Authors: Varun Sivaram, Henry J. Snaith, and Samuel D. Stranks Scientific American
An upstart material—perovskite—could finally make solar cells that are cheaper and more efficient than the prevailing silicon technology. Varun Sivaram and co-authors delve into the science behind perovskites and assess the technology’s commercial prospects.
For decades, oil prices have influenced the outlook for alternatives to oil and policies that support those alternatives. Expensive oil makes substitutes more appealing; cheap oil makes the economic case for alternatives that much more difficult. High prices in the 1970s kick-started clean energy, including the first modern electric vehicles, while the oil slump beginning in the 1980s pummeled sources like wind and solar power and undermined the push for more fuel-efficient cars.
In recent years, frugal and reverse innovation have gained attention as potential strategies for increasing the quality and accessibility of health care while slowing the growth in its costs. Thomas J. Bollyky argues that the demand for these types of innovation is increasing and outlines three practical questions for policymakers seeking real investments and results.
Climate talks have largely failed to curb rising temperatures, but bottom-up initiatives featuring subnational actors hold great promise if coordinated effectively. Varun Sivaram and David Livingston argue that California and Germany can “lead from between” to bridge international and subnational climate action.
Most observers agree that the United States, propelled by its boom in oil and gas production, is becoming increasingly central to global energy. As oil prices have plummeted, American oil producers have taken credit. As U.S. imports have fallen, foreign policy thinkers have suggested that Washington could rely far less on the Middle East.
Steven A. Tananbaum Senior Fellow for International Economics Robert Kahn argues that the United States should empower the International Monetary Fund and Group of Twenty to better address currency manipulation concerns.
Benn Steil’s op-ed explains how the mechanics of implementing Federal Reserve monetary policy have changed radically since the crisis. Little known is that the new plumbing is not actually controlled by the FOMC, but by the much smaller Board of Governors. Given that the Board is decidedly more dovish than the FOMC, Fed watchers focused on the latter may be expecting a more aggressive timing and pace of rate rises than is likely.
Central bank currency swaps are becoming the new cross-border tool of choice in financial crisis management. This interactive explores the rapid growth of currency swaps since 2007 and its implications for the global financial system.
As Congress debates whether to grant President Obama authority to complete the most ambitious trade agenda in a generation, the most important organized voice for America’s workforce is once again in a familiar place — standing outside, screaming for lawmakers to stop.
Steven A. Tananbaum Senior Fellow for International Economics Robert Kahn argues that it is time for central banks to debate whether a higher inflation target would improve the operation of monetary policy.
As a relatively new field, gender in macroeconomics suffers from incomplete data and from insufficient focus outside official institutions. In “Citi GPS Women in the Economy: Global Growth Generators,” CFR Senior Fellow Heidi Crebo-Rediker in a report co-authored with Tina M. Fordham of Citi, CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Willem Buiter, and Ebrahim Rahbari of Citi revisit the “Global Growth Generators” thesis and argue that new policy responses, as well as learning from best practice, could improve female labor force participation with significant benefits that are not just economic but have social implications as well.
Tesla is planning to scale up production of its lithium-ion batteries, which today power electric vehicles but tomorrow could back up the electricity grid, by building a massive “Gigafactory” in Nevada. Varun Sivaram argues that while positive in the short run, Tesla’s mediocre battery could crowd out more promising, advanced battery technologies in the long run, impeding long-term progress on climate change.
For fifty years, Moore’s Law has governed the startling pace of innovation in the computer chip industry. That Moore’s Law is an extraordinary phenomenon, unique to a single industry, is often forgotten by clean energy commentators who misappropriate it for predicting the progress of technologies like solar panels and batteries. Varun Sivaram argues that this sort of analogy is misleading, and that the clean energy sector should aspire to Moore-esque advances.
Poised to revive its nuclear industry, Japan should continue to encourage investment in solar as well, which could help meet its energy goals and set an example for the world, writes CFR’s Varun Sivaram.
As supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership try to round up backers, they increasingly emphasise the geopolitical case for concluding a deal. But too often they overstate the case—and, in doing so, generate real geopolitical risks of their own, while also jeopardising the agreement they seek.
In Market Madness, Blake C. Clayton shows that predictions of dwindling oil supplies and a rise in prices have been empirically proven incorrect. Technological advances and geopolitical shifts have repeatedly prompted sudden, severe drops in oil prices—exactly like the one we are experiencing today.
In By All Means Necessary, Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael Levi explore the unrivaled expansion of the Chinese economy. China is now engaged in a far-flung quest, hunting around the world for resources, and deploying whatever it needs in the economic, political, and military spheres to secure them. More
In Money, Markets, and Sovereignty, the authors present a fascinating intellectual history of monetary nationalism from the ancient world to the present and explore why, in its modern incarnation, it represents the single greatest threat to globalization. More
In The Closing of the American Border, Edward Alden goes behind the scenes to tell the story of the Bush administration's struggle to balance security and openness in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. More