Category: Energy Security Analysis

Energy Transmutation in the Middle East: Egypt and Israel

While climate change is hammering the Middle East, and as Syria and Iraq are engulfed in war (Valantin, “Climate nightmare in the Middle East”, The Red Team Analysis Society, September 14, 2015), Egypt and Israel are going through a profound energy revolution.

In effect, since 2011, Israel ENI Oil platform Bouri DP4, ENI, Egypt, Israel, Leviathanhas discovered two giant natural gas off-shore deposits (Valantin, “Israel, Natural Gas and Power in the Middle East”, The Red Team Analysis Society, April 27, 2015) while in August 2015, the oil Italian company ENI has discovered a mammoth off-shore natural deposit in the Egyptian economic exclusive zone (Anthony Dipaola, “ENI discovers massive gas fields in the Mediterranean”, Bloomberg Business, August 30, 2015).

In other terms, these two countries are transforming themselves into a new, and quite strange breed of energy power.

During the first sixty years of its existence, Israel has no access to energy natural resources. On the contrary, Egypt has been an important exporter of natural gas during the same period. In effect, Egypt is a large producer and exporter of natural gas. Its proven reserves of 77 trillion cubic feet are the highest in Africa after Nigeria and Algeria (Egypt, Energy information Agency, June 2, 2015).

When the supply available for trade is not disrupted by attacks and by the rapidly growing domestic demand, Egyptian dry natural gas is exported through the Arab Gas Pipeline to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, with a Mediterranean sub-sea segment joining El Arish to Ashkelon in IsraeGrieving_friends_and_relatives_gather_outside_the_Agouza_Police_Hosptial_after_a_series_of_explosions_at_Cairo_University_left_many_dead_or_wounded_-_Cairo_2-Apr-2014l. Indeed, in 2012, Egypt became an importer because of the bombings on the pipelines that year and the decrease in production (Egypt, Energy information Agency, ibid; Gismatullin, “Egypt importing gas for the first time as export disappear”, Bloomberg Business, December 11, 2012). Thus, the ENI discovery has the potential to change again the energy situation for Egypt.

The Israelis and Egyptian natural gas discoveries are transforming the status of these countries through their mutation not only into gas producers, but also into new energy, hence strategic and political powers.

They are acquiring this status that has eluded them during the whole twentieth century, when other Middle East countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, or Kuwait, were harnessing their development to their more or less important oil and gas deposits and were becoming the centre of the world competition for energy (Michael Klare, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, 2008).

Now, in 2015, Israel and Egypt are becoming energy power. They are on the front line of the current race for every new deposit of oil or natural gas anywhere in the world (Marin Katusa, The Colder War, 2014).

Shifting a shifting balance of power

The discovery of the new Egyptian natural gas deposit might be quite destabilizing for Israel, as it might somehow question Israel’s own path to becoming a new energy power through the exploitation of the Tamal and Leviathan off-shore natural gas fields. The Tamar and the Leviathan fields hold respectively 10 and between 19 and 22 trillion cubic feet of gas of estimated reserves, which could ensure decades of domestic consumption as well as exports (Katusa, ibid).

249px-Benjamin_Netanyahu_portraitIn effect, since the beginning of 2015, the Israeli political authorities have decided to sell gas to Jordan and to Egypt, which could import from 145 to 210 million cubic feet of LNG per day during 2015 (“Egypt’s petroleum minister increases purchase price of gas from new developments”Natural Gas Europe, March 24th, 2015).

Thus, for Israel, selling natural gas to Egypt and Jordan was a way to secure and sustain its new status in the region.

However, this political and strategic change is already challenged by the ENI discovery.

Israel was planning to use the sale of gas to Egypt as the main driver for the development of the Leviathan field (Steve Levine, “A gigantic natural gas discovery in Egypt means Israel has to find a new customer for its gas”, Quartz, August 31, 2015), which has accumulated multiple delays because of Israeli’s internal political and judiciary conflicts about the legal status of the energy developers (Scott Belinsky, “Not everyone is happy about latest’s Egypt gas discovery”, Oil Price, 03 September 2015). Meanwhile, the tensions with the Palestinian Hamas do not change and are entangled with the political tensions in Israel.

In this context, the Egyptian discovery could be profoundly questioning the Israeli energy strategy, while the south of the Mediterranean Sea is witnessing the emergence of two important gas natural powers.

To collapse or not to collapse?

However, Egypt and Israel are not simply potential competitors on the natural gas market. They are also both impacted by the destabilization of the whole region, through the rise of extremely violent and armed militant Islamism (Helene Lavoix, Portal to the Islamic State War, The Red Team Analysis Society), combined to the rise of extreme economic and social inequalities (Hamit Bozarslan, Révolution et état de violence, Moyen-Orient, 2011-2015), and growing politico-environmental tensions.

These developments turn these two countries into emerging energy power in a region on the verge of collapse (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Environment, climate change, war and state”, The Red Team Analysis Society, 16th march, 2015).

In effect, the Egyptian government, led byPresident_Sisi President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, must fight different Islamist insurgencies, especially the growing presence of guerrillas, which have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in the Sinai. Since 2011, violent militant Islamism has grown continuously. The Egyptian army and police are leading a war against these groups (Lally Weymouth, “Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi who talks “a lot” with Netanyahu, says in country in danger of collapse”, The Washington Post, March 12, 2015).

This situation leads the Egyptian government to buy armaments to Russia and France, in order to intensify their strategic efforts against the jihadis, who work at installing a radical religious regime in Egypt (Jamey Kiten, “France: Egypt first foreign buyer of Rafale fighters Cairo purchases 24 multi-role jets as part of $6 billion defence deal », Times of Israel, February 13, 2015).

This internal war is embedded in a very profound social and economic crisis, which comes from the growth of inequalities since the 1980s, and the fact that, through the development of education and the access to the internet, the different social groups that constitute the society have become aware of these inequalities (Bozarslan, ibid). This creates new political conditions, which are expressed through different forms of protests, and are profoundly changing the Egyptian political field.

In the same time, the war conditions have a repulsive effect on tourism flows and a negative impact on the energy infrastructures, thus threaten both social cohesion and economic activity. (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Security and sustainability: the future of Egypt?”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, April 28, 2014).

Given this situation, the off-shore natural gas discovery, which is going to attract investments and a renewed strategic attention, has the potential to reinforce the capacity of the Egyptian government to protect the population.

In effect, selling natural gas generates important and permanent financial cash flows, much-needed by the Egyptian government in order to guarantee public services, the military and, most importantly, the capacity to buy food, especially wheat, on the international market, without which the population is threatened with hunger  (David P. Goldman, “Wheat at record is the worst thing that could happen to Egypt“, Gatestone Institute, July 20, 2012).

320px-WheatEgyptIn Egypt, the lack of wheat, or rising food prices, can trigger violent urban riots and support the proselytising of radical Islam militancy (Shadia Nasralla and Shamine Saleh, “Egypt food supplies Shake Up sees officials deferred to prosecutor“, Reuters, 24 February 2014).

Furthermore, this new energy input is going to be extremely useful to support the adaptation of Egypt to the effects of climate change (Valantin, “Egypt and climate security”, The Red Team Analysis Society, May 12, 2014), which can be anticipated through the consequences of the violence of extreme weather events and their brutality for people, infrastructures and social cohesion as the long and extreme heat wave during the summer of 2015 has shown (Valantin, “Climate nightmare in the Middle East”, The Red Team Analysis Society, September 14, 2015).

This means that natural gas is going to become a main support for the legitimacy of the Egyptian government, and can help slow the dynamics of violence and decay of this influential country in the Middle East.

The new energy Egyptian-Israeli nexus?

The development of the Egyptian off-shore natural gas deposit by ENI will necessitate some time, during which Egypt will continue to buy gas from Israel. The Israel political authorities, knowing that this situation will not last, are going to be put under strong pressure to define a clear energy strategy for their country (Belinsky, ibid).

This pressure is building up because of the convergence of the necessity to find new markets for the leviathan gas field with the profound changes occurring in the Middle East energy configuration. The latter results from the creation of the Russian “blue stream” gas pipe-line in Turkey (“Gazprom to build new 63 bcm Black Sea pipeline to Turkey instead of South Stream”, Russia Today, December 1, 2014) added to the new Chinese energy strategy with Iran (“China, Pakistan sign gas pipeline deal key to Iran imports”, Press TV, April 21, 2015) and to the coming end of the energy embargo on Iranian exports.

In the same time, Israel and Egypt are, now, sharing the same strategic problem with the growing presence of radical Islamist militancy, especially stemming from the Islamic State (IS), because of the   multiple attacks led by the IS in the Sinai against the Egyptian army, and its challenge to the Palestinian Hamas (“Islamic State threatens to topple Hamas in Gaza strip in video statement”, The Guardian, 30 June 2015).

In other terms, the coming development of the Egyptian natural gas off-shore deposit will take place in a strategic context dominated by the convergence of the Egyptian and Israel strategic interests.

This strategic “competitive cooperation” is going to be profoundly influenced by Russia’s and Iran’s current power games in the region.

To be (soon) continued.

Jean-Michel Valantin, (PhD Paris) leads the Environment and Security Department of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defense sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Featured image: Border between Israel and Egypt visible from space, NASA/Chris Hadfield, Public Domain.

Israel, Natural Gas and Power in the Middle East

Benyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime minister is known to joke about the fact that Moses led his people during forty years in the desert to the only place in the Middle East without oil (Marin Katusa, The Colder War, 2014). And, indeed, for the first sixty years of its existence, the lack of energy resources has been a major difficulty for Israel.

