Sat May 23 2015 11:11:20 +0200 CEST

Climate Change - United States Policy on Climate Change and Clean Energy: a Dossier

What is a Dossier?

Via the dossiers, we try to highlight the priorities of the US Government with regard to specific foreign policy policy issues. We provide statements by U.S. public officials, but also reports, hearings, and journal articles.
Obama on New National Action Plan on Climate Change

Obama on New National Action Plan on Climate Change

President Obama outlines a new national action plan on climate change, including steps to reduce carbon pollution and prepare communities from increased storms, droughts, wildfires and other effects of climate change. June, 25, 2013. President Obama's Plan to Fight Climate Change

US Government Information: 

Draft 2014 Climate Action Report is open for public comment until October 24. Read & comment:

-09/16/13   Climate Change Legislation in the 113th Congress  [312 Kb] Source: CRS Report for Congress

-07/17/13   Energy Policy: 113th Congress Issues  Source: CRS Report for Congress

-07/15/13   Clean Air Issues in the 113th Congress: An Overview  [499 Kb] Source: CRS Report for Congress

-06/26/13   President Obama's Climate Action Plan  [294 Kb] Source: CRS Report for Congress

-06/03/13   International Climate Change Financing: The Climate Investment Funds (CIFs)  [344 Kb] Source: CRS Report for Congress

-06/03/13   International Environmental Financing: The Global Environment Facility (GEF)  [945 Kb] Source: CRS Report for Congress

-04/16/13   International Climate Change Financing: The Green Climate Fund (GCF)  [297 Kb] Source: CRS Report for Congress

Non-US Government Information: 

Nuclear energy policy in the United States 1990–2010: A federal or state responsibility? Raphael J. Heffron, Energy Policy, November 2013, pp. 254-266. “This paper examines from a policy perspective nuclear energy policy in the United States (US) from 1990 to 2010 and questions whether it is or has become a Federal or State responsibility. The present study, as befits policy research, engages with many disciplines (for example, in particular, law and politics) and hence the contributions move beyond that of nuclear energy policy literature and in particular to that on nuclear new build and other assessments of large infrastructure projects. Several examples at the Federal level are identified that demonstrate that the nuclear industry has evolved to a stage where it requires a focus on the power of actions at a more localised (state) level in order to re-ignite the industry. The research concludes that there remains a misunderstanding of the issue of project management for complex construction projects, and it is highly arguable whether many of its issues have been resolved. Further, the research asserts that the economics of nuclear energy are not the most influential reason for no nuclear new build in the US.” READ MORE

Obstacles in energy security: An analysis of congressional and presidential framing in the United States. Amy Below, Energy Policy, November 2013, pp. 860–868. “Despite decades of policymaking, the U.S. has only recently made significant strides in becoming a more energy secure nation. With a focus on the executive and legislative branches, this paper investigates two possible political obstacles to achieve this policy goal. The first question it asks is whether or not the two branches have been defining energy security in the same way. As the concept itself has no universal definition, it is possible that the branches have been focusing on different aspects of the term. Results from a content analysis of presidential speeches and congressional hearings suggest that no such division has occurred. The subsequent question asks whether or not the two branches, in tandem, are providing the foundation for sound policy. Results suggest that Congress and presidents have defined and discussed energy security in a generally balanced, comprehensive and internally non-conflictual way. What policy emerges from these discussions should be the subject of future research.” READ MORE

