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Burning Energy

The recent decision by the United States and other leading economies to release oil from their strategic stockpiles underlines the impact of rapidly rising global energy prices. As the northern winter approaches, will countries that continue to depend heavily on fossil fuels be able to accelerate their green transitions?

In this Big Picture, Harvard University’s Jeffrey Frankel hopes that surging fossil-fuel prices will spur more aggressive US efforts to tackle climate change, and urges lawmakers to consider introducing a carbon tax. Similarly, Daniel Gros of the Centre for European Policy Studies thinks European countries’ responses to current energy-price spikes may prefigure the course of their green transitions. And RMI’s Jules Kortenhorst points to the mounting research evidence that a rapid shift to clean energy is the least expensive path forward.

But Jayati Ghosh of the University of Massachusetts Amherst accuses rich-country leaders of climate hypocrisy, arguing that, beholden to powerful corporate interests, they enable more fossil-fuel investment even as they declaim their long-term green commitments.

Yet, the world cannot abandon fossil fuels overnight. For that reason, Jim O’Neill of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development proposes a global strategic reserve scheme covering oil, gas, and possibly coal to prevent or mitigate future energy-price shocks.

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