030, respectively. EICDA causes per capita energy expenditures to increase by $200-$210 in 2020 and $1,160-$1,170 in 2030 compared to a current policy scenario. In all years, annual per capita energy expenditures remain below the recent historical peak during the commodities crisis in 2008. The carbon dividend cushions energy price impacts. EICDA generates substantial revenue that is distributed in the form of equal dividend payments. EICDA generates $72–$75 billion in carbon tax revenues in 2020 and $403–$422 billion in 2030. This translates into an annual dividend for eligible adults of $250-$260 in 2020 and $1,410-$1,470 in 2030, with half those amounts also paid to eligible children. On average, the carbon dividend payments are comparable to the changes in energy expenditures caused by EICDA. Because higher-income households purchase far more carbon-intensive goods and services, distributing dividends equally implies that average low- and middle-income households receive more in dividends than they pay in increased economy-wide prices for goods and services resulting from the carbon tax. Net government revenue declines slightly, at least initially. Carbon tax-and-dividend policies are often described as “revenue neutral,” but the impacts of EICDA on government revenue are uncertain and likely negative in the near term. We estimate that the net government revenues under EICDA decline by roughly 10 percent of the annual carbon tax revenue in the early years of the policy. This estimate considers government revenue gains from taxing emissions and dividends, dividend payouts, and government revenue losses from reduced income and payroll taxes from those who pay the carbon tax. However, the proposal will also affect government revenue in other ways that are beyond the scope of our analysis, so the overall impacts on net government revenue is uncertain.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Green Technology, Carbon Tax
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Ilan Goldenberg, Jessica Schwed, Kaleigh Thomas
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: In recent months, Iran has responded to rising tensions with the United States—particularly the US launch of the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran—by attacking oil tankers and infrastructure in the Persian Gulf region around the Strait of Hormuz (the Strait). These actions have been designed to signal to the United States, the Gulf states, and the international community that the American strategy of strangling Iran economically will not be cost-free, and to Saudi Arabia in particular that it is highly vulnerable to Iranian retaliation. As the Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most critical energy chokepoints, the implications of Iran’s efforts merit close scrutiny and analysis. This study was designed to examine three scenarios for military conflict between Iran and the United States and assess the potential impacts on global oil prices—as one specific representation of the immediate economic impact of conflict—as well as broader strategic implications. The three scenarios are: Increasing US-Iran tensions that ultimately lead to a new “Tanker War” scenario similar to the conflict of the 1980s, in which Iran attacks potentially hundreds of ships in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman over a prolonged period while also launching missiles at Gulf oil infrastructure. An escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States in which Iran significantly increases the scope and severity of missile attacks directed at major oil and energy infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. A major conflict between Iran and the United States that includes damage to Gulf oil infrastructure and a temporary closure of the Strait of Hormuz. Its main conclusions are: The risk of a major military confrontation between the United States and Iran has increased in recent months but still remains relatively low, as neither the United States nor Iran wants war. That said, the September 14, 2019, attack on the Abqaiq and Khurais facilities was a strategic game changer and shows that the biggest risk is a prolonged, low-intensity military conflict. The fact that Iran was willing to conduct such an attack was a surprise to most analysts and to the US government and its Gulf partners. The level of accuracy it showed in the strike demonstrated a technical proficiency the US government and outside analysts did not believe Iran had. In the more moderate and likely conflict scenarios, increasing tensions between the United States and Iran are unlikely to dramatically affect global oil prices. The most profound costs in the more likely scenarios are not energy-related but security-related. Even in the less escalatory scenarios, the United States would be forced into long-term deployments of a large number of air and naval assets that would need to remain in the Middle East for years at a cost of billions of dollars. Such deployments would take away resources that would otherwise be dedicated to managing great power competition with China and Russia. In the more extreme conflict scenarios, major loss of life and an even bigger and longer-term American military deployment would be expected. In the lower likelihood scenario of a major military confrontation between the United States and Iran, global oil prices would