Levant_Basin
Oil and Gas Field in Eastern Mediterranean Region – U.S. EIA

However, a profound change seems to be underway, since two giant off-shore natural gas deposits have been discovered in the Israeli exclusive economic zone in 2011. The Tamar and the Leviathan fields hold respectively 10 and between 19 and 22 trillion cubic feet of gas of estimated reserves, which could ensure decades of domestic consumption as well as exports (Katusa, ibid.).

Furthermore, in 2014, the Israeli government and administration have authorised exploratory oil drilling in the Golan Heights, in particular in the region of the Sea of Galilee, despite a heated campaign led by environmental activists (Melanie Lidman, “Israel Oil War Shifts to Golan Heights”, The Times of Israel, September 18, 2014).

In other words, Israel is becoming an energy power. This is nothing but a very profound transformation of its regional and international status, which, from its origins to these days, had been largely dominated by the issues of its tangled and violent relationship with Palestinians, by the strategic alliance with the U.S., and by being a Jewish nation-state in a region of Arab nations (Ilan Greilsammer, La nouvelle histoire d’Israel, 1998).

This transformation is due to the fact that becoming an energy player and exporter is not only a way to produce power and influence, but also that natural gas and oil are attractors of numerous and powerful foreign interests and needs (Michael Klare, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, 2008). Furthermore, this happens when the whole region goes through a mix of transformative dynamics, not “only” geopolitically, economically, and politically, but also socio-environmentally, especially through interacting growing pressures on water,biodiversity, food and climate.

GolanHeights-mill

These shifting environmental conditions trigger cascading feedback effects on the political, war and terror situations in the Middle East (Valantin, “Collapse war in the Middle East?”, The Red Team Analysis, April 7, 2015). This complex of factors is affecting both the present and future of Israel energy and strategic evolution.

Israel in a shifting Middle East

Since its creation in 1948, Israel holds a very singular strategic place in the Middle East. After decades of conflict with the surrounding Arab countries and, notably, the ongoing conflict with the Palestinian Hamas, it has reached a situation of warming relations with Egypt and Jordan (Lally Weymouth, “Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sissi who talks “a lot” with Netanyahu, says in country in danger of collapse”, The Washington Post, March 12, 2015), while being in a permanent state of tension with Syria, even more so since the start of the civil war.

Israel has been able to survive, to install itself in the Middle East, and to become a modern and influential country, through the efforts and capabilities of its population and a sustained American political and military support, largely through a long-lasting special (and military) relationship (Camille Mansour, Israël et les Etats-Unis, 1995).

Furthermore, another singular feature of Israel in the Middle East regional landscape, was the fact that, during its first sixty years of existence, it was a country without any oil or natural gas, and thus totally dependent on oil and gas imports, for example from Egypt (Gismatullin, “Egypt importing gas for the first time as export disappear“, Bloomberg Business, December 11, 2012), in a region dominated by oil and gas exporting countries (Matthieu Auzanneau, Or Noir, la grande histoire du pétrole, 2015).

Arab-Israeli_Map1

It must be remembered that, since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Middle East has gone through a cascade of political destabilization, and that Israel has had to adapt to these dynamics. The destruction of the Saddam Hussein regime and of the Iraqi state through the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and, among others, the following “de-baathisation” and the departure of the U.S. military in 2010 (Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, 2012), preceded the 2011 wave of regime change of the Arab Spring. The latter triggered, notably, the civil war in neighboring Syria, which, mixed with the Iraqi disaster allowed for the rise of the Islamic State (Helene Lavoix, “Portal to the Islamic State war”, The Red Team Analysis Society).

In the same time, tensions have not stopped growing between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which already led to a strange and uneasy strategic partnership between the Saudi Kingdom and Israel against the Iranian nuclear project (David Crist, The Twilight war, the secret history of America’s thirty years conflict with Iran, 2012). Adding to these, the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon war as well as the unending conflict with the Palestinians, are further coalescing factors of tensions (Corm, Le Proche Orient éclaté, 2012).

However, over the same period of time, oil prices have gone from 20 per dollars per barrel at the end of the twentieth century to 115 dollars in July 2014, before being forced down to around 50 dollars since then by Saudi Arabia-led OPEC, and Russia (Valantin, “Oil flood (1): The Kingdom is back”, The Red Team Analysis Society, December 15, 2014).

The coupling of the regional political destabilization and of the surging energy and financial importance of oil and gas in an energy hungry globalized world have changed the strategic balance of the whole region, and thus is a strong engine of the strategic evolution of Israel through the importance of its gas fields.

Israel and the new Mediterranean energy network

The emergence of Israel as a Mediterranean energy player comes as a new driver of this momentous regional strategic change. The Tamar and the Leviathan gas fields are developed at the very moment when the energy relations between the Middle East countries, and those of the North of the Mediterranean Sea, especially Turkey, Greece, as well as the European Union are shifting.

This shift in the relations of Israel with its political environment follows three distinct axes: the energy and strategic cooperation with Egypt and Jordan, the discussions with Cyprus and Greece, and the multifaceted relationship with the Russian energy strategy, which involves Turkey.

Gas exports to Jordan from the Tamar field have been approved in April 2015, while discussions are on their way with Egypt, which could import 145 to 210 million cubic feet of LNG per day during 2015 ( “Egypt’s petroleum minister increases purchase price of gas from new developments“, Natural Gas Europe, March 24th, 2015). These Israeli exports are the medium of a profound political shift in the region. In effect, until 2011 and the start of the Arab spring, Egypt was exporting natural gas to Israel and Jordan. This shift owes not only to the new energy situation in Israel, but also to conditions specific to Egypt and Jordan, impacted by the start of numerous guerrillas in Egypt and of the Iraqi and Syrian refugees crisis in Jordan.

386px-Arab_Gas_Pipeline

Since the start of what we called the “Egyptian energy guerrilla” (Valantin, “Egypt, climate change and the long resource civil war”, The Red Team Analysis Society, April 14, 2014), which opposes militant groups to the Egyptian government, repeated attacks on natural gas pipelines by different groups have occurred in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 (“Gas Pipeline Attacked in Egypt Sinai“, Arham On Line, 11 Feb. 2014). For example, between January 2011 and July 2012 only, 15 attacks took place (Mohamed Werr, “Blast rocks Egypt’s gas pipeline to Israel, Jordan“, Reuters, July 21). The means used are either “improvised explosive devices” or attacks by armed groups on pipelines stations (Ibid).

These attacks and the spread of the Islamist guerrillas have put an end to Egyptian exports of natural gas to Israel and Jordan (Valantin, ibid), while Israel is starting to develop its own gas deposits and getting ready to export some of it to Egypt (Karen Ayat, “Israel to sell gas from the Tamar field to Jordan”, Natural Gas Europe, 08th April, 2015). In other words, Israel becomes an actor of the sustainability of the Egyptian economy and social cohesion, and thus, implicitly, a support of the Egyptian government.

Following the same logic, the decision to sell gas to Jordan is going to help that country to compensate for the loss of Egyptian gas, and goes with other forms of environmental cooperation (Valantin, “Climate of change on the Red Sea”, The Red Team Analysis Society, November 25, 2013).

The_dead_sea_(5101565062)For example, in the field of desalination, a technological field in which Israel is very advanced (William Booth, “Israel knows water technology and it wants to cash in”, The Washington Post, October 25, 2013), a project between Israel and Jordan is developed to pump sea water from the canal currently built by Jordan, which is going to link the Red sea to the Dead sea (Suleiman Al Khalidi, “Jordan Israel agree $ 900 million Dead sea Red Sea project”, Reuters, Feb 26, 2015).

It will support the rising water needs of the Jordanian kingdom, due to its own demographics and to the massive inflow of Iraqi and Syrian refugees who, in less than ten years, have expanded the Jordanian population by more than one and a half million of people, in a country where hydric stress has reached a critical threshold (UNHCR, Syria regional refugee response, 14 April, 2015).

So, exporting its gas to Jordan further allows Israel to participate actively in the sustainability of the Hashemite kingdom, notably contributing to prevent socio-environmental collapse. Should such a tragedy occur, the massive new flows of refugees, in their own desperate search for safety and sustainability, would saturate the whole region.

In other words, it is possible to make the hypothesis that becoming a gas exporter allows Israel, which singularity is to be a very recent Jewish nation in the Arab world, to support two of its Arab neighbours, so that the ruling political authorities can keep on controlling the risks of political and religious radicalization. Furthermore, the Israeli gas helps them not to collapse under the added strain that an energy crisis would add to their very tense social, political and water situation (Valantin, ibid).

However, this natural gas dynamic creates new tensions with Lebanon, which accuses Israel of “stealing” the gas of the Leviathan field (“Lebanese officials claim U.S. blocking resolution of gas dispute with Israel”, Haaretz, 21 dec., 2014).

Meanwhile, Israel works with the government of Cyprus, which has started off-shore drilling for natAlexis_Tsipras_in_Moscow_5ural gas too, and with the new Greek Siriza government, in order to elaborate an energy cooperation (Gedalyah Reback, “Israel-Greek-Cypriot Alliance Challenges Turkey in the Med”, Arutz Sheva, 3/9/2015). The cooperation with south Cyprus is interesting to note, because it happens in a context where Turkey is also interested by off-shore gas drilling in the area while the Erdogan government and the Netanyahu government are going through a period of cold relations (Reback, ibid).

However, both governments are in talks with Russia: Ankara and Moscow have signed a deal to develop the gas pipeline “Turkish stream”, which replaces the “South stream project” (Valantin, “Turkey, an energy and environmental power”, The Red Team Analysis Society, February 25, 2015), while Gazprom discusses with the Israeli government in order to share its technological advanced knowledge in off-shore gas drilling (Katusa, ibid).

