Women are a rare sight at the headquarters of Saudi Aramco, and they’re almost never seen in the oilfields. Hiba Dialdin wants to change that—even if it means changing the entire corporate culture of the largest petroleum conglomerate on Earth.

Dialdin, a petroleum engineering consultant at Saudi Aramco, was one of five women to speak January 13 in Abu Dhabi at a panel during the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum. The discussion coincided with the release of the Council’s report, “Energy: Driving Force Behind Increasing Female Participation in the Gulf?”

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International Energy Agency chief, Fatih Birol, says China’s shift toward renewables has global implications

Sharply falling prices for solar energy, China’s new pro-environment policies, and emerging US dominance in world oil and gas production are all shaping global energy markets for decades to come, said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Delivering a keynote address January 13 on the second and final day of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi, Birol said the cost of solar power will tumble by half in the next three years as major countries turn to the sun as their preferred source of energy.

At the same time, he said, China’s new economic policy favors a shift from heavy industry such as manufacturing to a lighter, more modern and less polluting economic base.

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On January 12, US President Donald J. Trump announced he would renew a number of waivers to provide limited sanctions relief to Iran in order to continue to implement the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  At the same time, Trump committed to withdraw from the deal if he could not reach agreement with European allies and obtain US legislation to threaten additional sanctions against Iran if it does not address what Trump perceives as flaws in the nuclear deal. Trump’s move marks a continuation of the successful policies of former US President Barack Obama to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, yet supplements this policy with unpredictability and potential chaos in the future.

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When it comes to nuclear energy, there are two distinct and opposing trends in the world today—in the United States and Europe, aging reactors are being phased out and there is a reluctance to build new ones, while countries like China are on a building spree, according to Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.

Birol worries about what will replace nuclear energy in countries that are decommissioning their aging plants. “What are we going to do with the phasing out of nuclear… what are the environmental, economic, and market implications? For me, that is a very serious issue for the OECD countries,” he said referring to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

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Stabilizing petroleum prices, “peak oil,” and the implications of a possible collapse of the Iran nuclear deal dominated a January 13 panel discussion in Abu Dhabi on the long-term future of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

But for now, OPEC’s fourteen members have little to worry about, Mohammad Barkindo—the organization’s Nigerian secretary general—assured participants on the second and final day of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum.

“We have survived so many funerals, and we are so proud of being the proverbial cat with nine lives,” said Barkindo, who in August 2016 assumed leadership of the Vienna-based organization for a three-year term.

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US Deputy Secretary of Energy, Dan Brouillette, on January 13 lashed out at what he described as the “war on coal” in the United States which, he said, had thwarted the construction of clean power plants, discouraged investments in new mining operations, and, as a result, put the nation at risk.

Noting that coal and nuclear account for more than half of the total grid energy in the United States, Brouillette said: “When a crisis strikes our grid these two fuels are some of the most reliable that we have. They are available 24x7 to keep the lights on and disaster away.”

“So, clearly, fewer coal and nuclear plants mean that the lights will go out and stay out when we face our next emergency. From the functioning of our hospitals to the maintenance of our military assets, the results could be catastrophic,” he warned.

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The uncertainty caused by US President Donald J. Trump’s criticism of the Iran nuclear deal has contributed to a stagnation of Iran’s economy—the underlying cause of the ongoing anti-government protests in the Islamic Republic, according to a former Obama administration official.

On January 12, Trump agreed to one last time waive sanctions on Iran, but gave the US Congress and European allies 120 days to fix the nuclear deal or else the United States would unilaterally pull out.

“We do have to keep the pressure up,” said Amos Hochstein, senior vice president for marketing at Tellurian Inc. “I think we can keep the deal and not threaten to leave it unilaterally, work with allies to improve whatever we can, while upgrading pressure on Iran,” he said.

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New York City’s lawsuit against the Big Five oil companies holding them accountable for the destruction of the city caused by climate change-related storms makes apparent that the energy industry must change course in 2018 in order to sustain investment and production, according to a top official at a major petroleum company.

“The oil and gas companies are being sued and blamed for climate change like the cigarette companies were blamed for cancer,” Majid Jafar, chief executive officer of Crescent Petroleum, said at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi on January 12. “I believe in climate change, but we’re not going to get there with slogans and politics.”

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Beijing’s strategy seen likely to have a global impact

China’s heavy investment in electric cars will have a significant global impact, panelists said at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi on January 12.

China has “put all of their R&D bet on mobility in electric vehicles, not one dime in internal combustion engines,” said Adnan Z. Amin, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

“Their bet is that electrical mobility is going to be the future and they are developing an industrial edge that is going to give them an advantage,” he added.

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The United Arab Emirates’ minister of energy and industry said on January 12 that a deal that cuts oil output with the goal of pushing prices higher will stick through the end of December 2018—despite rumblings in Russia for an early exit.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi, Suhail Mohamed Faraj Al Mazrouei, the UAE’s minister of energy and industry, said he was impressed by how well the deal between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC countries had held together.

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