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  • Author: Matteo Colombo
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean have been enthusiastically received by international observers, although the current price dynamics advises caution. This commentary both explores the opportunities of political and economic collaboration for the states of the region and beyond, and analyses the financial hazards of gas extraction and selling in a global scenario characterised by low prices and decreasing demand. The arguments put forward are that considerable public investment from regional and European states and a clear stance towards Turkey are necessary conditions to exploit gas opportunities and that the time has come for governments to take these steps. In greater detail, European states and regional governments should soon make a final decision on whether or not to build a pipeline from the gas fields of Egypt, Israel and Cyprus to Italy (EastMed) and on if Turkey should be included in the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF): a regional platform to manage gas prices and the energy flow from producing to consuming states.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Regional Cooperation, Natural Resources, Gas
  • Political Geography: Europe, Mediterranean
  • Author: Ehud Eiran, Aviad Rubin
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Although the Mediterranean was traditionally an afterthought in Israeli geopolitical thinking, the 2000s recorded a shift: Israel is turning to the sea. The Mediterranean is capturing a growing role in Israeli geostrategic thinking. This is in large part the result of the discovery and development of gas in the Mediterranean Sea beginning in the late 1990s. Developed rather quickly, these gas reserves made Israel energy self-sufficient, a significant geo-strategic transformation. Prior to these discoveries, energy was a serious concern. The state had no energy resources, and for decades found it challenging to secure supply in the face of Arab hostility. With the gas discoveries, Israel gained not only energy independence, but also an economic and political tool. Israeli agreements to export gas to Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority gave Israel important leverage. The gas discoveries in the Mediterranean further offered the possibility for export to Europe if indeed Israeli-Greek–Cypriote designs to build an undersea pipe will materialize. The new maritime energy source contributed to the expansion of the Israeli navy. Once a junior player in the Israeli armed forces, in 2013 the navy was entrusted by the government to protect the gas depots, despite the fact that they are held in private hands (including by non-Israeli corporations) and are outside of Israel’s territorial waters. The new task, alongside the expansion of the submarine flotilla (probably as part of a future nuclear deterrent against Iran), awarded the fleet a more important role in Israel’s national security establishment and resource allocation. It also allowed Israel to use the force for international cooperation and military diplomacy in the region. This turn to the sea also contributed to an emerging quasi-alliance with Cyprus and Greece, which includes, among many other areas, the possible joint gas export project, military exercises, and bi-annual trilateral summits between these countries’ leaders. Like its regional allies, Israel is affected by growing Chinese interest in the Mediterranean. Chinese corporations contracted the expansion of Israel’s two largest ports, Ashdod and Haifa. The latter was substantial enough to irk the US, whose navy used the Haifa port in the past for re-supply. Israeli and Chinese actors are in early phases of developing a Chinese funded, or owned, high speed train from Israel’s Red Sea port in Eilat to the Mediterranean port of Ashdod, that will serve as an alternate route for the Suez Canal portion of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Geopolitics, Refugees
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Mediterranean
  • Author: Paul Rivlin
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: The civil war that has prevailed in Libya since the fall of the Qaddafi regime in 2011 has become increasingly internationalized. Foreign powers have taken sides in the war, supplying weapons, mercenaries and other support. In recent months, Turkey’s increased intervention in support of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) has added another element to the internationalization of the conflict. In order to obtain military support, the GNA has allied itself with Turkey’s plan to gain control of access to the Eastern Mediterranean and its gas-fields. This poses a threat to Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt, who are all cooperating in the utilization of those fields and the possible development of pipelines to Europe.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North America
  • Author: Theo Neethling
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In recent years, Russian president Vladimir Putin has increasingly placed a high premium on re-building Russia’s global influence in Africa. During the heyday of the Soviet Union, Russian influence on the continent was significant, especially on an ideological level. The Cold War with the United States made Africa a land of contention, with the two superpowers waging proxy wars by aligning and supporting different African movements, fuelling conflict on the continent by providing political support, money and weapons. However, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, and superpower rivalry ended, Africa lost its strategic role. There is little doubt that, today, much of Moscow’s involvement in Africa relates to Putin’s desire to revive his country’s great-power status. In this context, Africa has become strategic in at least two ways: for the economic benefits stemming from its mineral wealth, and for providing Russia with a market to export weapons and military assistance, often merging these two interests in an arms-for-resources approach.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Weapons , Conflict
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Katerina Sokou, Aristotle Tziampiris
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The challenging geography of Greece makes it hard for the country to take full advantage of its natural resources and expand its energy grid. Though it has doubled its share of renewables, it needs to redouble those efforts to reach the EU’s ambitious goal of covering a third of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030. The Greek islands that have been at the forefront of the migration and refugee crises would particularly benefit from a targeted policy to reach that goal, as the transition would increase their energy security, reduce their energy costs, and diversify their economies. Greece has the potential to be a model of sustainability that would enhance the stability of the entire Eastern Med.
