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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

Op-Ed

Beijing’s Actions in the South China Sea Demand a U.S. Response

Authors: Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael A. Levi
Washington Post
The China National Overseas Oil Coorporation (CNOOC) began drilling in Vietnamese-claimed waters late last week, accompanied by more than seventy vessels, including armed Chinese warships. Elizabeth Economy and Michael Levi write that the United States needs to face up to the full magnitude of the Chinese challenge to have any hope of successfully confronting it.

See more in China; Vietnam; Territorial Disputes; Oil

Op-Ed

China Runs Into Natural-Resources Pushback

Authors: Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael A. Levi
Wall Street Journal

Though strategists have long feared that China's quest for natural resources would lead to ever-higher prices, a breakdown in trade, and perhaps even wars, Elizabeth Economy and Michael Levi write that a stunning WTO rebuke of Chinese exports restrictions shows that the global system is far more resilient than the worriers have claimed.

See more in China; Energy and Environment

Op-Ed

The False Promise of Energy Independence

Author: Michael A. Levi
New York Times

Michael A. Levi says, "The benefits of the oil and gas boom—jobs, wealth and, in the case of natural gas, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions—offer plenty of reasons to continue to develop these resources judiciously. But we should beware of turning this potential blessing into an unintended curse."

See more in United States; Energy Policy; Oil

Op-Ed

Critics of Gas Should Be Realistic

Author: Michael A. Levi
Financial Times

Michael A. Levi says natural gas is a good and inexpensive alternative to coal and oil, but it's still a fossil fuel. Keeping in mind that gas is far from a permanent climate solution, delegates meeting in Doha for the UN climate change negotiations "should strengthen their efforts, individually and collectively, to promote innovation and development of cost-effective zero-carbon energy options."

See more in Natural Gas; Global

Recent Activity from Energy, Security, and Climate

CFR Events

World Economic Update

Speakers:

Lewis Alexander, Managing Director and Chief U.S. Economist, Nomura Securities International Inc.; Former Counselor to the Secretary, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Philippe Legrain, Senior Fellow, The European Institute, London School of Economics; Former Economic Advisor to the President, European Commission, Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Sebastian Mallaby, Paul A. Volcker Senior Fellow for International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations
January 21, 2015 7:45-8:00 a.m. - Breakfast
8:00-9:00 a.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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NY Conference Call: Russia's Ruble Crisis

Speakers:

Willem H. Buiter, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; Global Chief Economist, Citigroup, Stephen Sestanovich, George F. Kennan Senior Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
December 19, 2014 10:00-11:00 a.m. - Conference Call

This meeting is on the record.

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

Speaker:

Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy
and the Environment, and Director, Center for Geoeconomic Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Robert McMahon, Editor, CFR.org
November 14, 2014 2:00-3:00 p.m. - Conference Call

This meeting is on the record.

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Risk and Geopolitics

Speakers:

Samuel Greene, Director, Russia Institute, King's College London, Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations, Anatol Lieven, Chair, International Relations, War Studies Department, King's College London, Thomas Rid, Professor of Security Studies, King's College London

Presider:

Gideon Rose, Peter G. Peterson Chair and Editor, Foreign Affairs
March 25, 2014 2:00-3:00 p.m.

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

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

Speakers:

Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

James M. Lindsay, Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair, Council on Foreign Relations
February 4, 2014 5:30-6:00 p.m. - Registration
6:00-6:45 p.m. - Meeting
6:45-7:15 p.m. - Reception and Book Signing

This meeting is on the record.

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

Speakers:

Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
January 29, 2014 5:30-6:00 p.m. - Reception
6:00-6:45 p.m. - Discussion
6:45-7:15 p.m. - Cocktail Reception and Book Signing

This meeting is on the record.

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

Speakers:

Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
January 29, 2014 5:30-6:00 p.m. - Reception
6:00-6:45 p.m. - Discussion
6:45-7:15 p.m. - Cocktail Reception and Book Signing

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch

CEO Speaker Series: The Future of Energy

Panelists:

Christophe de Margerie, Chairman and Chief Executive Office, TOTAL S.A.; Member, CFR Global Board of Advisers, Paolo Scaroni, Chief Executive Officer, Eni; Member, CFR Global Board of Advisors, Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

David M. Rubenstein, Cofounder and Co-Chief Executive Officer, The Carlyle Group; Vice Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations; Chair, CFR Global Board of Advisers
October 7, 2013 12:30-1:00 p.m. - Lunch
1:00-2:00 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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CEO Speaker Series: The Future of Energy

Panelists:

Christophe de Margerie, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, TOTAL S.A.; Member, CFR Global Board of Advisers, Paolo Scaroni, Chief Executive Officer, Eni; Member, CFR Global Board of Advisors, Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, Council on Foreign Relations, David M. Rubenstein, Cofounder and Co-Chief Executive Officer, The Carlyle Group; Vice Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations; Chair, CFR Global Board of Advisers
October 7, 2013 1:00-2:00 p.m.

This meeting is on the record.

