Utilities Grapple With Growing Fire Risk
Wildfire season is upon us. With nearly 80% of the Western US in extreme drought, fires have already scorched more than five and a half million acres this year – double the number of acres compared to this time last year. Those fires pose an increasing risk to electric utilities. And no utility feels the urgency of that risk more than PG&E. In 2018, PG&E equipment sparked the most devastating wildfire in California history – and it forced one of America’s largest utilities into bankruptcy protection. The story isn’t likely to be an anomaly. As journalist Katherine Blunt writes in her new book, California Burning, the story is “a harbinger of challenges to come” as climate change threatens the grid built for a different era. Katherine joins Bill Loveless on the show this week. She’s a Wall Street Journal reporter who covers the power industry. Her team’s reporting on PG&E was honored with multiple awards for business investigative journalism. Bill spoke with her about the PG&E saga – and what it tells us about the risks facing utilities and the power grid in a rapidly-warming world.
9 Aug 2022
What’s Next for Oil?
Even as prices decline, the tight oil market is once again raising economic and political worries in Washington. In July, President Biden traveled to the Middle East to meet with several Arab leaders – including Saudi Arabia’s King and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Expanding oil supply was high on the list of the administration’s diplomatic objectives. Saudi Arabia says it has limited ability to add extra oil to the market, and it’s not clear whether OPEC+ countries agree on the path forward for oil output. All of this comes at a time of enormous uncertainty in the global outlook for oil, due to fears of a recession and concerns over Russian supply. Now all eyes are on OPEC+ in early August. Will Biden’s overtures have any consequential impact on production? This week, host Jason Bordoff sits down with Dr. Karen Young and Bob McNally to discuss what’s next for oil markets. Dr. Young is the newest Senior Research Scholar at the Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy. She was a Senior Fellow and Founding Director of the Program on Economics and Energy at the Middle East Institute. Bob McNally is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy. He’s the author of Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices, published by Columbia University Press. In his full-time capacity he is the founder and President of Rapidan Energy Group, an independent energy consulting and market advisory firm based in the Washington DC area. In the wake of Biden’s controversial trip to the Middle East, Jason spoke with Karen and Bob about what it tells us about the state of the global oil market in the months ahead.
2 Aug 2022
The Science Behind Extreme Heat
Relentless extreme heat is gripping regions around the world. Spring and summer brought numerous crippling heat waves to Europe – smashing temperature records, killing more than a thousand people, and buckling infrastructure. India and Pakistan experienced one of the hottest springs ever, with heat waves in March and April hurting crop yields, and putting more than a billion people at risk. And here in the US, heat waves are scorching large swaths of the country, exacerbating a western megadrought. Every year, hot, humid conditions that can kill people are getting more likely. And scientists are getting better at attributing specific heat waves to human-caused climate change. This week, host Bill Loveless talks with Dr. Radley Horton, a Research Professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Radley’s research focuses on climate extremes, tail risks, climate impacts, and adaptation. He was a lead author for the Third National Climate Assessment. Bill spoke with Radley about this year’s brutal conditions that have hit Europe, North America, and Asia over the last few months. They discussed his research into heat-related mortality, where regions are becoming most vulnerable to extreme weather, and what it all means for our ability to adapt.
26 Jul 2022
The Gas Crisis Deepens
Europe’s gas crisis has entered a scary new phase. Last week, the biggest pipeline carrying Russian gas into Germany was closed for maintenance. And many in Europe fear the Russians will keep Nord Stream 1 closed indefinitely – putting further pressure on gas supply in the colder months. Europeans are burning more coal, scrambling for new sources of gas, and committing to lots of renewable energy in a frantic attempt to slash reliance on Russian fossil fuels. But there are real questions about how quickly those solutions will shift the balance of power. Meanwhile, gas prices are soaring in markets around the world – leading to fears about recession and long-lasting economic impacts. What are the possible scenarios that could play out? This week, host Jason Bordoff sits down with Anne-Sophie Corbeau and Dr. Tatiana Mitrova to explain the state of gas markets. Anne-Sophie Corbeau is a Global Research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs; Dr. Tatiana Mitrova is a Research Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy. Together, they discuss how deeply the gas shocks will impact Europe, Russia, and the rest of the world.
19 Jul 2022
Most Popular Podcasts
Political Shifts and Latin America's Energy Future
In June, Colombia elected a new president: Gustavo Petro. Petro is pushing major reforms in this oil-exporting country. He promised to cut Colombia’s reliance on selling oil and extracting raw materials, while also ramping up climate targets. Will Colombia become the first oil exporter to ban new production? Petro’s win is part of a broader progressive shift in Latin America around climate and energy. How will recent political developments in Colombia and other Latin American countries affect the future of oil and mining on the continent, and what do these shifts mean for the clean energy transition? This week, host Bill Loveless sits down with Dr. Mauricio Cárdenas, a visiting senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy. As Colombia’s finance minister between 2012 and 2018, Dr. Cárdenas served during an oil shock that led to a 40% reduction in Colombia’s exports. Mauricio and Bill discussed whether the incoming Colombian president can deliver on his campaign promises. They also explore the state of energy and climate policy across Latin America.