This could mean that the development by Israel of its natural gas resources involves a political shift towards both Turkey and Russia. This latter energy strategy can help Israel to support its energy development, while installing it in a favourable stance toward Russia, while having a close and complicated relation with the US.

Accessing these new off-shore resources leads the Netanyahu government to acquire serious naval military capabilities, because it needs to be able to protect its off-shore installations from attacks (“Israel boosts around naval gas fields, fearing guerilla attacks“, Haaretz, Nov. 21, 2011), which could come from the Palestinian Hamas, the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, or any other extremist or ill-intentioned actor. As a result, the Israeli government has started a naval built-up.

Three_Sa'ar_5_Class_Missile_Corvettes_Going_For_a_Cruise

For example, the Defense Ministry is upgrading Sa’ar missile boats and corvettes, its fast patrol vessels Shaldag and super Davora Mark III with state of the art weapons and electronic warfare, as well as its anti-missiles and anti-aircraft capabilities. The Israeli navy has also ordered two new and very powerful Dolphins attack submarines (Nicholas Saidel and Julian Kasdin, “With Natural gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean, Israel now has a new front: the Sea”, Tablet, January 17, 2014). Furthermore, it is closing a deal for F 124 Sachsen class frigates, the largest ships of the German navy (Saidel and Kasdin, ibid). This means that Israel becomes a Mediterranean naval power.

A power in itself?

Over a very short time span of barely four years, from the discovery of the Tamar and the Leviathan field to today, Israel has moved from the status of “protected” power to the status of an emerging energy power. This is a transformation of its importance, of its role and of its inherent power.

We must not forget that with power comes status (Norbert Elias, The civilizing process, vol.II, State formation and civilization, 1982). In the case of Israel, this new “new status” as an energy power comes with a strange kind of Middle East “normality”: as other Middle East powers, as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, it is now an exporter of energy; as Saudi Arabia, it is supporting Egypt and Jordan, while being wary of Assad’s Syria, as well as of the expansion of the Islamic State and of the strategic projects of Iran, and it works at being more independent from the U.S.

Furthermore, on a deeper level, it shares the “common destiny” of all the Middle East countries, defined by socio-environmental dynamics, which are entangled with demographics, water and food issues, and the growing and enduring impact of climate change.

So, in fact, the long-term question and uncertainty created by the Tamal and Leviathan gas fields are related to the way Israel will use its new off-shore gas reserves and consequent impacts. Will Israel use them to enhance its adaptation to the rapidly changing environment as well as its relations with its Arab neighbours, as so far seems to be the case? On the contrary, could this gas bounty turn into a new version of the “resource curse”, well-known to some countries of the Middle East (Michael Klare, Resource wars, 2002)?

* Slight discrepancies with the U.S Energy Information Agency, “Israel”.

Jean-Michel Valantin, (PhD Paris) leads the Environment and Security Department of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defense sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Featured Image:  May 7, 2012, The Israeli and Greek Navies joined forces and put their cooperation to the test last May, when the two armies conducted a joint-drill near the Island of Piraeus. Photograph by Staff Sgt. Ori Shifrin, IDF Spokesperson’s unit. The Israel Defense Forces, By http://www.flickr.com/people/45644610@N03 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline/7698094148/) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Oil Flood (2) – Oil and Politics in a (Real) Multipolar World

The world oil flood is quickly rising. As we have seen in “Oil Flood (1): The Kingdom is Back”, the decisions taken by OPEC members and Russia not to curb oil production, while Saudi Arabia is forcing prices down, are much more about power politics and strategies than about economics and the “invisible hand” of the logic of “supply and demand”. We shall now focus on what the evolution of the current oil market reveals about current and future geopolitics.

320px-Opec_Gebäude_Wien_Helferstorferstraße_17Since the end of November, especially since the 27 November OPEC meeting, prices have kept falling down, while the main producers, chiefly among them Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, and the private U.S. companies, have all decided, for reasons of their own, to maintain their level of production, or to even increase it. On 5 January, oil prices even passed under 50 USD, while global oil production knows record highs (AFP, “Le baril de pétrole passe sous la barre des 50 dollars”, Le Point, 05/01/2015).

A brief review of the different explanations for this pattern shows that there are three main categories of analytical frameworks. The first one, which emerged as early as September and October 2014 is organized around the idea that the Saudi decision was a positive response to a U.S. demand, given the will of Washington to “sanction” Russia and its President Vladimir Putin for the tensions in Ukraine (Michael Klare, “Washington wields the oil weapon”,  Tom Dispatch, 9 October 2014).

Another school of thought sees the slump in prices as the will of Saudi Arabia to “punish” Russia for its support of Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad and of Iran, both adversaries, if not enemies, of the Saudi kingdom, while targeting the U.S.shale oil and gas industry, in order to re-conquer market shares (Tyler Durden,  “A Look inside the secret deal with Saudi Arabia that unleashed the Syrian bombing”, Zero Hedge, 09/25/2014).

Xi_Jinping_meet_Russian_Duma

A third category identifies China’s imports of oil as a driver for the market price. China would thus benefit from the lowering prices and be “manipulating” Russia, in an environment of quasi saturation of the world oil market (Pepe Escobar,  “Blowback after blowback for the Empire of Chaos”, Gold Switzerland, the Matterhorn interview, 22 Dec. 2014).

Each of these approaches has very real merits. Nonetheless, it seems that these analyses are altered by a common blind spot: they fail to see that they describe the world of today, with concepts, ideas, systems of representations that come from yesterday, and are on their way to becoming obsolete. And so, they block our ability to understand what the current evolution of the oil market is revealing.

Taking pain

The current fall of the oil prices has a common effect on the different oil producers: it inflicts them pain, and a lot of it. The political authorities of Saudi Arabia, for example, are much more comfortable with high oil prices, given the fact that they need to heavily subsidize the fuel used by Saudi citizens, in order to support the social cohesion of a society knowing rising social, gender, religious, and political tensions (John Kemp, “Money to burn: OPEC’s wasteful energy subsidies”, Reuters, May 16, 2014).

The Saudi authorities are also trying to alleviate coming environmental factors of tensions due to the way the kingdom uses too much water considering its reserves. As a result, desalinating seawater is necessary, knowing that the industrial process so involved is extremely costly. In effect, the Saudi 36 desalination The_Main_Water_Reservoir,_Muzahimiyah_(2807216425)stations pump more than 3.3 million cubic meters of water. The cost corresponded to 300.000 oil barrels, when the price of the oil barrel was around 110 USD. The price paid by consumers is more or less 0.12 USD, while the production cost was 3.20 USD (at 110 USD per barrel).

Meanwhile, the consumption of water rises by 8.8% each year (Ubaid Al Usaymy, “Saudi Arabia: the desalination nation”, Asharq Al Awsat, 2 july, 2013). In other terms, the Saudi decision to curb the oil prices raises very serious domestic and social issues, as the numbers of barrels needed to produce a cubic meter of water will increase.

In Russia, the diminishing benefits of oil connect with the Ruble crisis, the international tensions due to the bad relations with the U.S. and the European Union regarding Ukraine, and the related sanctions that were decided by Western countries. Nevertheless, there are few signs of actual direct tensions between Russia and the Saudi Kingdom, and it could even be said that the two countries are working towards closer relationships (Maria Dubovikova, “Russian Saudi cooperation on the rise?”,  Al Arabya News, 24 Nov. 2014), even if Russia badly needs high oil prices in order to maintain the post 1990s economic and social recovery, as well as its development projects (Marin Katusa, The Colder War, 2014).

In other terms, the big producers are willing to “take the pain” of their oil decisions.

The “Muhammad Ali strategy”?

This approach to the oil market by historically great producers reveals something particularly significant regarding the way they want to steer the international distribution of power.

Muhammad_Ali_visits_WashingtonWe shall call it the “Muhammad Ali strategy”, because of the strategy Muhammad Ali used against George Foreman during the heavyweight championship match on 30 October 1974, in Zaire. In order to surprise and exhaust his more powerful and younger adversary, Ali had trained himself to be punched while leaning in the ropes. After five rounds of taking the pain while giving some right hand unexpected hard punch, Ali started to counter-attack fiercely an exhausted Foreman and knocked him out (Norman Mailer, The Fight, 1975).

The “Muhammad Ali strategy” tells us much regarding what is now happening in, and through, the oil market. Some very tough players are preparing themselves and the rest of the world to the fact that they have decided to enter a new era.

In these new times, oil is used as a political tool in new ways, Michael Klare would even say a weapon (Klare, ibid), to assert that the region defined by the relations between Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran and the Middle East countries, as well as by the new Latin-America oil players, is now dominated by new struggles. Those have the political function of being the support upon which rests the intent of these players to make themselves known as the new dominant ones.

These struggles have, at least, a twofold function. First, they are used by the players to define the new political identity of the countries involved in this “Very Great Game” as “poles” of the multipolar world, finally emerged (Zorawar Daulet Sinhg, “The benefits of a multipolar world”, The Hindu, September 13, 2014).

Second, these struggles define an international political space, where their crossed influence and power-plays are competing with the U.S. influence with more and more efficiency and brutality. That is shown and foretold by the “Muhamad Ali strategy”: “taking the pain” goes with the very intention to inflict more of it, and to replace the heavyweight champion … even if it takes time and sustainable and enduring  willpower.

The time issue

Another thing countries as radically different as Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, among others, have in common, is their relation to time and strategy.