Environmental Security, Military Planning, and Civilian Research: The Case of Water. Shannon O'Leara, Chad M. Briggsa & G. Michael Denning, Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, Issue 5 2013, pp. 3-13. “The role of environmental security in the U.S. military has been contentious and subject to shifting definitions, from the 1990s approach of environmental regulation to contemporary concepts of environmental change as a threat to stability. Environmental security is still viewed in Western countries that see climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ in already conflict-sensitive regions differently than in developing countries that consider security implications with regional neighbors when responding to extreme events. The current understanding of the problem is most notably articulated in the 2007 CNA Corporation report. ‘National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,’ and parallel work by the military and intelligence communities, which state that while climate change is expected to exacerbate conditions that can contribute to intrastate conflict, it is neither a necessary nor a sufficient cause of conflict. These bodies of work shift focus away from violent conflict over scarce resources, the dominant theme in 1990s research on environmental security, toward operational risk analyses that focus on environmental systems supporting overall stability. This current attention to vulnerability has helped to narrow the range of potential hazards from general “climate change” issues to concerns about specific resources and critical nodes. The most crucial of these resources and critical nodes is water. This article presents an overview of military and intelligence concerns regarding environmental security, discusses the need for an interdisciplinary approach to climate change, and expands upon the recent National Intelligence Council (NIC) report on water, ‘Global Water Security’, to suggest roles for both the U.S. armed forces and civilian research communities.” READ MORE

Shale gas and the revival of American power: debunking decline? D. H. Dunn and M. J. L. McClelland, International Affairs, pp. 1411–1428. “The spectre of American decline is once again animating both observers and practitioners of US foreign policy. The global financial crisis, a faltering American economy and continued costly and controversial military engagements overseas have been presented as conclusive proof that American foreign policy will soon lack the resources needed to sustain its previous international hegemony. Arguments of domestic weakness have been linked to analyses of the economic vitality of America's competitors to demonstrate a seemingly watertight case for relative decline. The inexorable rise of China has been presented from various quarters as evidence that the American era will soon be drawing to a close. Yet, such declinist arguments continue to suffer from fundamental weaknesses, overestimating the likely future strength of America's rivals while concurrently downplaying the capacity of the US to rejuvenate its economy and thus revivify its liberal universalist creed. The most interesting development in this regard has been the sudden resurgence of the US energy sector. Written off less than a decade ago as being in terminal decline, the American oil and gas industry has staged a remarkable recovery. Vast reserves of shale gas and accompanying tight oil offer the potential to aid the revival of the American economy, with some forecasts pointing to US energy self-sufficiency within two decades. Notions of US relative decline may yet prove premature. The geopolitical impact of American energy self-sufficiency is likely to be very significant, making an important contribution to a reversal of the US trade deficit, a revival of America's industrial base, and the possibility of a corresponding relative decline in power for conventional fossil fuel exporters.”

The Devolution of the Seas. Alan B. Sielen, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2013, var. pages. “Over the last several decades, human activities have so altered the basic chemistry of the seas that they are now experiencing evolution in reverse: a return to the barren primeval waters of hundreds of millions of years ago.” READ MORE

Europe’s Energy Security: Options and Challenges to Natural Gas Supply Diversification. Michael Ratner, Paul Belkin, et al. Congressional Research Service, July 2013, var. pp. Europe as a major energy consumer faces a number of challenges when addressing future energy needs. Among these challenges are rapidly rising global demand and competition for energy resources from emerging economies such as China and India, persistent instability in energy producing regions such as the Middle East, a fragmented internal European energy market, and a growing need to shift fuels in order to address climate change policy. As a result, energy supply security has become a key concern for European nations and the European Union (EU). A key element of the EU’s energy supply strategy has been to shift to a greater use of natural gas. READ MORE

Petro-Piracy: Oil and Troubled Waters. Martin N. Murphy, Orbis, Summer 2013, pp. 424-437. West Africa piracy is the most profitable in the world. Well-organized gangs steal refined oil in contrast to Somali pirates who hold crews and ships for ransom. Like piracy elsewhere, the origins and potential solutions to West African piracy are found ashore—largely in Nigeria. This article argues that oil states in the developing world are shielded from the domestic and international pressures that can bring down their non-oil neighbors. The current international system which makes international recognition, not internal legitimacy or functionality, the key to state authority works to their benefit. It encourages those parts which are valuable to industrialized powers—and to the domestic elites who facilitate and benefit from international legitimization—to function well enough for resource extraction to continue. The security of the state generally matters less than the security of key enclaves— including ships and offshore platforms—which support elite interests. READ MORE

