Currently, there are between 20,000 and 30,000 nuclear weapons in the world [1, 2]. Of these, over 1,500 are deployable by the two largest nuclear weapons states, the U.S. and Russia .
We often hear how a world without nuclear weapons will enhance global security and safety and that we are on our way to a goal of a world without them. As put forward by President Obama in his 2009 speech in Prague, the U.S. is committed to a world “free of nuclear weapons.” However, President Obama admitted this goal might be many years away and possibly not feasible in his lifetime.
Though most of us have heard about the inherent dangers of large numbers of nuclear weapons, there is a flip side to this argument that we rarely (if ever) hear.
This week, MIT will host a presidential energy debate with senior advisors for the two candidates — Joseph Aldy (Obama) and Oren Cass (Romney). This post is part of a ScienceWonks series to raise awareness of the debate and critical issues facing our nation’s energy future.
Rhetoric about “getting tough” with China on trade is heating up during this election season as both parties try to articulate credible strategies for kick-starting the struggling U.S. economy. Not surprisingly, some of the most prominent recent examples of U.S. administration trade actions against China have been in the increasingly profitable clean energy sector, which totaled $263 billion globally in 2011. The U.S. is right to watch what China is doing on energy policy – and should continue to advocate for a level playing field – but perhaps in China’s impressive support for this industry there are also some lessons for a comprehensive U.S. national energy strategy. In this post, I will debunk some of the myths and miracles of China’s energy policy, making a case for U.S.-China cooperation (and healthy competition).
Ahmadinejad’s Iran faces EU and American oil sanctions.
July 1st marked the beginning of European and American embargoes on Iranian oil exports. Since then the sanctions have been effective at squeezing Iran because, in the past, the European Union has been the largest importer of Iranian crude and condensate products. In recent years total Iranian production has hovered around 4 million barrels per day, but dropped in July to around 2.8 million barrels per day.
In an effort to avoid shutting-in huge production volumes, and risk damaging mature and fragile reserves, Iran began to store it’s excess production volumes in it’s tanker fleet. This was only a temporary solution. With the fleet quickly bumping up against its storage capacity of approximately 42 million barrels, Iran has resorted to sneakier alternate strategies. The New York Times reported in July that some Iranian tankers are receiving fresh paint, and many ships belonging to the National Iranian Tanker Corporation (NITC) are flying “flags of convenience,” in an effort to disguise the origin of the crude onboard. These counter-efforts seem, at a minimum, to be keeping any additional pressure off the Iranian government; production saw a slight increase in August.
The West’s reasoning for imposing the sanctions is to strong-arm Iran into abandoning its uranium enrichment program, but Iran is insistent on pursuing its nuclear program and may be able to partially circumvent the embargo. And, as a recent article in The Economist points out, such embargoes often end up punishing the poorest in society, while those in power stay the course. The motivation behind the sanctions might be defensible, but their effectiveness at manipulating Iranian nuclear policy isn’t yet clear. It will be interesting to see who blinks first.
In response to significant subsidies to domestic solar panel makers from the Chinese government, the US has imposed small tariffs on solar panels imports from China. Although this decision is seen as a small victory for domestic solar panel manufacturers, cheap panels are the foundation of the US’ large investment in renewable solar energy.