Author Archives: thijs

IEA’s Opening to Rising Powers Promises Huge Benefits

WPRThe IEA recently announced that it would start talks with some emerging powers (notably China, India, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico and Indonesia) with an eye to form an “association.” In a brief interview with World Politics Review, I comment on the motivations and effects of this new move, as well as the potential barriers to a deal. The full text of the interview is available here.

Heeft België schaliegas nodig?

steenkoolgasSinds de hausse in de niet-conventionele gaswinning in de Verenigde Staten is er een wereldwijde hype ontstaan rond schaliegas en andere niet-conventionele gasproductie. Moet België mee op de kar springen? Deze nota betoogt van niet. België heeft géén schalie- of steenkoolgas nodig. Het zal ons niet onafhankelijk maken van het buitenland qua energievoorziening en het zal niet leiden tot aanzienlijke nieuwe staatsinkomsten of extra tewerkstelling. Niet-conventioneel aardgas is geen vorm van groene energie maar een fossiele brandstof met een nog altijd grote CO2-afdruk. Gezien de beperkte wereldwijde quota van resterende CO2 emissies is het veiliger om conventioneel aardgas te gebruiken als transitiebrandstof, aangezien daar minder risico’s aan verbonden zijn: contaminatie van de waterhuishouding, onvakkundige verwerking van de geproduceerde toxische stoffen, industrialisering van groene regio’s en methaanlekken zijn enkele van de meest voorkomende milieurisico’s en problemen die geassocieerd worden met niet-conventionele gaswinning. De niet-conventionele gassector kan onnodige concurrentie opleveren voor de hernieuwbare energiesector, ook al kan aardgas een nuttige functie vervullen als back-up in de elektriciteitssector voor de fluctuerende wind- en zonne-energie. Er is nood aan een geïnformeerd maatschappelijk en politiek debat over de (on)wenselijkheid van niet-conventionele gaswinning in België.

Lees de volledige nota voor het impulscongres van Groen hier.

Amerika niet langer afhankelijk van olie uit het Midden Oosten?

netanyahuobamaVolgt u het bezoek van Barack Obama aan Israël een beetje? Hij wil vooral ‘luisteren’, en niet zozeer actief nieuwe oplossingen zoeken in de vredesonderhandelingen in het gebied.

Zou dat een teken zijn dat de VS een andere buitenlands beleid gaat voeren, cfr de ‘Roosevelt Corollary‘?

De Italiaanse krant La Stampa schrijft dat Amerika tegenwoordig welhaast zonder  olie uit de Golf kan, dankzij de schaliegasontginningen in Canada, de olie uit Texas en Noord-Dakota, en de Keystone Pipeline.

Obama zou daarom de eerste president zijn sinds Franklin D. Roosevelt die het zich kan permitteren om ten aanzien van het Midden Oosten geen actieve interveniërende politiek te voerenn, maar op de achtergrond te blijven, alsdus La Stampa.

Zou het?

Beluister het interview hier.

Over methaanijs

methaanijs

Japan heeft zelf geen fossiele energiebronnen, en kernenergie ligt daar sinds een jaar of twee nogal moeilijk. Maar het land is een grootverbruiker van energie en dus naarstig op zoek naar alternatieven voor de dure olie-import.

En kijk, vorige week zijn Japanse wetenschappers er voor het eerst in geslaagd om methaangas  uit ijskristallen onder de oceaanbodem te winnen.

Als de proefnemingen verder goed verlopen zou de commerciële winning van methaanijs aka methaanhydraat over een jaar of drie een aanvang kunnen nemen. Hopen ze in Japan.

De Japanse methaanijsvoorraad in de Nankai Trog (50 km van de kust) zou groot genoeg zijn om het land voor 10 jaar van gas te voorzien.

Maar wereldwijd zouden de sedimentaire bestanden aan methaanhydraat twee tot tien maal zoveel methaan bevatten als alle bekende aardgasreserves.

Methaanhydraatwinning: revolutie in de mondiale energievoorziening of doos van Pandora?

Beluister het interview hier.

Oil, energy poverty and resource dependence in West Africa

The new rush to discover and exploit hydrocarbon resources in West Africa, and particularly in the Gulf of Guinea, has raised hopes in the affected countries for new petroleum wealth and economic development. History shows, however, that major oil and gas discoveries have a very mixed record, at best, in terms of societal gains and political stability. This article therefore assesses the macroeconomic and governance implications of the recent oil and gas rush in West Africa. Clearly, sound management of the resource revenues will be crucial in national efforts to tackle poverty and promote socio-economic development. While there is a large body of literature available on the issues and best practices related to oil and gas resource management and the design of associated institutions and financial mechanisms, the article fills two gaps. First, while Nigeria and Angola have received ample attention, this article focuses on some smaller countries in the Gulf of Guinea that have only recently emerged as oil and gas producers, such as Liberia, Niger and Sierra Leone. Secondly, it highlights implications for two major socio-economic characteristics of these emerging resource-rich states: (1) energy poverty; and (2) agricultural dependence and lock-in on single crops. The early evolution of institutions to manage the newfound revenues is found to be critical to long-term prosperity or instability. A legacy of beneficial or problematic social impact of new resources hinges on the success in using the new petroleum resources to establish an ‘enabling environment’ where resource wealth is seen across society as a means to build stable institutions, reduce social and economic inequality and drive national prosperity.