  • Topic: Security, Climate Change, Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Refugee Crisis, Sustainability
  • Political Geography: Europe, Greece, Mediterranean
  • Author: Paul Rivlin
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: Paul Rivlin analyzes the economic background of China's involvement in the Middle East. Several key questions arise with respect to China’s economic involvement in the Middle East: What are China’s interests in the Middle East? How far are they dominated by its energy needs? How are they affected by its relations with the United States?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Foreign Direct Investment, Geopolitics, Economy
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East
  • Author: Paul Rivlin
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: Paul Rivlin analyzes possible future directions for the global oil market, against the backdrop of ongoing geopolitical developments in the Middle East and elsewhere.
  • Topic: Development, Energy Policy, Oil, Global Markets, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Paul Rivlin
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: Paul Rivlin examines the economic effects of the recent drone strikes carried out in Saudi Arabia by Iranian proxies. On 14 September, drones and/or missiles hit the Abqaiq processing facility in Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil processing plant. In addition, fires engulfed the Khurais oil field after it was also hit. While there is uncertainty about where the attack came from, it is widely agreed that Iran was behind it. Iran, whose economy is suffering badly from the effects of sanctions as well as massive mismanagement, has used proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen against its enemies: Saudi Arabia, Israel and the US. The attacks on Saudi Arabia are among the most dramatic and economically significant in this war.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Drones, Economy, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Paul Rivlin
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: In the new issue of Iqtisadi, Paul Rivlin examines the popular protests in Iraq during October 2019 from an economic angle. At the beginning of October, after days of riots in Baghdad, a nationwide curfew was imposed. The demonstrations were led by young men who claimed they have been denied job prospects by a system of state-sponsored corruption that reserved jobs to those with connections. This patronage network meant that ministries were run as fiefdoms, with revenues from services dispensed among patrons, who include senior officials and militias.[1] Protesters defied the curfews in parts of Iraq, taking to the streets in increasing numbers, while confrontations resulted in the death of over 250 people over the course of October.[2] As the country was paralyzed by anti-government demonstrations, the country’s most important Shiʿa cleric, Ayatollah ʿAli Sistani, issued a warning to both sides to end the violence “before it’s too late.”[3]
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Economy, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Arnault Barichella
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Environmental issues have frequently enjoyed bipartisan support in American history: the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1963 under Democratic President Johnson, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established in 1970 under Republican President Nixon. This began to change in the 1980s under President Reagan, due to the rise of neoliberal economic theories pioneered by Republicans. Conservatives increasingly viewed environmental regulations as economic impediments. Partisanship on this issue then accelerated throughout the 1990s and 2000s, subject to the influence of powerful lobbying groups. President Bush Jr. refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, actively promoted fossil fuels, and his administration attempted to cast doubt about the science of climate change. Climate partisanship somewhat abated during the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections, since both McCain and Romney were ‘moderate’ Republicans.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Elections, Legislation, Donald Trump, Barack Obama
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has replaced Total of France as a major operator in the development of phase 11 of the South Pars gas field. This is a substantial gain for the Iranian government, which strives to lure international investors to shore up its economy following the withdrawal of most foreign companies from the market due to US sanctions in last August and November. However, the project appears to hit many hurdles, including the Chinese company’s fears of heavy US fines or escalation of the US ongoing trade war against the county in the coming period.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Government, Oil, Sanctions, Gas, Trade Wars
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Asia
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: The Indian energy sector faces a dilemma amid the US administration plans to impose the second batch of sanctions on Iran in November. The US exerts pressure on the main buyers of Iranian oil, including India, to stop importing it in the coming period. For India, Iranian oil is one of the indispensable options for its energy security because of the preferential terms granted by Iran. Despite the Indian stance rejecting the US sanctions, Indian refineries have decided to halt the Iranian oil shipments starting from next November, and hence they may turn to other producers to fill the potential gap, but at a higher cost.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Sanctions, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, South Asia, Middle East, India, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Thibaud Voïta
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: During its two sessions (lianghui) in March 2018, the National People’s Congress (NPC) announced China’s most important institutional reforms in the last 30 years. These changes occurred right after Xi Jinping consolidated his power and at a time when stakeholders working in the energy field were expecting more clarity on policy orientations. Though the reforms are in line with those initiated since the 2000s, the energy sector is likely to be deeply affected by the new institutional setting, which reflects China’s energy policy path with a strong emphasis towards low-carbon technologies and a rise in importance of environmental issues, alongside Xi’s institutional modernization through greater centralization and control. Nevertheless, it is too early though to judge whether this will effectively impact the balance of power with the fossil fuel related institutions and policies. The day Environment became more important than energy The environment sector is at the core of the reforms, which probably reflects the will to put environmental protection ahead of energy issues. The latest reforms established a Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) which gathers climate and environment responsibilities, that used to be spread between a number of bodies. Unveiled in April, the MEE is now in charge of managing most environmental issues, and theoretically able to draft and empower regulations. In addition, it now represents China in international climate negotiations. In order to manage these new duties, MEE staff increased from 300 to 500.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Governance, Xi Jinping
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Olivier Appert
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: The 14 July 2015 Vienna agreement on Iran’s nuclear activities (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPoA) was a game changer on the geopolitics in the Middle East and for the oil market. The oil sanctions were lifted and Iran increased significantly its production and exports. On 8 May 2018, President Trump announced that the United Stated (US) would withdraw from the agreement. Financial sanctions were reintroduced. From 5 November 2018 onwards, further sanctions will be re-imposed more specifically on petroleum related transactions, including the purchase of petroleum, petroleum products and petrochemical products. What could be the impact of this new embargo? Is there a risk of a new oil supply and price shock?
