Month: December 2016

2016 Immigration Enforcement Actions

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) engages in immigration enforcement actions to prevent unlawful entry into the United States and to apprehend and repatriate aliens who have violated or failed to comply with U.S. immigration laws.







Click to download the full 2016  DHS Immigration Enforcement.

Learning To Love A MultiPolar World

The only sane way forward for the US is vigorous global cooperation to realize the potential of twenty-first-century science and technology to slash poverty, disease, and environmental threats. The rise of regional powers is not a threat to the US, but an opportunity for a new era of prosperity and constructive problem solving.

American foreign policy is at a crossroads. The United States has been an expanding power since its start in 1789. It battled its way across North America in the nineteenth century and gained global dominance in the second half of the twentieth. But now, facing China’s rise, India’s dynamism, Africa’s soaring populations and economic stirrings, Russia’s refusal to bend to its will, its own inability to control events in the Middle East, and Latin America’s determination to be free of its de facto hegemony, US power has reached its limits.

One path for the US is global cooperation. The other is a burst of militarism in response to frustrated ambitions. The future of the US, and of the world, hangs on this choice.

Global cooperation is doubly vital. Only cooperation can deliver peace and the escape from a useless, dangerous, and ultimately bankrupting new arms race, this time including cyber-weapons, space weapons, and next-generation nuclear weapons. And only cooperation can enable humanity to face up to urgent planetary challenges, including the destruction of biodiversity, the poisoning of the oceans, and the threat posed by global warming to the world’s food supply, vast drylands, and heavily populated coastal regions.

Yet global cooperation means the willingness to reach agreements with other countries, not simply to make unilateral demands of them. And the US is in the habit of making demands, not making compromises. When a state feels destined to rule – as with ancient Rome, the Chinese “Middle Kingdom” centuries ago, the British Empire from 1750 to 1950, and the US since World War II – compromise is hardly a part of its political vocabulary. As former US President George W. Bush succinctly put it, “You’re either with us or against us.”

Not surprisingly, then, the US is finding it hard to accept the clear global limits that it is confronting. In the wake of the Cold War, Russia was supposed to fall in line; but President Vladimir Putin did not oblige. Likewise, rather than bringing stability on US terms, America’s covert and overt wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, South Sudan, and elsewhere created a firestorm stretching across the greater Middle East.

China was supposed to show gratitude and deference to the US for the right to catch up from 150 years of abuse by Western imperial powers and Japan. Instead, China has the audacity to think that it is an Asian power with responsibilities of its own.

There is a fundamental reason, of course, for these limits. At WWII’s end, the US was the only major power not destroyed by the war. It led the world in science, technology, and infrastructure. It constituted perhaps 30% of the world economy and formed the cutting edge of every high-tech sector. It organized the postwar international order: the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions, the Marshall Plan, the reconstruction of Japan, and more.

Under that order, the rest of the world has closed much of the vast technological, educational, and infrastructural gap with the US. As economists say, global growth has been “convergent,” meaning that poorer countries have been catching up. The share of the world economy represented by the US has declined by roughly half (to around 16% currently). China now has a larger economy in absolute terms than the US, though still only around one-fourth the size in per capita terms.

None of this catching up was a perfidious trick against the US or at its expense. It was a matter of basic economics: given peace, trade, and a global flow of ideas, poorer countries can get ahead. This tendency is to be welcomed, not shunned.

But if the global leader’s mindset is one of domination, the results of catch-up growth will look threatening, which is how many US “security strategists” view them. Suddenly, open trade, long championed by the US, looks like a dire threat to its continued dominance. Fear-mongers are calling for the US to close itself off to Chinese goods and Chinese companies, claiming that global trade itself undermines American supremacy.

My former Harvard colleague and leading US diplomat Robert Blackwill and former State Department adviser Ashley Tellis expressed their unease in a report published last year. The US has consistently pursued a grand strategy “focused on acquiring and maintaining preeminent power over various rivals,” they wrote, and “primacy ought to remain the central objective of US grand strategy in the twenty-first century.” But “China’s rise thus far has already bred geopolitical, military, economic, and ideological challenges to US power, US allies, and the US-dominated international order,” Blackwill and Tellis noted. “Its continued, even if uneven, success in the future would further undermine US national interests.”

US President-elect Donald Trump’s newly named trade adviser Peter Navarro agrees. “Whenever we buy products made in China,” he wrote last year of the US and its allies, “we as consumers are helping to finance a Chinese military buildup that may well mean to do us and our countries harm.”

With just 4.4% of the world’s population and a falling share of world output, the US might try to hang on to its delusion of global dominance through a new arms race and protectionist trade policies. Doing so would unite the world against US arrogance and the new US military threat. The US would sooner rather than later bankrupt itself in a classic case of “imperial overreach.”

The only sane way forward for the US is vigorous and open global cooperation to realize the potential of twenty-first-century science and technology to slash poverty, disease, and environmental threats. A multipolar world can be stable, prosperous, and secure. The rise of many regional powers is not a threat to the US, but an opportunity for a new era of prosperity and constructive problem solving.

Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal And Gas Across Much Of The United States

For the second year in a row, wind and solar accounted for roughly two-thirds of new U.S. generating capacity, while natural gas and nuclear made up most of the rest.

That’s because right now, in much of the United States, wind and solar are the cheapest form of power available, according to a new report from investment bank Lazard.

Analysts found that new solar and wind installations are cheaper than a new coal-fired power installation just about everywhere even without subsidies. The cost of renewables continues to fall rapidly.

Solar and wind are getting really, really cheap.

Since just last year, the cost of utility-scale solar has dropped 10 percent, and the cost of residential solar dropped a whopping 26 percent and that is coming after years of price declines. The cost of offshore wind declined by 22 percent since last year, though it still remains more expensive than onshore wind.

The Lazard report is just the latest chapter in the success story of renewable energy. Since 2009, the cost of solar has been cut nearly in half. The cost of wind has fallen by two-thirds. The precipitous drop in price is reminiscent of shrinking costs for personal computers. Wind and, particularly solar, have yet to level off. New technologies and cheaper materials will continue to drive down costs in the years ahead.



The chart below shows the total cost per megawatt-hour of different forms of power. Lazard added up the lifetime cost of parts, fuel, labor, and other expenses and divided by the number of megawatt-hours generated. From this, they produced a range for the levelized cost of energy (LCOE).

This figure does not include energy subsidies nor the cost of environmental impacts. For instance, if a solar panel costs $100 without subsidies and $70 with subsidies, the LCOE would still be $100. On the other hand, if a gas turbine costs $100 without accounting for the social cost of carbon, and $130 after accounting for the social cost of carbon, then the LCOE stays at $100.

(Researchers use different methods to calculate levelized cost. Trump’s transition team, for example, has hinted that it wants to change the way the federal Energy Information Administration calculates the levelized cost of renewables to make wind and solar appear more expensive.)



By and large, wind and solar are going up in locales with an abundance of wind and sunshine. Wind is most cost-effective in the windswept states in the middle of the country — such as Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. Solar is most cost-effective in the sun-drenched Southwest — states like Nevada, Arizona, and California. Natural gas is still the cheapest option in much of the rest of the country — but keep in mind that the levelized cost does not account for the environmental cost of burning fossil fuels.

A new tool from the Energy Institute of the University of Texas shows the cheapest kind of new power plant by county, accounting for land available to deploy a particular technology. (For instance, the site notes, “it is not likely that one could build a power plant in a national park.”) The map below shows which technologies are most cost-effective without subsidies.



It’s clear why solar, wind, and natural gas are taking over the country. In light of these trends, some may be asking why we need subsidies at all.

Subsidies account for the costs of air pollution and climate change.

Given the pace of technological progress, it would be fair to ponder whether, left to its own devices, the market would take care of climate change. Low-emissions natural gas is rapidly displacing coal. Solar, wind and battery storage are getting cheaper every day. The power grid is decarbonizing itself, right?

hange demands the rapid transformation of our energy system. That means we can’t just build new, low-carbon power plants at the rate of replacement. We also have to shutter existing carbon-intensive power plants. Thus, while natural gas may offer an attractive way to curb emissions in the short-term, a gas-fired plant built today may need to be closed before the end of its operating life if we are to meet our emissions goals.

One remedy is to account for the cost of climate change — make polluters pay for polluting, or offer tax breaks for renewables. These policies can help expedite the transition to clean energy by making zero-carbon power more cost-competitive.

The chart below shows how federal tax credits impact the cost of renewables. The effect is modest, but it is important in helping wind and solar compete with coal and gas in much of the United States. Fossil fuels, it should be said, have benefitted from decades of federal support.



If you applied a modest fee to carbon pollution — rather than a tax credit for clean energy — that would discourage the construction of new coal- and gas-fired power plants. Wind, solar and nuclear would become the cheapest kind of new power plant across a broader swath of the country, as shown in the map below.


The cost of power, of course, is only half the battle. There is also the matter of intermittency — the fact that wind and solar only generate power when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.

Solving the intermittency problem
One key finding from the Lazard report is that renewables can’t meet the “baseload generation needs of a developed economy for the foreseeable future.” For that, grids must continue to turn to other power structures. There are a couple of tools to deal with this, and we’ll likely need to use each. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Energy storage. Solar panels frequently churn out surplus power during the middle of the day. That surplus power can be stored, for example, in a lithium-ion battery and used later. As the Lazard reports notes, storage costs are dropping fast.
  • A national power grid that can carry surplus electricity generated in one part of the country to power-hungry cities in other parts of the country.
  • Nuclear power. Nuclear power can provide a baseline level of electricity, but as the Lazard report shows, nuclear remains too costly to be practical in much of the country. However, scientists are developing new kinds of reactors that could prove cheaper and more efficient than today’s nuclear plants.

Improved infrastructure (a possibility) and cheaper energy storage (an inevitability) will make wind and solar more attractive. As costs continue to fall, expect another banner year for renewables in 2017.