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Michael Levi and Peter Orszag on America's Energy Future

Speakers:

Michael A. Levi, Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations, Peter R. Orszag, Vice Chairman of Global Banking, Citigroup

Presider:

Robert McMahon, Editor, CFR.org, Council on Foreign Relations
May 3, 2013

This meeting is on the record.

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Climate Change and the Obama Administration

Speaker:

Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations

Moderator:

Irina A. Faskianos, Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations
February 21, 2013 12:00-1:00 p.m. - (ET)

This meeting is on the record.

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President Obama's Energy Agenda

Speaker:

Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Anya Schmemann, Director, Editorial Strategy, Studies Program and Director, Task Force Program, Council on Foreign Relations
February 14, 2013

This meeting is on the record.

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

Speakers:

Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, Council on Foreign Relations, William F. Martin, Chairman, Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee, U.S. Department of Energy; Former Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy, David Sandalow, Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, U.S. Department of Energy

Presider:

Thomas Wallin, Editor in Chief, Energy Intelligence Group
June 8, 2011 5:30-6:00 p.m. - Reception
6:00-7:00 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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

Speakers:

Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations, Shannon K. O'Neil, Douglas Dillon Fellow for Latin America Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Irina A. Faskianos, Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations
February 2, 2011

This meeting is on the record.

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Climate Change and Copenhagen

Speaker:

Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Irina A. Faskianos, Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations
December 3, 2009

This meeting is not for attribution.

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U.S. Options for Copenhagen

Speakers:

Frank E. Loy, Chair, Board of Directors, PSI, Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, CFR, Daniel M. Price, Senior Partner for Global Issues, Sidley Austin, LLP

Presider:

Juliet Eilperin, National Environment Reporter, Washington Post
November 10, 2009

This meeting is on the record.

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China 2025: Panel Two: China Goes Global

Moderator:

Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Panelists:

Evan A. Feigenbaum, Senior Fellow for East, Central, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations, Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations, Adam Segal, Maurice R. Greenberg Senior Fellow for China Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, David H. Shinn, Adjunct Professor, George Washington University
October 19, 2009

This meeting is on the record.

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

Speakers:

Paula J. Dobriansky, Senior International Affairs and Trade Advisor, Baker & Hostetler LLP and former Under Secretary, Democracy and Global Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, Council on Foreign Relations, William John Antholis, Managing Director, The Brookings Institution

Moderator:

Jessica T. Mathews, President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
May 7, 2009 - May 8, 2009

This meeting is on the record.

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

Introductory Speaker:

Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations

Panelists:

Tanaka Akihiko, Professor of International Politics, Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies and Institute of Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo, Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, and Director, Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations, Sheila A. Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Funabashi Yoichi, Editor-in-Chief, Asahi Shimbun
December 1, 2008

This meeting is not for attribution.

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

Panelists:

Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, Council on Foreign Relations, David J. Rothkopf, President and CEO, Garten Rothkopf

Moderator:

Steven Mufson, Energy Correspondent, Washington Post
September 12, 2008

This meeting is not for attribution.

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

Chairs:

George E. Pataki, Counsel, Chadbourne & Parke LLP, Thomas J. Vilsack, Of Counsel, Dorsey & Whitney LLP

Speaker:

Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Terry Moran, Anchor, Nightline, ABC News
June 13, 2008 8:30-9:00 a.m. - Breakfast Reception
9:00-10:00 a.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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Defending Against Nuclear Terrorism

Speaker:

Michael A. Levi, Fellow for Science and Technology and Director, Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations; Author, On Nuclear Terrorism, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Irina A. Faskianos, Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations
January 31, 2008

This meeting is not for attribution.

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On Nuclear Terrorism

Speaker:

Michael A. Levi, Fellow for Science and Technology, Council on Foreign Relations

Introductory Speaker:

Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
November 20, 2007 5:30-7:00 p.m. - Cocktail Reception and Book Signing with informal remarks at 6:00 PM

This meeting is on the record.

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Can Coal be Clean? The Promise of Climate Change Technology

Speakers:

Ernest J. Moniz, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, Director, MIT Energy Initiative, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rick Boucher, Member, U.S. House of Representatives (D-VA)

Presider:

Michael A. Levi, Fellow for Science and Technology and Director, Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations
September 18, 2007 8:00-8:30 a.m. - Breakfast reception
8:30-9:30 a.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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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?

Introductory Speaker:

Charles Ferguson, Fellow for Science and Technology, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Michael A. Levi, Fellow for Science and Technology, Council on Foreign Relations

Speakers:

Ruth Greenspan Bell, Director, IIDEA, Resources For the Future, Angelina Howard, Vice President, Nuclear Energy Institute, Daniel Rosenblum, Co-Director, Carbon Tax Center
June 14, 2007 - June 15, 2007 11:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. - June 15, 2007

This meeting is not for attribution.

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

Speakers:

Michael A. Levi, Fellow for Science and Technology, Council on Foreign Relations, Charles D. Ferguson, Fellow for Science and Technology, Council on Foreign Relations
June 13, 2006

This meeting is on the record.

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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."

Listen