The OECD system’s role in energy and taxation

Together with Dries Lesage, I have written a piece on the role of the OECD/IEA in global taxation and energy governance. The piece is part of a special issue of Global Governance on regime complexity. The article argues that, although the OECD system is often portrayed as an agency in crisis, the organization seems to thrive when it comes to both global energy and global taxation governance. We suggest the OECD’s distinct working methods, its close ties with the G8, and path dependency loom large in explaining this outcome. At the same time, we urge the OECD to consider expanding its membership towards the largest emerging economies for reasons of legitimacy and effectiveness. Learn more.

Workshop on the shifting (geo)politics of energy

Call for papers | Each year, the “Politicologenetmaal” brings together political scientists from the Low Countries and beyond. This year’s edition will take place in Ghent, Belgium, on May 30-31, 2013. Traditionally, the conference starts on Thursday at noon and lasts until Friday at about the same time. Together with Sijbren de Jong (HCSS), I’m organizing a panel on “the shifting (geo)politics of energy” and we kindly invite paper proposals that fit the panel outline described below. The goal of the workshop is to get acquainted and to discuss (preliminary) research results with colleagues. We may also explore the possibility of a joint publication.

Panel conveners

Thijs Van de Graaf, Ghent University, thijs.vandegraaf@ugent.be
Sijbren de Jong, The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, sijbrendejong@hcss.nl

Outline of the panel

Energy makes headlines in international affairs almost daily. From the turbulent oil markets in the wake of the Arab Spring to the Fukushima nuclear accident and the shale gas revolution, there are ample signs that global energy markets are in flux. The driving forces behind these shifts are well-known: worldwide demand for energy is exploding, driven primarily by the economic ascent of emerging economies, while low-cost oil and gas reserves are dwindling, prompting energy companies to increasingly look for unconventional reserves and causing a global push toward a wider adoption of clean energy. Meanwhile, negotiations on finding an encompassing global agreement on climate change are deadlocked and the window of opportunity to stop global warming is closing rapidly as we continue to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

These rapid developments have paved the way for a booming literature on energy security from a multitude of analytical perspectives. Perhaps the largest set of studies has focused on the geopolitical and security consequences of climate change, energy scarcity and dependence on foreign suppliers. More recently, scholars have also begun to look at energy issues through the prism of global governance and polycentricity. Yet another strand in the literature has tried to define and measure the concept of “energy security” and apply it to different countries, technologies and energy sources. Still others have looked at the role of markets, non-state actors, and spheres of private authority in global energy.

This workshop invites both empirical and theoretical contributions that investigate recent trends in energy markets and their geopolitical and governance implications. These trends include the Western oil sanctions against Iran, the post-Fukushima outlook for nuclear power, continued fears over proliferation of nuclear weapons, new oil and gas findings in Africa, the US and Latin America, the shale gas revolution, the deadlock in the international climate negotiations, efforts to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, the race for the Arctic, resource nationalism in producer countries, the UN’s campaign to alleviate energy poverty, etc.

Papers can focus on a broad range of topics, cutting across different energy sources (conventional, as well as alternative energy), steps in the energy value chain (exploration, production and consumption), and political scales (national, regional, global). We particularly welcome contributions that make sense of recent energy developments by drawing on concepts and theories of political science and international relations.

Practical details

Paper proposals may be sent to Thijs Van de Graaf (thijs.vandegraaf@ugent.be) and Sijbren de Jong (sijbrendejong@hcss.nl) before February 15, 2013. The panel conveners will make a selection of the proposals and inform authors of their decision by March 1.

There is a registration fee of 125 euros for members of the Dutch and Flemish political science associations (NKPW and VPW) and for graduate students. For non-members the fee is 175 euros. Participation on only one of the two days (either Thursday or Friday) is also possible at a lower cost. More information can be found on the website of the Politicologenetmaal 2013.

New review of our book on global energy governance

The International Journal of Environment and Pollution recently published a review of our book Global Energy Governance in a Multipolar World (2010). Luc Hens of VITO/Flemish Institute for Technological Research judges that our book “is well documented, offers a wealth of references and is most accessible, also for non-experts of international environmental policy. Therefore it is warmly recommended to an academic audience of teachers, researchers and master degree students on interdisciplinary environmental issues.”

Learn more.