Category Archives: Resource conflicts

A new syllabus: The USA & the global oil system: The formation of American energy policy

global_barrel_graphic_twodDuring Spring 2014, I’m teaching a post-graduate seminar in Berlin  on the USA and  the global market-centered oil system (a.k.a.”The Global Barrel”)–the syllabus sketch is below here.

While I’ve often taught seminars on “the Geopolitics of Global Oil,” the JFK Institute at Berlin’s Freie Universität had a special request: they would like their students to learn “how these policies are decided in the USA.”

For an American energy “expert”, the how of the USA’s policy-decision process is fairly familiar. However, not only for German students, but also for most US citizens, this process–whose outcome has such a profound impact on the entire world– indeed seems at best rather opaque, and, at worst, like an unseemly, vested-interest-driven and hopelessly partisan process. Continue reading

DW in Spanish || Obama y Rouhani: ¿Llegarán a un acuerdo nuclear/petrolífero?

ObamaRouhani-usip

[Note: This post on the Iran crisis is in Spanish, consisting of my written answers to the host of "Agenda" on the Deutsche Welle network--the German international TV service.] 

Hoy mi blog es en Español. Trata de la crisis nuclear entre Iran y los EEUU. Aquí abajo están mis respuestas que escribí a las preguntas del entrevistador de el programa ‘Agenda’ en Deutsche Welle, la red internacional de televisión de Alemania (con algo explicaciones adicionales).

Pregunta: Irán quiere poner en marcha las negociaciones con grandes potencias por el tema nuclear, porque creé usted que lo hace ahora?  En qué términos?

Repuesta: Pues, permítame explicarle las razones por las cuales ambos lados ahora quieren reiniciar negociaciones:

(a) Para el gobierno de los EEUU Continue reading

Competing with China in Latin America: Is Germany losing its high-tech advantage?

Wilfredo R. Rodriguez H., CC BYAn article I wrote for the IP Journal of the German Council on Foreign Relations is online today. It examines data on China, the EU and Germany’s trade with Latin America and the Caribbean, including in energy. Here’s a quote from near the end:

…  China’s exports to Latin America in the low-, medium-, and  high-tech categories were below those of Germany and the EU in 2003; but in 2012 [China's exports] exceeded the combined totals of the EU15 in the medium-tech and even in the high-tech categories. The only place the EU15 surpasses China is, rather oddly, in the low-tech manufactured goods …

-> READ THE ARTICLE at GCFP’s IP Journal or at a link from … Continue reading

My talk: JFK Institute, Berlin: How “The Global Barrel” shapes Washington-EU relations

You’re invited to my lecture at The JFK Institute of North American Studies at Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday 6 PM. Here is the flyer, then the Abstract.  Tschüß!

ABSTRACT:

“The Global Barrel”

Today’s globalized market-centered energy system defines Washington’s relations with the EU, Japan and OPEC states Continue reading

En Espanol: Venezuela’s “Tal Cual” on my al-Naimi post

For Spanish speakers: below is an article from Tal Cual daily in Venezuela summarizing my blog on Saudi oil minister al-Naimi’s opinons on the “North American tight-oil revolution” and their implications for Venezuela and Iran.  The article is by Jose Suarez Nunez.

Para hispano parlantes: Aquí abajo está un artículo en Español publicado en Tal Cual de Caracas, un resumen de mi blog de la última semana que trató en las opiniones del ministro de energía saudita Sr. al-Naimi, y en las implicaciones para Venezuela e Irán. Continue reading

Listening to Saudi Oil Minister Al Naimi at CISIS in Washington: Bad news for Venezuela & Iran?

Al-Naimi at CSIS

Al-Naimi at CSIS

 Last week in Washington, I attended a talk by Saudi Oil Minister and head of Aramco, Ali al-Naimi, at CSIS.  Energy and foreign policy veterans from Daniel Yergin to Brent Scowcroft and Dr. James Schlesinge were on hand to hear al-Naimi’s views. You can read the transcript here, or watch the video embedded below.

Al-Naimi’s contrasted his central theme: “the enduring relevance of oil,” to the predictions made for many years by the adherents of “peak oil”–a theory that he said had itself “peaked in 2009” and has now been shown to be “utterly incorrect.”

Bad News for Venezuela and Iran?

Listening to him describe the global impact that the U.S.A. tight-oil “revolution” will have on the market,  plus with Alberta’s heavy oil and so many other new sources from around the globe all coming to market, brought to my mind images of the 1980′s.  The 1980′s were the “lost decade” in Latin America. It strikes me that, if he’s right about the trajectory of the global oil sector, the consequences for OPEC’s “price hawk” faction would be sobering. Continue reading

Did Iran release Abu Ghaith to show the USA its good faith in February nuclear negotiations?