Symposium - Applying Some Lessons from the Gulf Oil Spill to Hydraulic Fracturing. Heidi Gorovitz Robertson, Case Western Reserve Law Review, Summer 2013, pp. 1279-1335. "This Article will consider just a few of the lessons identified through government and other studies that followed the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It will consider how those lessons might be applied to Ohio’s regulation of hydraulic fracturing in the hope that Ohio can avoid some of the same mistakes that arguably paved the way for the blowout in the Gulf." READ MORE

Symposium - Climate Change and Natural Gas Dynamic Governance. Elizabeth Burleson, Case Western Reserve Law Review, Summer 2013, pp. 1217-1277. "Hydraulic fracturing has been a game changer for the energy field, bringing to mind the “nothing in excess” carving at Delphi. Whether heeding ancient oracles or cutting-edge principles of calibration, I argue that dynamic governance innovation can facilitate climate-energy-water balancing to address natural gas governance gaps." READ MORE

Symposium - Frackonomics: Some Economics of Hydraulic Fracturing by Timothy Fitzgerald, Case Western Reserve Law Review, Summer 2013, pp. 1337-1362. "The United States has experienced an oil and gas renaissance thanks to technological innovations that have propelled unconventional resources to the forefront of energy policy discussions. Hydraulic energy industry and outlook over the past fifteen years. Commonly called “fracking,”1 the process has been a lightning rod for public and environmental concerns about the expansion of oil and gas development. This Article introduces the economic factors behind hydraulic fracturing. These effects cut across three different scales." READ MORE

The Coming Arctic Boom. Scott Borgerson, Foreign Affairs, Jul/Aug2013, var. pp. "As the Ice Melts, the Region Heats Up. The ice was never supposed to melt this quickly. Although climate scientists have known for some time that global warming was shrinking the percentage of the Arctic Ocean that was frozen over, few predicted so fast a thaw. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that Arctic summers would become ice free beginning in 2070. Yet more recent satellite observations have moved that date to somewhere around 2035, and even more sophisticated simulations in 2012 moved the date up to 2020. Sure enough, by the end of last summer, the portion of the Arctic Ocean covered by ice had been reduced to its smallest size since record keeping began in 1979, shrinking by 350,000 square miles (an area equal to the size of Venezuela) since the previous summer. All told, in just the past three decades, Arctic sea ice has lost half its area and three quarters of its volume. It's not just the ocean that is warming." READ MORE

Climate Change: Will governments act to curb rising temperatures? Jennifer Weeks, The CQ Researcher, June 14, 2013, var. pages. "The effects of climate change are steadily becoming more evident across the globe. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide — the main heat-trapping greenhouse gas produced by human activities — are the highest in 3 million years, and climbing. Scientists say climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, heat waves and droughts. President Obama has called for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases from power plants and other sources and pledged to use regulations if Congress fails to act. Americans increasingly agree that climate change is real and human actions are contributing to it, but many conservative legislators oppose measures designed to address the problem, such as taxing carbon-based fuels. Some experts want to start researching large-scale geoengineering technologies for cooling Earth's climate, but many observers fear that these strategies could do more harm than good." READ MORE

A Brief History of Energy: Where We’ve Come From and Where We’re Going. Daniel Yergin, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, Winter/Spring 2013, pp. 77-82. "To gain further insight into the contemporary global energy schema, the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs meets with Pulitzer Prize winning author Dr. Daniel Yergin who has been described by Fortune as “one of the planet’s foremost thinkers about energy and its implications” to discuss the themes of his latest New York Times bestseller, The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, and much more." READ MORE

