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Energy sector reform will continue with or without the United States, said former Mexican official

Though recent political tensions threaten the stability of US-Mexico relations, Mexico’s ongoing energy sector reform will continue without US partnership, if necessary, according to Mexico’s former deputy secretary of energy.

“Mexico’s energy reform does not depend on the United States,” Lourdes Melgar, who now serves at the Robert E. Wilhelm Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for International Studies, said at the Atlantic Council on March 16. “If the United States does not want to have business with Mexico,” Melgar cautioned, “I think they’re missing the picture, because Mexico has options.”
We are entering a new era of clean energy disruption. This transformation will have a global impact, including on energy security, climate change, economic development, that will have repercussions for geopolitics and international relations.

More and more governments are realizing the importance of renewable and sustainable energy resources. Hydrocarbons will continue to play a role in industrial processes, but will gradually fade out as a transportation fuel. Electric engines and batteries for cars have been developing rapidly, as a result, electric cars have become an attractive and economically feasible option for the public, with an unprecedented increase in sales in the past couple of years.
US President Donald J. Trump’s new actions intended to expedite approval of energy and infrastructure projects were hailed by industry groups and decried by environmentalists.   If those actions are implemented in ways that cut regulatory or procedural corners, they likely will slow down infrastructure development by increasing the risk of successful court challenges and trade disputes.

If the agencies reviewing Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines do not take the time to provide justifications for their recent decisions on those projects—influenced by Trump—courts may invalidate pipeline approvals. Implementing explicit local content requirements for steel in pipelines could embroil the United States in trade disputes.  Further, the administration’s memorandum to expedite federal infrastructure review and permitting creates uncertainty about the application of a more carefully thought out process Congress established in 2015. 
Despite the tentative March 13 agreement between the European Commission and Gazprom on the liberalization of gas markets in Central and Eastern Europe, it is still premature to declare an end to the Russian energy giant’s dominance in the region. In its statement of promises, Gazprom pledges to remove destination clauses in its long-term contracts barring the re-exporting of excess gas imports, to renegotiate pricing to reflect spot hubs in Western Europe, and to drop its refusal to allow virtual gas transfers along the Gazprom-dominated transit pipelines. However, Gazprom’s behavior would depend on the political will of its clients to directly challenge it amid its allegedly receding market power in Europe amid greater competition, liquidity, and supply sources.
In recognition of International Women’s Day 2017, and under the banner of #BeBoldForChange, the United Nations (UN) is calling upon all actors to strive for equal representation of men and women in the professional world. UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka emphasized this focus in a message entitled: Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030,” where she outlined an agenda for gender equality in the workplace.

However, anyone who has attended a meeting or two in the energy sector must have noticed that this is a sector dominated by men. As energy minister in the Icelandic government from 2013-2017, I attended several meetings, both at home and abroad. I led business delegations, attended ministerial meetings, conferences, and exhibitions; time and again the rooms were usually filled with men. On average, one in ten participants in these meetings was a woman. The inequality was even more visible if the events were smaller and only attended by top management. One of the most striking examples is when I led a twenty-two-member business delegation from the Icelandic geothermal industry to Nicaragua in 2014. I was the only woman in the delegation.
With commitments to clean energy and combatting climate change wavering under the new US administration, leadership in renewable energy is quietly shifting away from the United States across the Pacific, where China is rapidly building its dominance.

US President Donald Trump has been clear about his support for fossil fuels. Though his stance on renewable energy remains ambiguous, his comments about withdrawing from international climate agreements and his championing of the coal and oil industries suggest that the Trump administration may not be especially supportive of domestic wind and solar industries. While Trump may find the domestic advance of renewables hard to stop, the United States risks ceding its international leadership role in clean energy to China.
Energy resources and innovative technology could be a cornerstone of the independence and security of all countries, but this requires a commitment to transatlantic cooperation, according to Poland’s Deputy Energy Minister Michael Kurtyka.

“Our nations, every one of them, are… first for our citizens, but we have to cooperate,” Kurtyka said at the Atlantic Council on January 31. “When the American government is in transition and the European Union is in crisis, it is good to start talking about this kind of cooperation.”
While the US-Mexico relationship has been making headlines because of the political fallout from US President Donald Trump’s demand that Mexico pay for a border wall, it is important to consider Mexico’s role in global and regional energy markets as well as its energy relationship with the United States.  
The oil production cuts set forth in a deal recently enacted by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will be upheld by the nations involved, effectively stabilizing the global energy market, Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, OPEC’s secretary general, said in Abu Dhabi on January 12.

“I remain very confident with what I have seen in the last several months,” Barkindo said at the Atlantic Council’s inaugural Global Energy Forum. “The level of commitment I have seen on both sides, to me I think is unparalleled,” he added. Barkindo expressed confidence that signatories to the deal will meet their commitments, emphasizing the level of cooperation among all stakeholders.
December 5 was probably not a happy day for tourists in Paris. The good news was the traffic was much better than usual, and the Metro and other forms of public transit were free. The bad news was that the city was having yet another pollution crisis.

Choking smog and murky air are often associated with emerging market cities in China and more recently India, with the primary culprits being coal-fired power and heavy industry. Yet French electricity is 76 percent powered by zero-emissions nuclear generation and its manufacturing sector has plunged from 13 percent of GDP in 1975 to just 6 percent in 2015.

So, what is the problem in Paris? In a word: traffic. 


    

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