- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

New Geopolitics of Energy Project Weighs Fuel Options

Summer 2011

As the Arab Spring raises oil prices and concerns about energy security around the globe, the links between energy, international security, and global politics are more dramatic than ever. The new Geopolitics of Energy Project at the Belfer Center has set out to tackle some of the most intriguing and pressing issues at this intersection.

Directed by Meghan L. O’Sullivan, Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs, the project explores how the dual energy impulses of the next decade – the press for ever larger amounts of conventional resources and the shift away from fossil fuels – will shape and be shaped by international politics and security.

Energy has long been a major determinant of the international system.  Energy transitions have historically been accompanied by shifts in the distribution of global power. Today, while the world holds vast reserves of oil, there are legitimate concerns about the ability to access and develop these resources due to factors such as political instability, resource nationalism, and limited capacity of the industry. Even while oil will continue to play a central role in meeting global energy demand over the next decades, the world economy will diversify its energy mix. Understanding issues such as the growth of natural gas markets and the need for new institutions to gird the development of alternatives will be essential to anticipating and addressing the challenges of this energy transition.

In its initial phase, the Geopolitics of Energy is pursuing three strands of research. A major study conducted jointly with Rice University examines the geopolitics of natural gas, exploring how different nations’ political trajectories will shape future global gas markets. A second strand of research focuses on energy and the Middle East, examining the impact of the Arab unrest on energy and how Iraq’s energy strategy will affect OPEC and the global oil market.  A third strand of research led by Jonas Meckling, a postdoctoral fellow, explores the rise of national oil companies in global energy markets and their role in shaping the energy diplomacy of major emerging economies. The Geopolitics of Energy Project is housed in the Belfer Center and currently receives funding from BP and the Dubai Initiative.

In April, the project officially launched with the Geopolitics of Energy Case Competition. More than 70 students from Harvard and MIT were challenged to devise a strategy to help Iraq turn its resource wealth into prosperity and regional prominence. Finalists presented their proposals to an esteemed panel of judges, including Katherine Hardin, David Kilcullen, Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani, Eric Rosenbach, Emma Sky, and O’Sullivan. Through its research and outreach activities such as the case competition, the Geopolitics of Energy Project will inform students, scholars, policymakers, and the public about key challenges to global energy security.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: New Geopolitics of Energy Project Weighs Fuel Options.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Summer 2011).