Abu Graith and Bin Laden after 9-11, video, Oct 7 2001 (Hurriyet, 7feb13)

Abu Ghaith, arrested by the US March 7, after his release by Iran, shown alongside Bin Laden in October 7, 2001 video after 9/11 attacks (credit: Hurriyet)

Is Tehran serious about nuclear negotiations with the P5+1?

If Tehran wants an agreement, how might they demonstrate good faith to Washington? Consider the following:

In the month before the recent round of negotiations held in Almaty, Kazakhstan on February 26 and 27, Iran released into neighboring Turkey Osama Bin Laden’s brother-in-law, Mr. Suleiman Abu Ghaith.  The Islamic Republic of Iran had been detaining him since his capture some 11 years ago, when he entered Iran along with other top Al Qaeda leaders to escape the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.  His precise date of release into Turkey is not clear, however, according to the English-language Turkish paper, Hürriyet, he was arrested by Turkish authorities in an Ankara “luxury hotel” on a “tip from the CIA.”  Turkey then held him for “33 days” before deporting him to Jordan on March 1, and he was arrested by the U.S. on March 7. Continue reading

Problems of the Global Oil System: Why teach about oil?

Oil pumpjacks in Venezuela (TalCual Digital, Caracas)

Recently, I sent off a proposal for a new course, “Problems of the Global Oil System.”  The introduction asks rhetorically: “Why Teach About Oil?”

Debates in the U.S. over oil and energy policy often resemble election campaigns, fought out with factoids and unconstrained partisanship.  Of course, deciding technical-scientific policy is inherently political.  But there are politics and there are politics.  In the proposal, I argue that  “Oil’s persistent domestic & global centrality” will extend at least another 25-to-30 years, so teaching about oil is necessary to  empower students to participate in forming energy policy democratically.

But, do the facts actually support the conclusion that petroleum’s central role in society–in both domestic and international affairs–will persist for at least 25-30 years hence?  Here is the brief argument in the introduction (and the conceptual outline of the course) for your consideration: Continue reading

Oil Prices: Saudi Pumping Surge & US-EU Iran Strategy

What are the factors driving up the price of oil? Some cite fundamentals, others over-active speculation,

Persian Gulf & Middle East (UTex Lib. 2008)

and there are certainly major geopolitical issues in OPEC‘s Mideast and North African (MENA) member states–which is what this post is about.

The Present Saudi Pumping Surge is a Key Element of the US & EU Iran Sanctions Strategy

It is certain that the Iran confrontation will only intensify as the mid-summer sanctions deadline approaches.  By July, Washington and the EU hope to significantly curtail Iran’s ability to export oil.  In this situation, it is perhaps surprising that prices have not gone higher.

This past week, the normally understated Economist, while noting the Saudis’ extraordinary efforts to pump excess capacity, nevertheless warned that the Iran crisis could trigger a worst-ever oil shock:

Continue reading

PDVSA ships fuel to Syrian regime: Chavez risks sanctions?

[Edited Tues  630 EDT] The Negra Hipólita, a tanker operated by an affiliate of PDVSA, should be arriving at the Syrian port of Banias after a 15-17 day voyage from the Venezuelan refinery at Puerto La Cruz (El Universal, 17Feb12).

Syrian tanks are seen in Bab Amro near the city of Homs,12Feb12. Photo Reuters

Puerto La Cruz produces about 187k bbl/day and, the Negra Hipólito, if fully loaded, will deliver 47,000 (47k) tonnes of diesel fuel to alleviate reported widespread shortages of fuel in Syria. That’s about 330k barrels of fuel usable as home heating oil, or as fuel for Assad’s Russian tanks “indiscriminately” shelling neighborhoods, as in the city of Homs.  Note:

In Vienna, the U.N. chief demanded the Syrian regime stop using indiscriminate force against civilians caught up in fighting between government troops and Assad’s opponents. “We see neighborhoods shelled indiscriminately,” Ban told reporters. “Hospitals used as torture centers. Children as young as ten years old jailed and abused. We see almost certain crimes against humanity.” (Time World, Syrian Troops Shell Central City with Tanks. 17Feb12).

What, however, is the geopolitical significance of this shipment?  Let’s examine three issues:

  1. Chavez’ motivations: Why risk sanctions?
  2. Is this a significant material assistance to Assad’s regime?
  3. Has Chavez blundered by miscalculation? Continue reading