All these countries, their people and political authorities are rooted in an ancient history, defined by very tough strategic plays (John Keegan, A History of Warfare, 1993). For example, after one millennium of harshness, Russia went through the extreme Mur_Moskiewskiego_Kremla_lato_2013hardships of the Bolshevik revolution, Stalin’s Great Terror, the Second World War, and, in twenty-five years, had lost 75 millions of people (Michel Heller, Histoire de la Russie et de son empire, 1997). Then came the end of the Soviet regime, followed by the terrible 1990s, during which the Russian average life expectancy went from 65 to 55 years, in less than ten years (Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine, 2008).

In the same time line, from the fifties to the beginning of the 2000s, the Russian oil infrastructures went derelict (Katusa, ibid), with a disastrous impact on the very basis of the Russian economy. Reconstructing these, putting Russia back on top of the oil food chain, while becoming the main producer for China (Valantin, “Arctic Fusion: Russia and China convergent strategies”, The Red Team Analysis Society, June 23, 2014), involves a strategy devised for the long-term, and the capacity to take, and give, political pain through oil strategies. The same can be said of players like Iran, or Saudi Arabia.

In other words, what the world experiences through the sustained fall in oil prices is that the multipolar world is ready to struggle for a long time in order to find an exit from the “unipolar moment”. This one was defined by the dominant influence of the United States and their European allies, knowing that Western governments are much more worried by the domestic political and financial impacts of “oil pain” than the oil producer governments and their societies. In effect, those are forced to learn to live in tough economic and political contexts.

However, a new issue arises: it is now necessary to wonder if the unexpected meeting of climate change and new radical ideologies, all over the world is not going to disrupt oil politics.

To be (soon) continued.

Dr Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris) leads the Environment and Security Department of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defense sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Featured image: Public Domain, This Image was released by the United States Marine Corps with the ID 100922-M-7110J-091: Staff Sgt. Francisco Martinez, a platoon sergeant with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, takes a punch to the face during a boxing match, Sept. 22. Martinez, a 27-year-old native of St. Paul, Minn., and fellow Marines joined together with the British 40 Commando, British Royal Marines, for some physical training. The boxing matches attracted crowds of U.S. and UK Marines cheering on the fighters. Martinez said he is a former golden glove boxer and has been boxing for 15 years. 22 September 2010

Oil Flood (1)? The Kingdom is Back

Since July 2014, oil prices have been falling, while OPEC members have decided to maintain their current levels of production (OPEC, 166th meeting concludes). It appears that the Saudi Kingdom plays an essential part in this operation. Numerous articles and commentaries are focused on the economic and financial consequences of this situation, and try to anticipate how national and global economies are going to react.

The problem with this kind of questions is that they miss the fact that oil is not only a commodity and the support of gigantic financial activities (William Engdahl, A Century of war, Anglo-american oil politics and the new world order, 2004). Before all, oil is an extremely powerful tool of political power (Michael Levi, “Why the world missed the oil price crash”, The Washington Post, December 5, 2014), and the way it is used defines strategies of power (Michael Klare, Blood and oil, 2005). The strategic status of oil is anchored in the very fact that, since the beginning of the twentieth century, the human world is made by and of oil (Thomas Homer Dixon, The Upside of Down, 2006).

oil, Saudi Arabia, U.S.- Saudi relations

Oil, with natural gas, is the main source of energy for transportation, heat, and electricity generation, while it is the basis of the chemical industry. Thus, mastering oil, through its exploration, extraction, production, refining, transportation, commerce, induces a prodigious capacity of influence on the very way entire modern societies live (Andrew Nikiforuk, The Energy of Slaves, 2013). In other words, the daily lives of the current seven billion of people constituting mankind, distributed in 192 countries, are totally dependent on oil. The oil market is nothing but one of the main engine of the international distribution of political power.

The Kingdom strikes back?

For more than twelve years, the oil market has gone through a profound transformation, because of a prolonged rise in oil prices, which seemed to have stabilized around one hundred dollars a barrel, while fluctuating between 90 and 110 dollars (International Energy Agency statistics) However, things have been changing quickly and violently since September 2014. During September, October and November 2014, oil prices went down and lost more than thirty per cent, especially because of the Saudi decision to lower prices.

Given the fact that the Saudi oil production is a matter and a decision of state, given the fact that Aramco is a state-owned company, decisions about oil prices are nothing but political decisions (Michael Klare, Rising powers, Shrinking Planet, 2008). Moreover, the Saudi oil being sold to international customers, it can be said that, for Saudi Arabia, oil sells are a major dimension of the Saudi foreign policy.

oil, Saudi Arabia, U.S.- Saudi relations, Kerry, King Abdullah

So, the decision made by the Saudi political authorities to lower the prices of oil is nothing but a political and strategic decision, which expresses a political project (Lawler, “OPEC cuts 2015 demand forecast for its oil to lowest in a decade”, Reuters, Dec 10 2014).

It is interesting to note that, between July and November, oil prices went from 115 dollars a barrel to 70 dollars a barrel (Kottasova, “OPEC: no cut in oil production and prices keep falling“, CNN Money, 27 November 2014). Immediately after the 27 November OPEC summit, the prices went from 70 to 69 dollars, thus dropping more than 1.4%, as Saudi Arabia, as well as other oil producers, such as Venezuela (OPEC member) and Russia (not part of OPEC, yet consulted before the summit), decided not to curb their production in order to support prices (Chmaytelli, Golnar Motevalli and Grant Smith, “Iran Says Close to Saudi Oil-Market View Before Meeting, Bloomberg, Nov 27, 2014).

One could note that, during the September to November period, many commentators analysed the Saudi move as a positive response of the Kingdom to the wishes of the Obama administration. According to them, Saudi Arabia would have been willing to put pressure both on Russia, as a kind of “non-official” economic sanction in response to the tensions in Ukraine, and on Iran, because of the slow pace of the Iranian nuclear negotiations and because of Iran’s complex role in Syria in favour of the Bashar regime (Michael Klare, “Washington wields the oil weapon“, Tomdispatch, October 9, 2014).

However, progressively, more and more commentators also started signalling that the increasingly lower prices were altering the infamous “shale gas and oil boom”, also known as the “fracking miracle”, or the “fracking revolution”, destined, for some, to turn the U.S. into the major oil and gas exporting country around 2020 (Oilprice.com, ISN security watch, “The fracking revolution: Promise and perils, 13 January 2014).

Marcellus, Shale Gas, oil, Saudi Arabia, U.S.- Saudi relations

These analyses are very interesting, because they point out the singularity of the economic model of the US fracking industry: it is dependent upon oil prices that must be equal or above 100 dollars. Below that price, the shale industry is rapidly becoming less and less profitable and is even in danger (Murtaugh, “Sub-$50 Oil Surfaces in North Dakota Amid Regional Discounts”, Bloomberg, 4 December 2014).

That said, accepting these explanations about oil prices being used solely for an episode of economic competition would lead us to forget the political nature of oil, which revealed itself once again during the 27 November OPEC summit. It is worth noting that major oil players such as Russia and Iran (OPEC member), as well as lesser but still important regional players such as Venezuela, have accepted the Saudi decision and have not tried to undo it.

The great perception change?

A certain “common wisdom”, inherited from the last fifty years, had most probably participated in leading numerous historians, political analysts and oil analysts towards the conclusion previously underlined of a Saudi Arabia bowing to a wish for economic sanctions decided by the U.S., as they asserted that Saudi Arabia and the US had been strong allies while considering Iran and Russia as common enemies for a long time (Georges Corm, Le Proche Orient éclaté, 2013).

Nevertheless, observers of the 27 November OPEC summit saw that Iran was siding with Saudi Arabia, as well as Russia and Venezuela (Bloomberg, “Iran…”), even if that meant, and means, for these countries, to endure a lot of economic pain and the risk of domestic political and social strife, due to the loss of revenues coming from the international oil market (Dupin, “Pétrole, trois victimes de la baisse brutale des cours de l’or noir, L’Usine Nouvelle, 20 novembre 2014).

Tar sands, oil, Saudi Arabia, U.S.- Saudi relationsThe decision to endure such a pain may be best explained by the fact that this sudden and brutal curb of the oil prices affects a “common foe”, which is not only the US production of shale oil and gas, but also the Canadian tar sands, which future on the near and long-term utterly depends on high oil prices (Andrew Nikiforuk, Tar Sands, 2010).

This extremely new situation forces us to wonder about the exact state of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States, with tremendous impacts for the whole Middle East situation, which furthermore potentially reveal other aspects of the new relationships between emergent state actors.

The end of the Saudi – U.S. “special relationship”?

The depth of the political and strategic relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia resides in the way the two governments decided to support each other since the end of the Second World War. The U.S. government was winning in Western Europe and in the Asia-Pacific zone, needed to secure its access to oil for its own development and had decided to counter-balance the influence of the waning British Empire in the Middle East (Akira Irye, The Globalizing of America, 1995).

The alliance was sealed by the famous meeting between Franklin Delano Roosevelt when coming back from Yalta, and the King Faysal on 14 March 1945 (Kevin Phillips, American Theocracy, The perils and politics of radical religion, oil and borrowed money in the 21st century, 2005) .

Wall Street, oil, Saudi Arabia, U.S.- Saudi relationsDuring the whole Cold war, this alliance continued. The oil crisis of 1973, triggered by the decision of the Saudi kingdom and its fellow OPEC members to rise the prices of oil created a gigantic flow of financial wealth, channelled by and through the giant American and British financial institutions, thus participating in the success of the financial and fiduciary U.S. world influence (Engdahl, ibid).

So, during the summer of 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Washington led the international operation that ended in “Desert Storm”, which seemed to reinforce military and economically the Saudi Kingdom, while triggering the radical religious movement of contestation led by men like Osama Bin Laden (Steve Coll, Ghost wars, 2004).