12 Jul 2022
Supreme Court Rules on EPA Carbon Regulation. Now What?
In a 6-3 decision in West Virginia v. EPA, Supreme Court justices determined that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overstepped its authority in regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Since the Thursday decision, several environmental groups have called the monumental ruling devastating to the Biden administration’s efforts to facilitate a clean energy transition. For a breakdown of the decision and its implications for climate regulations moving forward, host Bill Loveless spoke with legal experts Michael Gerrard and Jeff Holmstead. Michael is founder and director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. He has pioneered innovative legal strategies and teaches courses on environmental law, climate change law and energy regulation. Before his time at Columbia, Michael was the head of the New York law office of Arnold & Porter. Jeff heads the Environmental Strategies Group at the law firm Bracewell. He previously served as assistant administrator for air and radiation at the EPA under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. During his tenure, he was one of the architects behind the Clean Air Interstate Rule, the Clean Air Diesel Rule and the Mercury Rule for power plants. The pair discussed precisely how the rule curbs the EPA’s power, where it stops short, and the kind of legal precedence it sets for future cases.
6 Jul 2022
Weighing The Risks Of Solar Geoengineering
This week, Columbia Energy Exchange brings you an episode of another podcast called Catalyst. It’s a weekly show hosted by climate tech veteran Shayle Kann about the future of decarbonization. Each week, different experts, researchers, and executives come on to unpack the latest hurdles to decarbonization and advancing new climate tech solutions. This episode is all about weighing the risks and rewards of solar geoengineering. In it, Shayle speaks with a climate modeler named Dan Visioni who conducts research on solar geoengineering at Cornell University’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. They explore key questions, including: What do we know about the potential effects on ozone, precipitation and ecosystems? What do we need to research, and what could we learn by testing? Which could scale faster: carbon dioxide removal or solar geoengineering? Solar geoengineering could cost a tiny fraction of the amount required to scale up carbon dioxide removal. Does that mean it could buy us time to draw down emissions in a less expensive manner? Or would its relative affordability enable a rogue actor to deploy it without international collaboration? And who gets to make the final decision on whether the world should deploy solar geoengineering? Whose hand is on the thermostat, so to speak? Episodes of Catalyst drop every Thursday. The show is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media.
28 Jun 2022
Saudi Arabia’s Outsized Impact On Global Oil
President Biden is heading to Saudi Arabia next month amidst a global energy crisis. The trip is nothing new. For decades when faced with an oil crisis, presidents from both political parties have turned to Saudi Arabia. That’s because it’s one of the key players in the global oil market, producing about 10% of the world’s oil. For a deep dive into the unique role that Saudi Arabia plays in global oil markets, host Jason Bordoff spoke with Dr. Ibrahim AlMuhanna. He’s the vice chairman of the Saudi Association for Energy Economics and a longtime advisor to the Ministry of Energy for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Between 1989 and 2017, he worked closely with four successive energy ministers, playing a central role in developing Saudi energy policy and communicating it to the outside world. His new book “Oil Leaders: An Insider’s Account of Four Decades of Saudi Arabia and OPEC's Global Energy Policy” is the latest in the Center on Global Energy Policy book series published through Columbia University Press. The pair discussed Dr. AlMuhanna’s career overseeing consequential energy decisions and the role of Saudi Arabia in global energy markets now and moving forward.
21 Jun 2022
OPEC and the Energy Crisis
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) continues to influence global energy systems, despite challenges to its unity and market share. Just this year, global leaders called upon OPEC to increase output to bring down oil prices. But the organization comes under tremendous scrutiny for many of the decisions it makes, with some arguing that it has not done enough to address oil price spikes and others questioning its role generally. For a look at how OPEC is navigating the current oil crisis and the broader clean energy transition, host Jason Bordoff spoke with His Excellency Mohammad Barkindo. Barkindo has served as secretary general of OPEC for the last six years, with his term set to end in July. His tenure at OPEC has coincided with major upheavals in the global oil market, including the supply glut of the mid-2010s, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine. He previously represented Nigeria at OPEC and held various senior roles at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. The pair discussed OPEC’s role amid political turmoil, rapidly fluctuating energy markets, changes within the oil industry, along with Barkindo’s reflections on his time at OPEC’s helm.
14 Jun 2022
Corporate Climate Disclosure: US SEC Weighs Rules
Earlier this year, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed new regulations that would require publicly-traded companies to estimate their greenhouse gas emissions and disclose certain climate risks. The mandated rules around disclosure would be unprecedented in the United States and come at a time when investors are increasingly concerned about companies’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments. But the controversial measure is stirring up complaints – from those who say it goes too far, and others who say it doesn’t go far enough. For deeper insight into the SEC’s proposed rules, host Bill Loveless spoke with Dr. Shivaram Rajgopal, the Kester and Byrnes Professor of Accounting and Auditing at Columbia Business School. Shivaram was previously a faculty member at Duke University, Emory University and the University of Washington, and his work is frequently cited in outlets like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg, and Forbes. Together, they discuss some of the key provisions in the proposal and the broader implications it could have for the future of corporate climate accountability.
7 Jun 2022