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Energy and Climate Change

I. Energy
II. Climate Change
III. Suggested Readings
IV. Footnotes

In the coming decades, projected American energy needs will far exceed expected levels of production. In short, a fundamental disequilibrium between supply and demand has resulted in a national energy crisis. In response to this looming threat, President George W. Bush in 2001 established the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEDP), directing it to "develop a national energy policy designed to help the private sector, and, as necessary and appropriate, State and local governments, promote dependable, affordable, and environmentally sound production and distribution of energy for the future."1 While the recommendations of the NEDP place emphasis on renewable energy sources over increased reliance on imported oil, the report does not endorse a reduction in oil consumption. Instead, it recommends that the United States slow its reliance of petroleum imports by increasing production at home through the exploitation of untapped reserves in protected wildness areas, specifically those in Alaska.

For many environmentalists, the Bush Administration's failure to adopt a policy aimed reducing U.S. oil consumption is endemic of a larger failure by the White House to lead the international effort to slow climate change. In response, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which aims both to promote the production of renewable fuels and address global climate change.

I) Energy

A. Recommendations of the President's National Energy Policy Development Group

  1. The U.S. must adopt a national energy policy that:
    • Is long-term and comprehensive;
    • Advances new, environmentally friendly technologies to increase energy supplies and encourage cleaner, more efficient energy use;
    • Raises the U.S. standard of living, while also fully integrating U.S. energy, environmental and economic policies.

  2. Summary of Key Recommendations for U.S. foreign policy:
    • Make energy security a priority in trade and foreign policy;
    • Support initiatives by Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Qatar and United Arab Emeritus, and other suppliers to open up their energy sectors to foreign investment;
    • Develop closer energy integration with Canada and Mexico; and
    • Continue to support American energy firms competing abroad and use our membership in multilateral organizations, such as the WTO, to implement a system of clear, open, and transparent rules and procedures to reduce barriers for US companies to trade and invest overseas.

B. U.S. Energy Supply vs. Demand

Total Energy Production and Consumption, 1980-2030
Click to enlarge
Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2007, Figure 6.  Available at

C. Sources of American fuel consumption

Energy Consumption by Fuel, 1980-2030
Click to enlarge
Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2007, Figure 3.  Available at

D. U.S. Energy Security

  1. For oil price impacts on the US economy, see

  2. For reports on incidents affecting pipelines in the U.S. provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety, see

  3. For information on the US petroleum reserve, see

  4. For the composition of US oil imports by country of origin, see

E. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007:

The Act aims to reduce US dependence on oil by:

  • Increasing the supply of alternative fuel sources by setting a mandatory Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requiring fuel producers to use at least 36 billion gallons of biofuel in 2022. Although the president proposed a more ambitious alternative fuels standard in his State of the Union Address, the RFS in the bill he signed represents a nearly five-fold increase over current levels.

  • Reducing U.S. demand for oil by setting a national fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 - which will increase fuel economy standards by 40 percent and save billions of gallons of fuel. Last January, the President called for the first statutory increase in fuel economy standards for automobiles since they were enacted in 1975, and the bill he signed today delivers on that request. The bill also includes an important reform the President has called for that allows the Transportation Department to issue "attribute-based standards," which will ensure that increased fuel efficiency does not come at the expense of automotive safety.

    Source: White House Fact Sheet,

II. Climate Change

A. Global Climate Change

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the Earth's surface temperature has risen by about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past century, with accelerated warming during the past two decades. Scientists have concluded that most of the warming over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities, which have altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the buildup of greenhouse gases - primarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.

The United Nations continued its pioneering work on climate change and was recognized as co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. In December 2007, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was updated at a conference in Bali. Some progress was achieved, and the United States was demonstrating more cooperation with the process than at any time during the Bush administration.

See Summary Report, Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements (Dec. 2007) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change site has its updated report and other data.

The Greenhouse Effect
  1. Timeline of Climate Change, available at timeline-climate-change.html;jsessionid=DALODIPLDNBL.

  2. World Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Region

    World Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Region, 2003-2030
    Click to enlarge
    US Department of Energy, International Energy Outlook 2007,
    Figure 77,

  3. World Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Fuel Type

    World Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Fuel Type, 1990-2030
    Click to enlarge
    US Department of Energy, International Energy Outlook 2007,
    Figure 78,

  4. Global Climate Change
    For basic information and policy recommendations, see the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

    Global Temperature Changes (1880-2000)

B. U.S. Policy on Global Climate Change

While the United States maintains that it is committed "substantively addressing climate change," it has not adopted the Kyoto Protocol, which requires countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions collectively to an annual average of about 5 percent below their 1990 level over 2008-2012. The treaty entered into force on February 16, 2005, following its ratification by Russia, which brought about the total number of necessary signatories. The failure of the U.S. to ratify the Kyoto Protocol has been a source of significant disagreement between the U.S. and many of its allies, especially the Europeans. The U.S. has adopted a three-pronged approach to climate change, which aims to reduce the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by: 1) decreasing U.S. greenhouse gas intensity (emissions per pound of production); 2) investing in science, technology and institutions; and 3) cooperating internationally with other nations to develop an efficient and effective global response.

III. Suggested Readings

Joe Barnes and Amy Myers Jaffe, "The Persian Gulf and the Geopolitics of Oil," Survival, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Spring 2006), pp. 143-161.

John Browne, "Beyond Kyoto," Foreign Affairs, July/August 2004

Kerry Emanuel, What We Know About Climate Change (MIT Press, 2007); originally appeared as a section on climate change in the Boston Review, Jan/Feb 2007.

Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006)

James E. Hansen, leading scientific theorist of climate change, has several useful articles at his web site:

Thomas F. Homer-Dixon Environment, Scarcity, and Violence (Princeton University Press, 2000)

John R. Justus and Susan R. Fletcher, Global Climate Change: Major Scientific and Policy Issues Congressional Research Service, August 11, 2006

Jan H. Kalicki and David L. Goldwyn, eds., Energy and Security: Toward a New Foreign Policy Strategy (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005).

Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe (Bloomsbury, 2006).

Marc A. Levy, "Is the Environment a National Security Issue?" International Security, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Fall 1995), pp. 35–62.

Eugene Linden, The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations (Simon & Schuster, 2006)

Bill McKibben, "Can Anyone Stop It?" New York Review of Books 54:15 (October 11, 2007)

National Energy Policy, Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group, May 2002, available at

John Vogler and Charlotte Bretherton, "The European Union as Protagonist to the United States on Climate Change," International Studies Perspectives, vol. 7, no. 1 (February 20-06), pp. 1-22.

United Nations resources: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Spencer Weart, The Discovery of Global Warming, web site with many resources.

The Woodrow Wilson Center resources on environmental change and security

Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute, a leading center of science, has done some of the pioneering work on climate and oceans

IV. Footnotes

1. National Energy Policy, Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group, May 2002, available at

2. Source: National Energy Policy, Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group, May 2002, available at

3. Source: National Energy Policy, Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group, May 2002, available at

Massachusetts Institute of Technology