Then, the invasion of Iraq by US troops in 2003 deeply destabilized the whole Middle East, while the global oil prices started to climb steadily toward the 100 dollars a barrel level (Giovanni Arrighi, Adam Smith in Beijing, lineages of the twenty-first century, 2007). In the same time, the U.S. “moment” of the Iraqi war stopped in 2010, when US troops withdrew, after having unintentionally opened a new corridor for Iranian influence in the Middle East (Gordon and Trainor, The Endgame, 2012).

From 2011 to 2014, the Arab Spring morphed in Syria in an all out civil war (Helene Lavoix, “Portal to Strategic Intelligence Assessment on Syria, 2013-2014, The Red Team Analysis), and saw the emergence of ISIS, whichIraq, oil, Saudi Arabia, U.S.- Saudi relations lives between parts of those two “failed by war states” that are Syria and Iraq (Lavoix, ibid). In the US, the Pentagon, the Congress and the White House have real difficulties to devise a strategy against this new foe, while, on the contrary, other oil players, such as Russia, are starting to work together.

For example, Russia weaves not only a dialogue with Iran, about energy and Syria, but also with Saudi Arabia, (Matlack, “Why Russia said “no deal” to OPEC on cutting oil production”, Business Week, November 26, 2014), without forgetting the links with Syria.

In other terms, the current “state of play” of oil prices has a very dense political and strategic background, which goes far beyond the “supply and demand/business as usual” frame of explanation. This political dimension of oil is still deepened by the fact that the Saudi, Russian, Iranian, Venezuelian oil companies are all state companies and, thus, are political tools while their choices translate political choices (Klare, ibid).

The current global oil situation reveals that the very fabric of the international order, which had emerged out of the Second World war… is now over

And so, the current global oil situation seems to reveal a very important fact: the very fabric of the international order, which had emerged out of the Second World war, and which foundations were built upon a certain energy order, and which had prolonged itself through the Cold War and the period of the “U.S. centred globalization”, is now over.

Meanwhile and relatedly, Saudi Arabia no longer expects the US to be its protector and has just become a massive energy challenger, and, as such, an actor of what we could call the new “non-American centred multipolar world”. In turn, the U.S. energy security and the U.S. hope for energy independence are profoundly questioned by the current “oil power” plays.

 Now, this strategic analysis of the oil market needs us to identify and understand the various strategists and their goals.

Continue with Oil Flood 2.

Dr Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris) leads the Environment and Security Department of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defense sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 182 – The U.S. under Threats?

Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals… We present below some of the most interesting or relevant features for each section.

World (all matters related to war, international and national security) – Besides developments in the Islamic State War, and on the broader Jihadi front, continuing tensions between NATO and Russia, and related uncertainties for the situation in Ukraine, what stands out this week is, potentially, how much the U.S. and their supremacy are under threats and how they could fight back, or not. Interestingly, this perception of multiple threats to the U.S. only emerges if one considers various sections together, namely, world (of course), technology and armaments, energy and economy. We thus have together the decline of oil prices as well as a potentially obsolete U.S. defense missile system, each with probably combining impacts in economic, military and influence terms.

Continue reading The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 182 – The U.S. under Threats?

Energy, Climate and Military Paradox

A powerful paradox lies at the heart of the current oil and gas global rush (Michael Klare, The Race for what’s left, 2012). On the one hand, the energy global demand necessitates to find and exploit oil and gas deposits, while looking for new ones, even in extreme environmental and political situations, as in the Arctic or the Niger river Delta (Al Jazeera, “Who is stealing Nigerian oil?“, 13 Sept. 2014).

On the other hand, 97% of climatologists have developed a consensus in establishing that the current uses of oil and gas are changing the Earth climate (IPCC, fifth report, 2014) at such a speed and rate that basic life conditions could be altered for the whole of the human race during the current century, while extreme weather events are on the rise.

Strangely, these two, deeply intertwined issues do not seem to really meet, and their respective actors often appear to live in parallel worlds (Naomi Klein, This changes everything, 2014). However, there are organizations where this “meeting” takes place, and it is in a growing number of defence and national security institutions. These organizations are addressing this twin issue of the energy rush and climate change from their own military and security point of view.

paradox, pentagon, energy environment military nexus

So, one must wonder how these new issues, which we shall call here the “energy/climate nexus”, are integrated and if they have an influence on the global power balance. Raising these issues forces us to understand the way the different military establishments are evolving given their own history, their specific context, interests and missions. That is why, for example, the US Department of defence and the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation answer in very different ways to these new economic and geophysical dynamics.

War and sustainability

The very existence of military organizations resides in the necessity for a state to be prepared for defence, offence and influence. Also, modern world powers need militaries that are able to project themselves on a global scale and to wield the most efficient tools of power and coercion (Colin Gray, Another Bloody Century: Future Warfare, 2005). So, these organizations are anchored in the very idea of sustainability by all means, their mission implying, as written by Sun Tzi “the life and the death of nations” (Sun Tzi, The Art of War).

paradox, pentagon, energy environment military nexus, moscow victory parade

Nowadays, the duality between the oil and gas rush and climate change has become a massively strategic issue, which is felt par the US Department of Defence as well as by the Ministry of Defence of the Russian federation (Klare, Rising powers, Shrinking Planet, 2008). These two very powerful political organizations are driven by the needs created by the “grand strategy” of the governments of their countries.

The US grand strategy is based on the principle of global dominance (Chalmers Johnson, Nemesis, 2007), while Russia seeks to achieve continental security through influence at the international level (David Teurtrie, Géopolitique de la Russie, 2010).

These grand strategies, which often collide and compete (Andrew Bacevitch, The new American militarism, 2013), are currently being tested by the energy/climate nexus, which forces the armed forces to adapt themselves to this new reality.

Global reach and military sustainable development

The US military is particularly involved in its response to the oil/climate paradox. Since the Iraqi occupation, from 2003 to 2010 (Peter L. Bergen, The Longest war, 2011), the Department of Defence (DoD) works at deepening its energy independence from oil products, in order to be independent from foreign energy import (National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 2O10).

Furthermore, the current dependency was experienced at a very real operational and tactical level while, in Iraq and Afghanistan, fuel and cargo convoys were turned into as many opportunities for Iraqi and Jihadi guerrparadox, pentagon, energy environment military nexus, Baghdadillas to attack US forces (Mike Davis, A Short history of the car bomb, 2007). In order to diminish this vulnerability, an ever increasing number of American bases in Iraq were led to use renewable energies, first of all solar energy, while experimenting different approach to energy efficiency, in order to power themselves (Valantin, Climate blowback and US National security, 2014).

Since then, the DoD has expanded and has become a major proponent of sustainable development (Valantin, Guerre et Nature, l’Amérique se prepare à la guerre du climat, 2013). The US Navy is even using an entire fleet, dubbed “the Great Green Fleet” to experiment and demonstrate the use of energy efficiency through its fuel and nuclear powered vessels, while developing new generations of biofuels.

In the same time, war planners are clearly identifying climate change, and the rapid amplification of this process, as a “threat multiplier” (2014 US Quadriennal Defence review). The global impact of climate change results of the combination between all climate-related human forms of social organization, economic vulnerabilities, and political tensions (CNA, National security and the threat of climate change, 2007).

For example, water tensions aggravated by extreme weather events in the Middle East, where US energy interests are Yemen, paradox, pentagon, energy environment military nexuscritically important, can reinforce violent conflicts, as in Yemen (Valantin, “Surviving the Gulf of Aden: a new strategic paradigm for the future of the region, 2013), Syria, and Iraq, where US armed forces are involved (Werrell, Femia, and Slaughter, “The Arab Spring and Climate Change, Center for American Progress, 2013).

These few examples show how the widespread presence of the US military and intelligence community can evolve into a never-ending entanglement with climate and energy related tensions and conflicts. Admitting this new fact has recently led the highest American military authorities to devise a “roadmap for adaptation” to climate change (US Department of Defence, 2014 Climate change adaptation Roadmap).

Adaptation through strategy

In Eurasia, Russia has, by now, adopted quite a different approach. Russia is not looking for global reach, but for ensuring the security of the country, from a political, economic, military, social and cultural point of view. Furthermore, Russia has a unique point of view on climate change, meaning global warming, because the society of the biggest country on Earth is, since one millennium, “made by the cold” (Laurent Touchard, La Russie et le changement climatique, 2011).

paradox, pentagon, energy environment military nexus

By now, the Russian military, as the defence organization of a country defined by its sheer immensity, and by a long and cold, harsh winter, seems to address climate change through an optimization of the environmental and socio-economic consequences of the energy/climate nexus.

It appears very clearly with the current new cycle of the Russian militarization of the Arctic (Charles Emmerson, The Future history of the Arctic, 2010), which goes with huge projects of oil and gas development through offshore drilling in the Barents and Kara Sea (Valantin, “The Russian Arctic, energy and a massive power shift, 2014) and the Yamal Peninsula (Klare, 2012).

These projects have emerged because of the environmental destabilization of the Arctic (Joe Romm, “The Arctic Death Spiral”, Climateprogress, December 9, 2013), which, despite huge difficulties and investments, could allow turning this region into a massive energy and industrial hub (Russia Today, “Northern exposure“, May 15, 2013), even though the Wrangel Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the Arctic environment very fragile.

In the same time, during the summer, the same phenomenon opens the famous North West passage, as well as the Northern sea route, which goes from the Bering Strait to Norway, by following the Siberian coast.