There Will Be Oil. Jason Bordoff, Democracy Journal, Summer 2013, var. pp. Suddenly, the United States is energy rich. The problem is that we’re still guided by policies that assume the opposite. [...] We are at a transformational moment in energy history. Just a few years ago, all energy projections forecast increased imports, increased scarcity, and increased natural gas prices. Today, we’ve shifted from scarcity to abundance. U.S. oil production increased by nearly one million barrels per day (B/D) in 2012, the largest annual increase in U.S. history. In 2013, the United States is projected to be the largest producer of liquid fuels (including crude oil, natural gas, and biofuels) in the world, overtaking Saudi Arabia. U.S. oil imports are at their lowest level in 25 years and are projected to decline much more steeply as a result of surging production and reduced gasoline use due to higher prices and the Obama Administration’s increase of fuel-economy standards. And these projections may well be too conservative, as reflected in numerous private-sector forecasts. READ MORE

Shale Gas and Clean Energy Policy. Joseph P. Tomain, Case Western Reserve Law Review, Summer 2013, pp. 1187-1215. "In this article, the author focuses on shale and natural gas production regulations in the U.S. He states that the advisory committee of the U.S. Department of Energy has recommended that authorities involved in natural gas and shale production should take proper measures to reduce emission of air pollutants. He also states that the Safe Drinking Water Act proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates hydraulic fracturing operations." READ MORE

Climate Change: Will governments act to curb rising temperatures? Jennifer Weeks, CQ Researcher, June 14, 2013, pp. 521-544. "The effects of climate change are steadily becoming more evident across the globe. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide — the main heat-trapping greenhouse gas produced by human activities — are the highest in 3 million years, and climbing. Scientists say climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, heat waves and droughts. President Obama has called for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases from power plants and other sources and pledged to use regulations if Congress fails to act. Americans increasingly agree that climate change is real and human actions are contributing to it, but many conservative legislators oppose measures designed to address the problem, such as taxing carbon-based fuels. Some experts want to start researching large-scale geoengineering technologies for cooling Earth's climate, but many observers fear that these strategies could do more harm than good." READ MORE

Migration and Environmental Change: Assessing the Developing European Approach. Migration Policy Institute. Andrew Geddes and Will Somerville. May 2013. Migration resulting from environmental change has been a topic of preoccupation since the 1990s, but in practice there has been very little policy development within the European Union on this topic. The brief finds that while such migration is likely to be largely concentrated in areas outside of Europe, there are far-reaching implications for policy. READ MORE

Order out of Chaos: Public and Private Rules for Managing Carbon. Jessica F. Green, Global Environmental Politics, May 2013, pp.1–25. "To date, much of the work on “regime complexes”—loosely connected nonhierarchical institutions—has excluded an important part of the institutional picture: the role of private authority. This paper seeks to remedy this shortcoming by examining privately created standards within the regime complex for climate change and their relationship to public authority." READ MORE


Promoting International Environmental Cooperation Through Unilateral Action: When Can Trade Sanctions Help? Johannes Urpelainen, Global Environmental Politics, May 2013, pp. 26-45. Environmental cooperation is difficult because states disagree on burden sharing and have incentives to free-ride. If international negotiations fail, environmental leaders—countries with a strong interest in environmental protection—can engage in unilateral action to lay the foundation for future cooperation. Unilateral action refers to enactment of environmental policies to address global problems while other countries remain inactive. Unilateral action can induce future cooperation through technological change, demonstration effects, and normative
pressure. How can such strategies be made more effective? In this article, I examine whether trade sanctions—policies that force foreign exporters to comply with domestic environmental regulations—could increase the effectiveness of unilateral action in environmental policy, such as climate mitigation. READ MORE

The Coming GOP Civil War Over Climate Change. Coral Davenport, The National Journal, May 2013, var. pp. Science, storms, and demographics are starting to change minds among the rank and file. [...] A concerted push has begun within the party—in conservative think tanks and grassroots groups, and even in backroom, off-the-record conversations on Capitol Hill—to persuade Republicans to acknowledge and address climate change in their own terms. The effort will surely add heat to the deep internal conflict in the years ahead. READ MORE 

