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.
While there is truth to these foreign and domestic perceptions, I have come to appreciate the details of how the USA’s policy-formation process also rests upon the work of particular experts, institutes, think tanks (both partisan and non-partisan), government agencies, consultancies and firms (having a mix of insights and interests) that do the research, write the reports and articles, and that organize the countless and almost always public panels and discussions–mostly in Washington–from which eventually emerges an “elite consensus.”
In turn, this consensus usually precedes, informs and shapes the better-known partisan decision making process in the Administration and Congress.
Below is the proposal I submitted to the JFK Institute’s faculty, which, I am happy to say, unanimously accepted it for the new seminar. (As always, if your organization or firm is interested in this topic, drop me a line).