As it happens, the Northern Sea route is very appealing to China and other Asian countries despite its natural and technical difficulties (Anne paradox, pentagon, energy environment military nexus, Northern routeDenis, “L’incroyable projet de navettes maritimes qui ouvrira la route du pôle toute l’année”, Slate.fr, 06/08/2013). Indeed, when used, it shortens the journey between China’s oriental ports and northern Europe by more than six thousand kilometers (Eric Canobbio, Atlas des Pôles, 2007).

These massive projects go hand in hand with an intense Russian militarization of the region. For example, in September 2013, a task force of ten warships and support vessels, headed by the nuclear destroyer Peter the Great, the most powerful ship of the Russian navy, accompanied by four nuclear icebreakers reached the Novosibirsk archipelago (New Siberian Islands), on the Northern road between the Atlantic and the Pacific (Russia Today, “Russian military resumes permanent Arctic presence“, 15 September 2013).

In September 2014, Russia started building two new military naval bases on Wrangel Island and on Cape Schmidt (Mathew Bodner, Alexey “Russia Starts Building Military Bases in the Arctic, The Moscow Times, 8 Sept 2014). These are the first of an announced six naval bases complex.

In the meantime, the Kremlin has announced the creation of an operational Arctic command structure for the Arctic, which will paradox, pentagon, energy environment military nexus, Russian Arctic claimintegrate the Northern fleet, based in Murmansk, the new bases, and new ground, naval and submarine forces (The Moscow Times, “Russia to Form Arctic Military Command by 2017”, Oct. 01, 2014), and coordinate with the civil development projects of the giant oil and gas state companies Gasprom, Rosneft and Lukoil (Valantin, “The Arctic Power race: the New Great Game”, 2013).

Their Arctic projects are currently slowed by the political and economic tensions created by the Ukrainian situation and the economic sanctions decided by the US and the EU. Nevertheless, the Arctic death spiral and the mammoth economic possibilities that it opens in terms of gas, oil and mineral wealth (USGS, Circum Arctic appraisal: estimates of undiscovered oil and gas north of the Arctic Circle, 2008) turns it into a giant attractor (Emmerson, ibid).

In fact, what appears here is that these Russian projects are the current way the Russian Federation involves its military into the process of adaptation to the energy/climate nexus, through an optimization of the way climate change makes Arctic oil and gas less difficult to reach. Militarizing the region is part of the process triggered to materialize the fact that the Russian Arctic maritime economic exclusive area is a real part of the Russian territory, and not “only” a legal and cartographic entity (Klare, 2012).

From adaptation to independence

Over the last years, the climate/energy nexus led the US DoD to militarize sustainable development (Department of Defense Sustainability), while developing its presence through bases, troops, naval forces, cyber-forces, and military diplomacy, in areas that are significant for oil, gas, and other resources necessary for the economic and social fabric of the US (Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of empire, 2004).

However, some of these regions, such as the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea, the Strait of Hormuz, the South East China Sea, are increasingly vulnerable to climate change (IPCC, ibid), and hammered by various extreme weather events. Climate change is thus a “threat multiplier” that is turning these areas into politically, militarily and logistically very challenging places for the US forces, and thus for the US military and strategic dominance.

paradox, pentagon, energy environment military nexus

In other words, the evolution and global involvement of the US military reveals how dependent upon foreign resources the US has become, and how a new systemic vulnerability to the induced effects of climate change is quickly emerging. We could say that this situation is the “climate and resources blowback” of the US-led globalization (Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: the costs and consequences of American empire, 2004).

The Russian military appears to be at the extreme opposite of the adaptation spectrum. Because of the impact of climate change, Russia’s economic and political establishment is going to complement its continental resources (Katarina Zysk, “Geopolitics in the high North”, Russia, Arctic Strategy, 2008), some of them in decline, with huge offshore ones (Zero Hedge, “Russia discovers massive Arctic oil field which maybe larger than the Gulf of Mexico, 28 September, 2014).

So, it puts them in a situation that is very different from the American one, where it becomes possible to make an asset of the consequences of climate change. Furthermore, it allows the Federation of Russia to progressively deepen its energy independence, its security and its influence, even if climate change is triggered and fuelled by anthropogenic fossil fuels emissions in the atmosphere.

It is thus likely that we are here witnessing signals of a worldwide power shift, especially if climate change keeps on its current track of aggravation, and the effects it may have on this continent-wide country.

Nevertheless, to have a clear vision of this possible shift, it must be understood how the Chinese government and military intervenes in this world play.

To be (soon) continued.

Dr Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris) leads the Environment and Security Department of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defense sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

Featured image: “Russia’s Pacific Fleet marine paratroopers in training”. Russia’s Pacific Fleet marine paratroopers in training aboard an An-26 plane. 21 january 2009 – RIA Novosti archive, image #369501 / Vitaliy Ankov / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Russian Arctic, Energy and a Massive Power Shift

A major world power shift is happening in the Arctic. It is due to new massive oil and gas discoveries, combined with the effects of climate change. In effect, on 28 September 2014, Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft, the Russian mammoth oil company, announced the discovery of a giant oil field in the Kara Sea, north of Siberia (Zero Hedge, “Russia discovers massive Arctic oil field which maybe larger than the Gulf of Mexico“, 28 September, 2014). According to the first commentaries, this sub-sea structure called Universitetskaya, potentially, could contain reserves of oil and gas equal or superior to the Gulf of Mexico.

Igor Sechin, Rosneft, UniversitetskayaAs Igor Sechin declared, quoted by Bloomberg (Arkhipov, Chierman and Chilcote, “Russia says Arctic well drilled with Exxon Mobil strikes oil, Sept 27, 2014):

“It exceeded our expectations… [This discovery is of] exceptional significance in showing the presence of hydrocarbons in the Arctic.”

It must be noted that this energy breakthrough in the Russian Arctic was due to a joint venture between Rosneft and the US company Exxon Mobil (Bloomberg, ibid).

However, this discovery goes with an extremely complex web of political, industrial and environmental situations. Moreover, the world oil and gas demand is still growing, and is reshaping globalization by reorganizing it around Asia, especially because of the Chinese demand.

To grasp what is at stake here, we will have to understand the way the Kremlin and Rosneft perceive oil and gas economics and politics, as perception varies according to actors notably in an international setting.

Russian extreme oil

This new oil field, if it is decided to develop it, will combine multiple new extreme environmental and industrial challenges.

To begin with, the Kara Sea, situated north of Siberia, is one of the most extreme natural environments on Earth. It is a largely frozen sea during the (long) winter, with temperature that can be as frigid as -30° to -40° Fahrenheit. Furthermore, the Arctic region being quickly and massively destabilized by climate change (Joe Romm, “Arctic Death Spiral, Climate Progress, 11 September, 2013), there is a growing risk of collision between any fixed industrial installation and giant icebergs. To this must be added the difficulties and huge costs of deep off-shore drilling, which is in it self a trial for the crews and equipment, all the more so in such an extreme environment (Michael Klare, The Race for what’s left,  2012).

Universitetskaya

Rosneft’s announcement must be understood in its context, which is defined by the Russian political and strategic project based on the exploitation of the Arctic ocean economic exclusive zone through vast energy projects (Katarina Zysk, “Geopolitics in the high North”, Russia, Arctic Strategy, 2008). This strategy is based on the fact that numerous and important Siberian oil and gas fields, like Samotlor, Urengoy and Yamburg, upon which depend the Russian capability to export these commodities have reached their peak production, or are on the path to depletion (Klare, ibid).

That is why Gasprom and Rosneft, which, being state-owned, are under the close scrutiny of the Kremlin (Charles Emmerson, The Future history of the Arctic, 2010), are forced to explore the Arctic Ocean in order to find new reserves.

This necessity has become the cornerstone of the Russian government grand strategy since 2008, when President Dmitri Medvedev declared, “Our first and main task is to turn the Arctic into Russia’s resource base of the twenty-first century” (RIA Novosti, “Arctic resources central to Russia’s energy security-Medvedev“, September 17, 2008).

Since then, the momentum to develop oil and gas fields in the Arctic Russian seas has been growing and was centred, until the discovery of the Universitetskaya structure, on three mega projects: the Shtokman field, in the north of the Barents Sea, the Prirazlomonoye field, discovered in 1989, in the east of the Barents Sea (Fabienne Costadau, La Mer de Barents, un nouvel enjeu géostratégique, 2011) and the Bovanenkovo field, close to the South-west coast of the Yamal Peninsula (Klare, ibid).

Murmageddon, Universitetskaya

The new field of Universitetskaya has been discovered in the Kara Sea, close to the supergiant natural gas field of Rusanovskoye, discovered in 1989 (Klare, ibid). Exploring the Kara Sea necessitates very important advanced technological means, which Rosneft did not master in 2010 when it was granted licenses to explore three new blocks of the Kara sea (Emmerson, ibid). This technological need led the Russian company to implement a joint venture with BP, which quickly misfired. As soon as BP recanted, Exxon Mobil replaced it in 2011 (Klare, ibid).

Putin, Exxon, Russia, oil, Universitetskaya

The Exxon Mobil-Rosneft partnership led to the current discovery in the Kara Sea. However, because of the economic sanctions jointly decided by the US and the European Union against Russia following the tensions and war in Ukraine, Exxon Mobil, as well as other major western oil companies such as BP and Total, may not be allowed to work with Russian companies until the sanctions are lifted (Lavoix, An Isolated Russia? Think again, 2014).

So, Exxon Mobil could lose its 30% share of the operations to come (Arkhipov, Bierman, Chilcote, ibid).

The Great Shift?

Just before the official announcement of the giant new oil field, Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the Federation of Russia Council declared, after having met the Chinese President Xi Jinping, that “China won’t support sanctions against Moscow” (Russia Today, China won’t support sanctions against Russia, September 23, 2014).