be dramatically affected, though price impacts would not be prolonged. All assumptions about the potential impacts on oil prices are based on the supposition that the United States protects global shipping lanes, but that theory deserves further scrutiny. For more than a generation, the United States has viewed securing global shipping lanes that are critical for commerce and energy as a core vital interest. But given the isolationist tendencies in the United States and President Donald Trump’s attitude that America should stop underwriting the defense of its allies, it is conceivable he may choose not to respond in the types of scenarios described in this paper or demand that countries most dependent on oil trade from the Gulf—most notably China—step up instead. Another wild card for oil prices in a major crisis scenario would be President Trump’s unpredictable policies regarding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Typically, an administration would be expected to coordinate an international response with the International Energy Agency (IEA) to release the SPR of a number of countries, but this cannot be assumed in the current administration. Though these conclusions are to some extent comforting, the authors acknowledge that a key issue with any analysis of this situation is the unpredictability of the United States. In the present moment, neither US adversaries nor partners know quite what to expect—and, for that matter, neither does the US government or its observers.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Oil, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Iran, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Marianne Kah
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy Policy is undertaking a multiyear study on the prospects for and timing of peak oil demand. An essential piece of the puzzle is understanding what happens to global oil demand in the passenger vehicle sector, since it is the sector with the largest oil demand use today. Policy makers in a growing number of countries are supporting passenger vehicle electrification or a phaseout of fossil fuel passenger vehicles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve urban air quality. To understand the trajectory of oil demand in this sector, it is important to comprehend the magnitude and timing of electric vehicle (EV) penetration. The pace of demand growth matters. If the world doesn’t move off oil at a rapid rate, it is important that policy makers recognize the need for investment in new oil supplies to prevent supply shortages and accompanying oil price spikes. Numerous studies analyzing the impact of EVs on oil demand have been published. It is difficult to compare these studies because they do not define the passenger vehicle sector the same way or provide underlying assumptions on a comparable basis. Last year, the author conducted a survey of all available global electric passenger vehicle penetration forecasts to compare underlying assumptions and the impact on oil demand. The author conducted a similar survey in 2019 to understand how views on EV penetration are changing. This report describes the results from the 2019 survey and indicates how views have changed since last year. Rationale for Studying the Passenger Vehicle Sector As shown in figure 1, the passenger vehicle sector is the largest sector of oil use, representing about one-quarter of the oil demand barrel. The passenger vehicle sector is a target for policy makers because full penetration of EVs could ultimately take nearly 25 million barrels per day of oil use out of the market. However, it is important to understand the other 75 percent of the oil demand barrel before assessing the prospects of peak oil demand. It should be noted that the passenger vehicle sector gets a disproportionate amount of attention from policy makers and the media because of the current focus on electrification and the greater ease of electrifying passenger cars versus other modes of transportation. For example, it is easier to electrify a passenger car than a heavy-duty truck, where the large and costly batteries required will reduce cargo carrying capacity due to weight limits on roads. It is also more challenging to electrify airplanes than passenger cars.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Science and Technology, Infrastructure, Green Technology
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Noah Kaufman, David Sandlow, Clotilde Rossi de Schino
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: In the United States, commercial and residential buildings produce roughly 12 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Most of these emissions come from burning fossil fuels for space heating. These emissions must be significantly reduced or eliminated for the US to achieve deep decarbonization goals, including net zero emissions by midcentury. Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) are powered by electricity, using well-established technology to move heat from outdoor air to indoor air. When powered by zero-carbon electricity, ASHPs provide space heating with almost no greenhouse gas emissions. ASHPs are especially effective for space heating in mild climates. In 2015, roughly 10 percent of US households (mostly in the Southeast) used air source heat pumps as their primary heating source.