The Policy Context of Biofuels: A Case of Non-Governance at the Global Level? Mairon G. Bastos Lima, Joyeeta Gupta, Global Environmental Politics, May 2013, pp. 46-64. This article sets out to analyze the nature of the global biofuel policy context, taking account of how biofuels rose onto the international agenda and assessing the institutional landscape emerging in parallel. We first explain our analytical framework, then elaborate on the global biofuel policy context and analyze it in terms of distributional issues and governance architectures. In addition to shedding light on global biofuel governance, this analysis contributes to a broader reflection on how to define governance more clearly in relation to new and emerging sustainability issues in the twenty-first century. READ MORE 

Transmitting Environmentalism?: The Unintended Global Consequences of European Union Environmental Policies. Carolyn M. Dudek, Global Environmental Politics, May 2013, pp. 109-127. European Union (EU) environmental regulations and directives created to adjust European markets have had consequences beyond Europe’s borders. Most scholars focus on EU environmental policies’ domestic impact or how the EU influences environmental regulations abroad via multilateral agreements. Often overlooked, however, are the impacts of EU environmental regulations on European corporate practices overseas. When European companies invest overseas, do they become transmitters of EU environmental policies or do they use less environmentally friendly practices abroad? What impact do European firms’ practices have on domestic host country firms? READ MORE

America's Energy Opportunity. Michael Levi, Foreign Affairs, May/Jun2013, pp. 92-103. An energy revolution is unfolding in the United States -- but unlike most past or promised revolutions, this one is not confined to a single fuel or technology. After falling for more than two straight decades after 1985, U.S. crude oil production has now risen for four consecutive years, and in 2012, it posted its largest one-year increase since the dawn of the oil industry more than 150 years ago. Meanwhile, in 2011, natural gas surpassed coal as the United States' biggest source of domestically produced energy, thanks to surging output and plunging prices. And all this growth in U.S. fossil fuel production has not prevented the rise of zero-carbon energy sources: the amount of electricity generated from cutting-edge renewables -- wind, solar, and geothermal -- has doubled since 2008, and prices have plummeted. Moreover, as technological innovations have made U.S. motor vehicles more fuel efficient, the country's oil consumption has fallen by nearly ten percent since 2005, reversing what previously seemed to be an interminable upward trend. READ MORE

What If We Never Run Out of Oil? Charles C. Mann, The Atlantic Magazine, April 24, 2013, var. pp. New technology and a little-known energy source suggest that fossil fuels may not be finite. This would be a miracle—and a nightmare. READ MORE

The Role of Gas in the External Dimension of the EU Energy Transition. Sami Andoura and Clémentine d’Oultremont, Egmont, Notre Europe, March 2013, var. pp. As an economically attractive option for investors, a potential backup source for renewables and the cleanest fossil fuel, natural gas is expected to play an important role in the European transition towards a low-carbon economy by 2050. At a time when European primary energy resources are being depleted and energy demand is growing, the gas import dependency of the EU will continue to grow significantly in the coming years. The EU is thus facing important challenges linked to its gas policy both internally, by attempting to create a competitive, interconnected and well-functioning internal market for gas; and externally, by struggling to develop a coherent and collective external strategy, which would allow it to both diversify and secure its gas supply from abroad. Meanwhile, new sources of unconventional gas could change the world’s energy markets with potential consequences for the EU. However, many uncertainties remain regarding their development within the EU. In view of all these challenges, this Policy Paper concludes by laying out concrete recommendations on how the EU could strengthen its gas strategy both internally and externally. READ MORE

International Climate Change Financing: The Green Climate Fund (GCF). Richard K. Lattanzio, Congressional Research Service,  April 16, 2013, var. pp. Over the past several decades, the United States has delivered financial and technical assistance for climate change activities in the developing world through a variety of bilateral and multilateral programs. The United States and other industrialized countries committed to such assistance through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, Treaty Number: 102-38, 1992), the Copenhagen Accord (2009), and the UNFCCC Cancun Agreements (2010), wherein the higher-income countries pledged jointly up to $30 billion of “fast start” climate financing for lower-income countries for the period 2010-2012, and a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020. The Cancun Agreements also proposed that the pledged funds are to be new, additional to previous flows, adequate, predictable, and sustained, and are to come from a wide variety of sources, both public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance. READ MORE


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