In other words, this  quasi-joint political communication emphasizes, once again, that the Middle Kingdom and Russia are closely working together, in particular when it comes to oil and gas, even if these are targeted by the EU/US sanctions. This way, Beijing keeps on deepening its ties with Russia, after the giant deal on natural gas signed in May 2014 between the two countries (Valantin, Arctic fusion: Russia and China convergent strategies, June 23, 2014). The latter amounts to a 400 billion dollars purchase by China of Russian natural gas during the next thirty years, accompanied by the construction of two gas pipelines.

Barely six months later, Beijing reasserts its strong interest for the Arctic and the huge and still untapped oil and gas reserves, to which it needs access in order to sustain its own growth (Valantin, Arctic China (2): the Chinese shaping of the North, June 9, 2014). However, in the same time, the US government makes it quite difficult for the biggest US companies to participate into this major energy development.

Arctic oil and the emergence of a new political reality

Several political and strategic levels of meaning are linking themselves in the Russian Arctic. For Russia, oil is a commodity, which is financially rewarding, as it is for all the countries in the same situation (which does not mean that oil wealth cannot lead to a “resource curse”), but it is much more than that: it is a tool to ensure it re-establishes its status as a world power, and, contrary to a lot of oil exporting countries, it is a very important support for Russia’s security (Marshall Goldman, Oilopoly, Putin, power and the rise of the new Russia, 2010).

BRICS leaders, Universitetskaya

The link between power and security is particularly important for Russia. Its nature is very different from what exists in the U.S. In effect, Russia, contrary to the US, has been invaded several times during its long history (Michel Heller, Histoire de la Russie et de son empire, 1997).

Its twentieth century was dominated by the First World War, the Soviet Revolution and the ensuing civil and international war, Stalinism and its mass slaughters and terror, the struggle against the Wehrmacht (Niall Ferguson, War of the world, 2006), the Cold War, the Tchernobyl Universitetskaya, Tchernobylcatastrophe, and, finally, the series of economic and social collapse of the 1990s. Those last ten years were so harsh that the medium life expectancy went from 65 years to 55 years (Forbes, Adomanis, Five myths about Russia, 24/04/2013).

In this context, the Kremlin has had to rebuild the Russian economics, society, and security, from the abyss into which it was falling during the 1990s. In this endeavour, oil and gas have been, and remain, central (Pol-Henry Dasseler, Gazprom, l’idéalisme européen à l’épreuve du réalisme russe, 2009), because selling oil allows the Russian political authorities to restart and support the economy, the social cohesion and to build powerful strategic alliances, especially with China (Valantin, ibid).

In order to maintain this grand strategy, the Kremlin and the economic and political behemoths Gasprom and Rosneft, among other Russian and foreign companies (ibid), are ready to commit themselves to the gigantic, almost staggering, financial, technological, industrial and human investments and efforts that the energy development of the Barents and Kara Sea is going to necessitate.

It is going to be necessary to build continental-scale infrastructures, from trains to ports, new categories of off-shore platforms and icebreakers, in an environment continually changing because of the acceleration of the effects of climate change (Valantin, The Warming Arctic: a hyperstrategic crisis, January 20, 2014). However, the new discovery of the Universitetskaya oil field could prove  to be an immense incentive.

The present situation turns Russia into a global experiment in “extreme oil politics”. Moreover, the situation allows for a rising complementarity between Russia and China, considering the need for “existential” and political security of the former and the energy needs of the latter, as we saw previously (Valantin, ibid)..

What remains to be seen is both how Exxon Mobil is going to react to the risk of being shut off from the possibly immense benefits of the development of the Russian Arctic, and, at a global political level, how this new age of oil and the powerful emergence of multipolar world is combining itself with our new age of global climate politics.

To be (soon) continued.

Dr Jean-Michel Valantin (PhD Paris) leads the Environment and Security Department of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. He is specialised in strategic studies and defense sociology with a focus on environmental geostrategy.

The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly 152 – Forgetting Food Security?

Editorial – Forgetting food security? While the tense stand-off between the U.S., the E.U. and European member states on the one hand and Russia on the other does not abate and spreads to space, while most focus on the fossil fuel component of the Ukrainian global crisis, one crucial element of this energy that is vital for human societies, food, tends to be forgotten (for food as energy, see e.g. Thomas Homer Dixon, The Upside of Down, 2008). It is, however, usefully re-called to out attention by Chris Martenson’s article “Rising Resource Costs Escalate Odds of Global Unrest” (via Peak Prosperity on Zerohedge). True enough, if you head to the FAO monitoring of the global food situation, so far things are looking all right. Furthermore, according to Informa Economics Inc., as reported by Pratik Parija for Bloomberg, “World output in 2014-2015 will reach an all-time high for a second straight year of 713.1 million tons, even with smaller U.S. and Black Sea crops”.

Yet, as Martenson points out, nominal prices are still above those of 2008, which then triggered food riots. Furthermore, Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of both wheat and coarse grain, while Thailand, also knowing turmoil, is a major exporter of rice. So far, according to the FAO the conflict in Ukraine has not had any impact on its wheat exports, but would this last if the conflict goes on? What could happen if the Russian Federation were reducing or even banning exports of cereals on strategic grounds, as an answer to rounds of sanctions felt as unjustified and efforts at further expanding NATO and the EU, when analysts underline the Russian feeling of encirclement, or/and because of extreme weather events, as in 2010 – note this year forest fires arrived early in Siberia (The Siberian Times, 6 April 2014)  (e.g. Russia’s Crimea Invasion Follows Decades of Perceived Humiliation“, Offiziere.ch; BBC News, “Russia ban on grain export begins” 15 August 2010)?

On a less dramatic note, check also the very interesting article on the future of the internet, and many others.

Click on the image below to read the Weekly on Paper.li

weak signal, strategic warning, political risk

 

Featured image: Wheat in Siberia, Tomsk by Afonin (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Egypt, Climate Change and the Long Resource Civil Warfare

Since the “Arab spring” reached Egypt in January 2011, the political situation has evolved quite quickly (Georges Corm, Le Proche-Orient éclaté, 2012).

Tahrir_Square_-_February_10,_2011

Many observers analyse the Egyptian political landscape as a battlefield between the Army, the Muslim Brotherhood, and a growing number of people wanting to experience democracy, while the whole situation is being put under pressure by a very degraded economic situation (Seumas Milne, The Revenge of History, 2013). Moreover, those different actors are participating in the political tensions between Arab countries, especially Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and between these countries and the U.S. (Corm, ibid).

543px-Map_of_Egypt

Egypt has tremendous political importance in the Middle East, in Africa, and at the international and global level. Since the antiquity, this very singular country is at the crossroads of multiple power plays in Africa, in the Middle East, in the Mediterranean Basin, and in the Red Sea area (Jacques Berque, L’Egypte, Impérialisme et Révolution, 1967).

This trait was accentuated with the opening of the Canal of Suez, under Egyptian control, which links the Red Sea and thus the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea, and through the latter with the Black Sea in the East and the Atlantic ocean in the West (U.S Energy Information Agency, World Oil Transit Choke Points, 2012). Furthermore, being a power in itself, Egypt has a tremendous feedback influence on the foreign dynamics that converge on its territory (Berque, ibid).

However, one must wonder if the stakes are not even higher, as the recurrent bombing of gas pipelines would seem to indicate. Could the Egyptian various power plays reveal a new conundrum, an Egypt trapped in a multilevel resource war, which amplifies tensions with its neighbours, and makes the country even more vulnerable to its own climate environment?

War on pipelines

In January 2011, a strange “energy guerrilla” started in Egypt, with a timeline parallel to the uprising against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak (Yahoo News, AP, Ashraf Sweilam, Militants attack gas pipeline in Egypt’s Sinai, 22 July 2012). Repeated attacks on natural gas pipelines by different groups have occurred in 2011, 2012, 2013 and the beginning of 2014 (Arham On Line, Gas Pipeline Attacked in Egypt Sinai, 11 Feb. 2014). For example, between January 2011 and July 2012 only, 15 attacks took place (Mohamed Werr, Blast rocks Egypt’s gas pipeline to Israel, JordanReuters, July 21). The means used are either “improvised explosive devices” or attacks by armed groups on pipelines stations (Ibid).

These attacks are sufficiently repeated for having disrupted gas exports to Israel and Jordan through pipes crossing the Sinai Peninsula and from the El Arish site (BBC News Middle East, New attack on Egypt gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan, 10 November 2011; AFP, The New-York Times, Pipeline supplying Israel is attacked, February 4, 2012)This “war on pipelines” has national, but also regional consequences, as Jordan depends on Egyptian gas to produce, until now, 80% of its electricity (EIA, ibid).

386px-Arab_Gas_Pipeline

Egypt is a large producer and exporter of natural gas. Its proven reserves of 77 trillion cubic feet are the highest in Africa after Nigeria and Algeria (Egypt, Energy information Agency, 2013). Egyptian dry natural gas is exported, when the supply was not disrupted by attacks and by the rapidly growing domestic demand, through the Arab Gas Pipeline to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, with a Mediterranean subsea segment joining El Arish to Ashkelon in Israel.

The attacks are carried out by groups of Bedouins trying to exert pressure on the Egyptian government, by Islamists groups (Al Arabya News, Egypt militants blow up Sinai gas pipeline, 28 January 2014), and by groups possibly opposed to the gas exports to Israel (Reuters, Blast rocks Egypt gas pipeline to Israel, Jordan, Sat July 21, 2012).