[1] ASHPs account for roughly one-third of residential space heating in Japan. The world’s largest ASHP market is in China, where sales are growing rapidly. Prominent studies on decarbonization of the US energy system focus on deployment of air source heat pumps as the primary strategy for reducing emissions from space heating. Some studies show near-universal electrification of space heating, suggesting that ASHPs (with some backup from electric resistance heaters) can be almost a silver bullet solution for decarbonizing space heating. These studies start with the assumption that fossil fuel furnaces and boilers will be gradually phased out. Other studies assume that electric heating technologies such as ASHPs will continue to compete against fossil fuel burning furnaces and boilers in the decades ahead. These studies conclude that furnaces and boilers will retain a significant share in space heating markets, even with technological progress and strong policy support for ASHPs, but often fail to explain why. Do high costs or inferior performance limit market penetration in these studies? Or do other barriers limit ASHP deployment? The answer has important implications for policy makers shaping decarbonization strategies. To help answer these questions, we built a simple model of ASHP adoption that estimates the lifetime costs of space heating and cooling configurations in three US cities with markedly different climates and energy costs: Atlanta, Georgia; San Diego, California; and Fargo, North Dakota. The model analyzes the choices facing hypothetical consumers installing new heating and cooling equipment in residential buildings. The consumers have the option to purchase an ASHP for heating and cooling (with backup if needed) or a natural gas furnace and air conditioner. Based on the model results and related research, we conclude: Air source heat pumps are cost competitive today in places where electricity is cheap and the climate is mild. With climate policies consistent with rapid decarbonization and reasonably foreseeable technological progress, air source heat pumps are the low-cost option for typical residential buildings across much of the US by the mid-2030s. Even in the very cold climate of Fargo, North Dakota, the combination of a price on carbon emissions and steady innovation in ASHPs causes ASHPs (with an electric resistance heater as a backup) to be cost competitive with new natural gas furnaces and air conditioners by the 2030s. If the United States commits to the rapid decarbonization of space heating by midcentury, the costs and performance of ASHPs are unlikely to be major barriers to deployment. However, other important barriers may persist, including contractors’ and homeowners’ greater familiarity with incumbent fossil fuel technologies and the slow turnover of the building stock. As a result of these additional barriers, emissions pricing and technological progress alone may not lead to deployment of air source heat pumps in the United States sufficient to achieve deep decarbonization by midcentury. That would likely require additional policy instruments such as technology standards, emissions caps, or mandates. Other technologies can also contribute to decarbonizing space heating, including renewable natural gas, hydrogen produced with carbon capture and storage (CCS) or electrolysis, and centralized or district heating. Each of these options comes with challenges that will require policy support to overcome. This study does not point to a proper balance between ASHPs and other space heating decarbonization technologies. More research is needed to compare different approaches and strategies. In the meantime, our analysis suggests little if any downside to pursuing ambitious policies to promote deployment of ASHPs, prioritizing regions where heat pumps are currently most cost effective. A large-scale increase in ASHP deployments is likely to be an important part of any space heating decarbonization scenario.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Green Technology, Renewable Energy, Fossil Fuels
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Philippe Benoit
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: Argentina, President of the G20, recently released the “Energy Access and Affordability Voluntary Action Plan for Latin America and the Caribbean”, prepared by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) & Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE). CGEP Scholar Philippe Benoit served as the lead author of the report (on assignment from the IDB). The report builds on the previous G20 reports prepared for Africa and Asia-Pacific. The LAC Region enjoys access levels that are relatively high compared to other developing zones, but it faces important challenges in connecting the “last mile”. The Region also faces repeated extreme weather events which present the special challenge of access recovery (a major issue for Central America and the Caribbean, as well as Puerto Rico). One of the report’s innovations is that it extends the access effort beyond electricity and clean cooking to residential heat. The report also focuses on the importance of improving affordability of energy for the poor, as well as for other households and businesses.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Recovery, Electricity
  • Political Geography: Africa, Asia, Latin America, Central America, Caribbean, Puerto Rico