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Global Energy Security and Geopolitics




Admission requirements

  • Classes of 2013-2016: a 200/300-level WP course, or permission of the instructor.

Course description

The aim of the course is to create awareness among participants about the trade-offs between the objectives of energy supply security, alternative energy policy and competitiveness in the European Union and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The course focuses on two policy areas:

  • energy (oil/gas) supply security policies of the main energy consuming, import-dependent, countries and regions, viz. China, European Union [EU], United States [US], Japan and India. Currently, each of these get supplies from the resource-rich countries of the Middle East (e.g. Saudi-Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf States), Central Asia and Caucasus (e.g. Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan), Latin America (e.g. Venezuela, Brazil), Africa (e.g. Sudan, Angola, Algeria, Libya) and Russia. It should be noted that unconventional sources of fossil fuel [mainly tar sand oil & shale gas] are, in some extent, expected to change the geopolitics of energy supply security, in particular of the US, China and to a lesser extent, the European Union.

  • the study of energy efficiency, alternatives to fossil fuel based energy from renewable sources. The development of clean energy serves the objective of energy supply security, competitiveness and environmental sustainability.

Since the end of the Cold War, states and non-state actors (in particular corporations) have assigned more significance to economic and resource concerns. Conflicts over the control and security of global scare resources mainly oil and gas become more probable as global oil and gas consumption and import rise, environmental conditions deteriorate availability of oil and gas decreases and prices for these commodities rise, in particular of oil. These conflicts are neither zero-sum nor purely bilateral and have aspects beyond energy. For examples: the U.S. tries to wean China off from Iranian oil by promoting Chinese access to Iraq. Internal conflicts over oil and gas could arise in countries (such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Nigeria and Sudan), where these resources are the main source of income and are accompanied by ethnic hostility, economic injustice, and political competition. This could have a great effect of security of global oil and gas production and supply. Energy security is also affected by environmental constraints and impacted by advances in technology. Where pollution creates both domestic and cross-border tensions, innovations in alternative and renewable resources, such as biofuels, wind, solar, alongside efficiency measures, can reduce energy import dependence and contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Apart from time and money, such energy infrastructure transitions also necessitate continued government and popular support. Nevertheless, as conventional oil, and may be over time gas as well, become increasingly scarce, developing innovative technologies is the only long-term alternative.

Learning objectives

Participants should be able to express in word and writing the energy supply security approaches of the European Union and China, to review the agencies (National,- as well as International Oil companies) in charge of energy supply policy in these regions. Where do these entities get their oil and gas from? What are their main challenges? How their leaders respond? What are the possibilities and impediments for the establishment of a common energy foreign policy and how will it relate to national energy policies in the European Union?

What is the effect of the current cooperation and competition between states based National Oil Companies (i.e. Chinese National Oil Companies; Gazprom, Saudi Aramco, National Iranian Oil Company…) and private based International Oil Companies (i.e. Royal Dutch Shell; Exxon Mobil; British Petroleum; Chevron…) on the security of energy supply and the role energy foreign policy can play?

Compulsory textbook

The course materials mainly consist of online sources. Almost all articles can be downloaded through the digital library.