These attacks take place in the larger context of the current and very violent struggle opposing the Egyptian government to its armed opponents, especially armed factions of the Muslim Brotherhood and other violent extremist religious groups, such as Ansar Beit al Maqdis (Al Arabya, ibid). Another dimension of those is the fact that Egyptian natural gas was sold at too low a price, which induced huge financial losses to Egypt, largely because of corruption (Al Monitor, Bel Trew, Egypt turns to Israel to address shortage of natural gas, March 23, 2014) .

However, these attacks on the gas pipelines have a political and strategic role that other and more “conventional” bombings and raids cannot have, because they aim at the very conditions of urban life in Egypt. They aggravate and reinforce the accelerating trend of Egyptian growing energy demand, which domestic price is heavily subsided for social reasons, to the point that, in 2013, for the first time, the country became an importer of natural gas (Bloomberg, Gismatullin, Egypt importing gas for the first time as export disappear, dec 11, 2012). Public subsidies are 80% energy related and amount for a third of the government spending and are a major reason for the public deficit (Pascal Deveux, Egypt Crisis in the energy sector, October 2013).

Attacking Egyptian urban life conditions

640px-2011_Cairo_5339251183

egypt pop density scEgypt is naturally a very arid country. The “liveable” Egypt lies along the river Nile and most of the population is concentrated between Cairo and the Nile Delta and its Mediterranean littoral and a few cities along the river. Today, the population has reached almost 85 million people when it numbered only 59,312 million in 1996, showing its demographic dynamism, while economic and natural resources are extremely limited. As a result, the Egyptian economy depends largely on tourism, which has plummeted, (14,5 millions tourists in 2010, 10 millions in 2011, according to the Sarah Gordon, MailOnLine, Egypt tourist number drops by 28% as security is Stepped up on Sharm El Sheikh, 18 march 2014), on the tolls paid to use the Suez Canal, on a small domestic production and a few exports, especially natural gas, while becoming an importer of the same commodity.

That said, in Egypt, the use of energy, especially the production of electricity, has a very specific function  because it helps to (partially) protect people and activities from the desert atmospheric heat, through the use of millions of domestic air conditioners and refrigerators.

640px-0021_Cairo_in_smog,_2010

In fact, air conditioning, as well as food refrigeration, have become a mean to create an artificial “collective climate bubble” (Peter Sloterdijk, Dans le même bateau, essai sur l’hyperpolitique, 2003) in order to make contemporary industrial-urban life possible in the Middle East. Without it, life conditions become very harsh because of the daily heat, combined with high levels of air pollution, especially in the Greater Cairo area with its 20 million people living in a giant city installed between the river Nile and the desert (World Bank, For better or for worse : air pollution in greater Cairo, 2013).

Air conditioning and refrigeration are dependent upon electricity, which is produced through hydropower for one-third and through natural gas power plants for the rest. Thus, there is a steady increase in power production due to the national demographic growth, with peaks, especially from May to September, when, in average, daily temperature are above 31C°.

The multiplication of power outages have not only economic consequences, already dangerous, but they turn the urban environment into a kind of giant, collective “trap”, which exacerbates the perception of the population of very quickly degrading life conditions .

Even more politically dangerous for the legitimacy of any government, these moments make people feel that they are on their own, and that the government is unable to protect their basic life conditions, i.e. in a country such as Egypt, protecting them, their water and their food from the desert heat, made even more terrible by a degraded urban environment.  Given, that since 2008 (Klare, The coming global explosion, 2013), food prices have spiked, power outages are directly putting at risk the health and food security of millions of people.

640px-Afternoon_prayers_bringing_a_sense_of_calm_before_protests_start_again_-_Flickr_-_Al_Jazeera_English

During summer, electricity production is increased, in order to power dozens of millions of air conditioners and refrigerators, without which there is no current collective, urban, industrial, office or touristic activity possible.

There has been major episodes of power disruption during the summers of 2010, 2012 and 2013 (FEMISE, Abeer El Shennawy, Sherwan Robinson, Dirk Willenbockel, Climate change and economic growth: an inter temporal general equilibrium analysis for Egypt, 2013), due to the spikes created by the demand of electricity originating from both individuals and businesses, which showed that the Egyptian energy infrastructure is not adapted to this growing demand.

640px-Aswan_dam_power_plant

In other words, the attacks on the gas pipelines are not only dangerous for one of the few sources of income of the government and of the private sector. They have the potential to endanger the natural gas supply needed by the power plants upon which depend the urban life conditions in Egypt, and thus the ability for people to be active and fed in a specific modern way, yet ill-adapted to the imperatives of a naturally arid and very hot country with a fragile and often overwhelmed energy infrastructure. One must remember that the Mubarak regime was overthrown because people were protesting against the repression and corruption of the regime, and also against the degradation of their conditions of living (Corm, ibid).

These attacks are a form of terrorism, which could question in a new way the legitimacy of the government, by showing its inability to protect a specific normative way of life that has been promoted as enhancing a specific vision of the material security of the citizens, and upon which rests the basic feature of the collective life conditions as defined by this norm. This could be a strong blow to the legitimacy of the government, especially while the economic conditions of Egyptian people are particularly fragile (Brew, ibid).

Participants_holding_flags_and_pictures_of_Abdel_Fateh_el_Sissi

Moreover, this “low intensity pipelines warfare”, which is a “national stressor” on the energy infrastructure, economy and life conditions, reveals another major challenge for Egypt.  In effect, the question is to know if it is going to be able to adapt to the rising temperatures induced by climate change between today and the next fifty years (FEMISE, ibid), given that the current energy conditions and infrastructures are barely able to sustain the economic and social life of the country in the face of its current  climate conditions (Bloomberg, ibid).

The already stressed political, economic and social situation of Egypt must now be analysed by combining its contemporary state with the current and coming consequences of climate change, this “global stressor”.

To be (soon) continued…

Pattern – Higher Global Temperatures, Earlier Impacts and the Shale Fuels Bounty

We most probably need to get ready for a 2C global temperatures’ increase and its harsh impact on the world relatively rapidly, as a temperatures’ rise of 6C – and above – by the end of the century is increasingly probable. Indeed, interests and current challenges and tensions are most likely to favour shale fuels’ production and policies and adversely affect “green efforts”. Other adverse ecological impacts on global security issues such as water and biodiversity may be enhanced and must be monitored. Citizens’ mobilization on those issues may evolve as trade-offs will be done, and as impacts will be felt.

Analysis

climate change, greenland, melt, World BankOn 18 November, the World Bank published a new report warning about the dire impacts of temperatures rising over 2C or worse over 4C, and admonishes staying below the 2C target.

However, if you remember last week’s news, PricewaterhouseCoopers has published another report that underlines that warming of at least 6C by the end of the century is possible, if the current efforts, or lack thereof, at tackling the problem are not considerably stepped up.

Meanwhile, the IEA has hailed, again last week, what had been discussed for a few months in various energy related fora, a new position for the “United States [that] will overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s top oil producer by 2017″, thanks to tight light oil (shale oil) and shale gas.

Despite controversies on the reality of this forecast, it is almost certain that the U.S., as well as all other countries who could see their oil and gas production boosted by use of shale oil and gas will promote this “new” fossil fuel policy, as pointed out in this article:

U.S. the New Saudi Arabia? Peak Oilers Scoff: The U.S. is set to increase oil production so much that it will overtake Saudi Arabia and become the world’s biggest producer by around 2… (by Peter CoyBusinessweek)

The very tense – and increasingly so – international situation and its effect on energy prices, when energy is crucial in terms of defence, notably for power projection, may only enhance the desire to get hold of black gold. Meanwhile, the sovereign debt, financial and economic crises, the related domestic unrest and ongoing polarisation are likely to surround the possibility of new revenues and reduced energy imports with the aura of a miraculous solution.

Oil rises as Israel-Hamas fight continues – BANGKOK (AP): The price of oil rose to nearly $88 a barrel Monday in Asia as the conflict between Israel and Hamas showed no signs… (SFGate)

If we add the lobbying by oil interests and related industries and the currently very powerful position of a financial establishment looking for growth of profits – one pole of the polarization – then the likelihood to see governments ruling over countries with shale deposits “putting oil subsidies into green infrastructure” is close to zero or even nil… unless a miracle happens.

Put oil subsidies into green infrastructure: World Bank – Times LIVE: The initiative was one of several it promoted in releasing its latest report on global warming, “Turn Down the Heat.” World Bank President…

But then, this means that we do have to get ready for the fateful 6C increase or more by the end of the century. This means that the timeline for the increase in temperature is changing and thus that the 2C and then 4C increase will be reached much earlier. We must thus re-evaluate current and near future impacts of climate change without forgetting other ecosystemic effects, such as, for example, the consequences of fracking on water, when water is another global security concern.

However, citizens also mobilize around those issues, as is not lost on the IEA (see last slide).

Thus, shall we see an increased mobilization and tension, or will citizens, too, have to face the difficult choice of issues and problems prioritization? What will result from the trade-offs? How those trade-offs will then evolve as adverse impacts are felt earlier? How will other players, with other interests alter the chessboard?

Reference

The World Bank – Climate Change – Climate Change Report Warns of Dramatically Warmer World This Century

PwC Report States that Global Temperatures will Increase by 6°C by 2100, OilPrice.com.

U.S. to overtake Saudi as top oil producer: IEA, Reuters, Peg Mackey.

U.S. the New Saudi Arabia? Peak Oilers Scoff by Peter Coy, Businessweek

Put oil subsidies into green infrastructure: World Bank – Times LIVE

Oil rises as Israel-Hamas fight continues – BANGKOK (AP), SFGate

Light Tight Oil and Unconventional Gas: ‘Golden Rules’ to Stay On-track (slides), INTERNATIONAL ENERGY AGENCY