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Treaties and Agreements, Sanctions, Global Markets
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Isabelle Rousseau
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Mexico’s Energy Reform (hereafter, the Reform) enacted on December 20th 2013, and the Secondary Laws adopted on August 11th 2014, marked a milestone in the history and the development of the Mexican energy sector. These major changes were unexpected considering that multiple sectorial reforms pursued since the 1990s had systemically failed to address the structural problems which had been mounting over the years.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Governance, Reform, Legislation, Investment
  • Political Geography: Central America, Mexico
  • Author: Richard Nephew
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: The president’s recent statement that OPEC should reduce their prices may merely be an attempt to assign blame for rising gasoline prices in the midst of the US driving season or an even more cynical attempt to rally his political base in opposition to globalism. Or, it may have something to do with the president’s own decision to create a crisis with Iran. While attention is duly paid to how much Americans have to pay at the pump, a more subtle and complicated story will soon play out with respect to Iran and the reapplication of US sanctions ordered by Trump on May 8, 2018. In fact, unless oil prices are contained, the primary result of the president’s action may be to ensure that Iran profits from the oil market risks that sanctions have created.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Geopolitics, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: America, Iran, Global Focus
  • Author: Craig Lawrence
  • Publication Date: 12-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Climate, topography, population, culture, economics, and finance all conspire to raise significant barriers to providing economic and social infrastructure critical to Papua New Guinea's future development. Compared to developed economies, the physical stock of infrastructure assets in Papua New Guinea is insufficient to deliver the economic and social services needed to drive faster economic growth and improve human development. It faces significant choices as a result that may also be influenced by the public infrastructure requirements of foreign direct investment in export oriented extractive resource sectors. A lack of effective national infrastructure planning and funding constrain PNG's economy and its ability to improve the lives of its citizens through provision of these infrastructure services. This paper briefly reviews several key infrastructure sectors - telecommunications, transport, energy, and urban water - to provide snapshots of their status, identify challenges, and where possible make relevant international comparisons. It also looks at ways to improve the delivery of relevant economic infrastructure: (i) effective planning and prioritisation; (ii) funding strategies for infrastructure investment; (iii) funding of ongoing infrastructure operations; and (iv) consideration of infrastructure life cycle issues. In addition, in the future effective economic regulation of PNG commercialised infrastructure services will help ensure that consumers benefit from these services. The Independent Consumer and Competition Commission will therefore have an increasingly important role to play.
  • Topic: Development, Energy Policy, Infrastructure, Economic growth
  • Political Geography: AustralAsia, Papua New Guinea
  • Author: Sam Geall
  • Publication Date: 11-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: President Trump’s retreat on climate change put China ‘in the driver’s seat’. But to really demonstrate leadership, China needs to green its overseas investments. President Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement shone a light on China’s efforts to fight climate change, which are as much about economics and technology as environmental responsibility. Longer-term technological and economic change may lead China to eventually show greater diplomatic ambition on climate. China cannot assume an international leadership position on climate until it deepens its domestic energy transition and greens its overseas investments.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Treaties and Agreements, Investment
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Debalina Ghoshal
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Council on International Policy (CIP)
  • Abstract: For years, the Chinese have remained soft towards North Korea when it came to imposing sanctions on them for their nuclear and ballistic missile tests. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has prohibited Pyongyang from testing nuclear and ballistic missiles but yet Pyongyang has continued to do develop and conduct nuclear and ballistic missile tests. In February 2017, North Korea test fired a ballistic missile which was reported to be a modified version of their Musudan missile with range of 2500-4000km. At present, North Korea’s missile arsenal consists Scud-D, Nodong, Taepo Dong-1 and 2 and Musudan ballistic missiles. In addition, North Korea is also working on submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
  • Topic: Energy Policy, International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: China, North Korea