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Michael A. Levi

David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies

Expertise

Climate change; energy policy; weapons of mass destruction; homeland security; arms control and proliferation; technology and foreign policy; science and technology in the Islamic world.

Bio

Michael A. Levi is the David M. Rubenstein senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies, and director of the CFR program on energy security and climate change. He is an expert on climate change, energy security, arms control, and nuclear terrorism.

Before joining CFR, Dr. Levi was a nonresident science fellow and a science and technology fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution. Prior to that, he was director of the Federation of American Scientists' Strategic Security Project.

Dr. Levi is author of The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America's Future (Oxford University Press, May 2013), and By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World (with Elizabeth Economy), (Oxford University Press, February 2014). He is also the author of the books On Nuclear Terrorism (Harvard University Press, 2007) and (with Michael O'Hanlon) The Future of Arms Control (Brookings Institution Press, 2005). He was project director for the CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force on climate change, co-chaired by former governors Tom Vilsack and George Pataki. His 2005 monograph with Michael D'Arcy, Untapped Potential: U.S. Science and Technology Cooperation with the Islamic World, was the first comprehensive study of science and technology in the Muslim world. His recent writings include studies of natural gas exports, the Canadian oil sands, and the global politics and economics of clean energy innovation.

Dr. Levi has testified before Congress and presented expert scientific evidence to the National Academy of Sciences on climate change and on nuclear security. His essays have been published in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Nature, and Scientific American, among others. His op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Financial Times. Dr. Levi previously wrote a monthly online column on science and security for the New Republic, and served as a technical consultant to the critically acclaimed television drama 24. He currently writes a blog on energy, climate, and nuclear issues.

Dr. Levi holds a BSc (Hons.) in mathematical physics from Queen's University (Kingston) and an MA in physics from Princeton University, where he studied string theory and cosmology. He holds a PhD in war studies from the University of London (King's College), where he was the SSHRC William E. Taylor fellow. He lives in New York.

Energy, Economics, and International Security

Energy has long been intimately connected with the global economy and international relations. But with rapid changes in the energy landscape, the international economy, and world affairs, scholars' and policymakers' understandings of how energy influences the world are increasingly out of date. In 2010, I convened a workshop to identify important research questions in this space, and published a working paper outlining important areas for investigation. Since then, I've led an effort to answer many of those questions (along with others that have emerged) through a mix of my own research, commissioned papers, and intensive workshops. My own recent work has produced, among other products, books on the future of U.S. energy and Chinese resource strategy and papers on natural gas exports, the influence of oil in international diplomacy, and the potential role of oil taxes in fiscal reform. Commissioned papers have addressed matters ranging from oil dependence in the Chinese military to the impact of falling U.S. oil imports on the current account. Future activities will continue to illuminate and clarify the relationships between energy, economics, and international security, with an eye toward insights that can inform pressing policy decisions.

This project is made possible through the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Climate Change and Foreign Policy

Climate change is the ultimate foreign policy problem: meeting the aggressive emissions-cutting goals agreed to by governments will require strong action from every major economy in the world. Effectively tackling climate change will require sustained dialogue and collaboration between the climate change and foreign policy communities, much as effective Cold War arms control required collaboration between specialists in nuclear weapons and in foreign policy. My activities aim to build these dialogues through two main means. I conduct and publish research on connections between energy production and climate change, in policy and scientific journals, and convene dialogues that mix energy producers and people who focus on climate change. Since energy production is a critical part of the international security and foreign policy landscape, this is essential to bridging the two worlds. I also host a series of roundtable discussions that expose foreign policy experts to recent developments in the climate change world. My ongoing activities extend both efforts while deepening a two-way dialogue between the climate policy and foreign policy communities.

Featured Publications

All Publications

News Release

New Council Report Urges Two-Stage Compromise on U.S.-India Nuclear Deal

If Congress does not approve the U.S.-India nuclear deal, “it would damage the bilateral relationship,” concludes a new Special Report. Congress should adopt a two-stage approach: formally endorsing the deal’s basic framework, while delaying final approval until it is assured that critical nonproliferation needs are met.

See more in United States; Weapons of Mass Destruction; Technology and Foreign Policy; Homeland Security; India

Op-Ed

Why the Oil Price Drop Matters

Author: Michael A. Levi
World Economic Forum

After three years of unusual stability around $100 a barrel, oil prices fell steeply in the second half of 2014, dropping from $115 a barrel in June to around $60 by December. With oil critical to national economies, international security and climate change, what does the apparent new world of oil mean?

See more in Global; Oil

Op-Ed

Why the World Missed the Oil Price Crash

Author: Michael A. Levi
The Washington Post

The recent oil price crash came as a surprise to many observers due to several critical misconceptions about oil markets, writes Michael Levi. As for prices going forward, “only the reckless would bet with any confidence on one particular outcome.”

See more in Global; Oil

Op-Ed

Should the U.S. Take Unilateral Action on Climate Policy?

Authors: Michael A. Levi and Andrew P. Morriss
Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal asks Michael Levi and Andrew P. Morriss whether the U.S. should act unilaterally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Levi answers “yes,” arguing that cutting greenhouse gas emissions now would enhance public health and the international credibility of the United States, and that reasonable action now would reduce long-term costs.

See more in United States; Environmental Policy

Op-Ed

What the 2014 Oil Crash Means

Author: Michael A. Levi
Politico Magazine

As oil prices continue to drop, Michael Levi argues that the benefit to American consumers will outweigh any damage to the U.S. economy. However, how you view this plunge in oil prices "depends a lot on where you live and what work you do."

See more in Global; Oil; Financial Markets

Recent Activity from Energy, Security, and Climate

CFR Events

NY Conference Call: Russia's Ruble Crisis

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Conference Call: Assessing the U.S.-China Climate Deal

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Risk and Geopolitics

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DC Fellows' Book Launch Series--By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World

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CFR Fellows' Book Launch Series--By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World

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CFR Fellows' Book Launch Series--By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World

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CEO Speaker Series: The Future of Energy

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CEO Speaker Series: The Future of Energy

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Michael Levi and Peter Orszag on America's Energy Future

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President Obama's Energy Agenda

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CFR 90th Anniversary Series on Renewing America: The Future of Energy

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Energy Innovation in Brazil, China, and India: U.S. Policy Implications

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Climate Change and Copenhagen

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U.S. Options for Copenhagen

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China 2025: Panel Two: China Goes Global

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The United States and the Future of Global Governance: Tackling Climate Change

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Symposium on the U.S.-Japan Partnership, Session One: Global Transformations and the U.S.-Japan Partnership

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CFR Symposium: The International and the Domestic - Latin America and U.S. Policies and Politics, Session Three

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Confronting Climate Change: A Strategy for U.S. Policy

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Defending Against Nuclear Terrorism

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On Nuclear Terrorism

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Can Coal be Clean? The Promise of Climate Change Technology

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Council on Foreign Relations Workshop: American Nuclear Energy in a Globalized Economy, Session III: Can Nuclear Energy Go Beyond the Energy Policy Act of 2005?

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Council Special Report: U.S.-India Nuclear Cooperation

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Press/Panels

Radio Interview

WNYC: The Power Surge as Weekend Reading

Joe Nocera will be reading The Power Surge by Michael Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. "He's a pragmatist. He doesn't buy into the pieties of the right or the pieties of the left. He thinks about practical solutions, what works, what doesn't, what makes sense, and where we're truly headed in terms of energy."

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