EnergySource

Energy projects have always been a major part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure mega-plan for Eurasia. The enormity of that plan was on display at the BRI Forum last month, where an official report was released estimating that energy investments in BRI countries would add up to $27 trillion by 2050, with $7 trillion alone going to power grid construction, and over 200 million new jobs created in the process.

That report was published by the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization, or GEIDCO, a young “international organization” set up by the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC, or “State Grid”) in 2016, under the leadership of its former chief executive, to advance “Global Energy Interconnection” or GEI.

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Throughout 2018, the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center convened a “Task Force on US Nuclear Energy Leadership,” comprised of civilian and military experts in foreign policy, defense, and nuclear energy, with Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) as honorary co-chairs, to address the national security implications of the decline of the US nuclear power industry. Their insights, analysis, and recommendations provided the foundation for this report, US Nuclear Energy Leadership: Innovation and the Strategic Global Challenge.

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Natural gas, which consists primarily of methane, accounts for nearly one quarter of global energy production. Although the shale gas boom significantly increased the supply of natural gas, natural gas cannot be transported to processing plants using existing infrastructure for petroleum. Consequently, remote sources of natural gas are in effect “stranded.” Methods to use this “stranded” natural gas productively would be highly beneficial and would reduce unproductive flaring.

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On May 8, Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-NM 03) introduced the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2019. If passed, this legislation would put the United States on a path toward decarbonizing its electricity sector by midcentury. This is a good example of the type of action that will be needed if the United States and the world are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

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The last major energy legislation the United States passed was back in 2007, when President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act, better known for establishing the renewable fuels standard. In 2009, renewable energy and energy efficiency received a game-changing boost through the economic stimulus package, or American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which established critical tax credits both for industry and consumers, as well as providing much-needed R&D budgets.

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The role of new energy technologies to meet future energy demand was a focal point during the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum (ACGEF) in Abu Dhabi. Meeting the increasing demand for energy usually raises concerns about international climate objectives. While new energy technologies promise a pathway to meet this increasing demand without sacrificing emission reduction targets, ultimately, policymakers will need to provide the frameworks necessary to harness these technologies, so as to deliver on sustainability goals.

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At the start of the month, in preparation for its first bond offering, Saudi Aramco released a 469-page prospectus that provided the first real public look into the oil company’s books. The media was astounded by the $111 billion profit figure for 2018, and a bond market hungry for returns oversubscribed to the offering by ten times, with $12 billion in bonds finally issued. The initial enthusiasm said more about the state of the bond market than the value of Aramco and is not a good proxy for equity interest in the company ahead of an IPO (now delayed until 2021).

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On 15 April, the Council of the European Union (EU) backed a controversial revision of the EU Gas Directive, which was already adopted at a plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels on 4 April. This adoption by the Council is the last step in the legislative initiative. However, the story began in November 2017, when the European Commission (EC) took “steps to extend common EU gas rules to import pipelines,” proposing an amendment of the current Gas Directive to ensure “that the core principles of EU energy legislation (third-party access, tariff regulation, ownership unbundling and transparency) will apply to all gas pipelines to and from third countries up to the border of the EU’s jurisdiction.”

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Adapted from comments given by The Honorable Paula Stern, Ph.D. at the Atlantic Council IN TURKEY Program's “New Regional Gas Market Dynamics under LNG Expansion & the Shale Gas Revolution” conference on February 26, 2019, with contributions from Ben Perkins.

Last March the Economist ran the headline, “Global powers need to take the geopolitics out of energy.” It may be true that World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, and those of its Generalized System of Tariffs and Trade (GATT) predecessor, have never applied to trade in energy, but energy has always played a starring geopolitical role and probably always will.

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While serving as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s director of the US Office of Scientific Research and Development in 1944, Vannevar Bush wrote: “Basic research is the pacemaker for technological progress.” He championed the idea of a sequential relationship between government-funded research and development (R&D) and innovation. In his view, the government provides funding for basic research, and innovation and technological progress follow naturally.

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