America’s Energy Edge: The Geopolitical Consequences of the Shale Revolution

Is America’s shale-based energy revolution having at least one expected effect? Yes, say Robert Blackwill and Meghan O’Sullivan. In the case of global energy production, it’s facilitating a gradual shift away from traditional suppliers in Eurasia and the Middle East.

Only five years ago, the world’s supply of oil appeared to be peaking, and as conventional gas production declined in the United States, it seemed that the country would become dependent on costly natural gas imports. But in the years since, those predictions have proved spectacularly wrong. Global energy production has begun to shift away from traditional suppliers in Eurasia and the Middle East, as producers tap unconventional gas and oil resources around the world, from the waters of Australia, Brazil, Africa, and the Mediterranean to the oil sands of Alberta. The greatest revolution, however, has taken place in the United States, where producers have taken advantage of two newly viable technologies to unlock resources once deemed commercially infeasible: horizontal drilling, which allows wells to penetrate bands of shale deep underground, and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which uses the injection of high-pressure fluid to release gas and oil from rock formations. Continue reading

Europe Needs to Wean Itself From Russian Oil and Gas…and Fast

With tensions in Ukraine nearing a breaking point, the world is collectively looking to the Western powers for resolution. But, not surprisingly, the response so far has consisted of little more than a wag of the finger, with NATO and other world leaders unanimously condemning Russia’s military action in the Crimea.

While the reasons for this muted response are manifold, it’s difficult to ignore the leverage the Russians hold in this standoff. For starters, the U.S. and other Western powers have little to gain from bringing the Crimean conflict to a head; Russia, on the other hand, greatly benefits from controlling the region, with its strategic access to the Black Sea and concentration of Russian-speaking peoples. Continue reading

The Great Gas Game over Syria

Even as much has been written about the regional and global actors pursuing their pitiless agendas in Syria, one sub-plot in the vicious drama has remained relatively unexplored. And that is the gas resource and its routes from production to the market.

The past five years have seen discoveries of immense energy reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean; both the Levant Basin located along the shores of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Gaza and Cyprus and the Nile Basin north of Egypt. According to preliminary geological surveys, the Levant Basin contains 3.5 trillion cubic meters (tcm) of gas and 1.7 billion barrels (bb) of oil. The Nile Basin contains 6 tcm of gas and 1.8 bb of oil. Continue reading

Natural gas basins could turn the Mediterranean into a “sea of prosperity”

Natural gas basins could turn the Mediterranean into a “sea of prosperity,” but there is a risk that politics may hamper economic progress, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned.

“The biggest problem in the eastern Mediterranean is not the existence of reserves, it is the potential that politics may supersede the economy,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist, told daily Hürriyet.

“If this settles down, I believe eastern Mediterranean gas will raise the prosperity of regional countries and could become an important alternative to Russian gas,” he said. Continue reading

Saudis offer Russia secret oil deal if it drops Syria

Saudi Arabia has secretly offered Russia a sweeping deal to control the global oil market and safeguard Russia’s gas contracts, if the Kremlin backs away from the Assad regime in Syria.

Leaked transcripts of a closed-door meeting between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan shed an extraordinary light on the hard-nosed Realpolitik of the two sides. Continue reading