EnergySource

The European Union (EU)’s energy sector has undergone many changes in the march to create a liberalized European energy market. However, while the EU has outlined common rules and implemented shared standards, the bloc still lacks a central energy regulator akin to the United States Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC).

The European Union has been integrating its national markets into one single market since the 1987 Single European Act, the first major revision to the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community and later the European Commission. Slowly but surely, the European Union also undertook liberalization of various sectors, introducing competition where there was a monopoly, starting with steel and coal.

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In this new issue brief, "US Nuclear-Power Leadership and the Chinese and Russian Challenge," Global Energy Center Senior Fellow Robert F. Ichord looks at the strategic significance of nuclear power, arguing “US global leadership and engagement in nuclear power are vital to US national security and foreign-policy interests.”

The Issue: While nuclear power represents a key source of reliable, emissions-free, baseload power, contributes to a diverse energy portfolio, and represents a key area of technological leadership, the United States traditional international leadership role is being severely challenged, especially by China and Russia.  

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Climate change is increasingly on the agenda for millennial conservatives.

In late February, a bipartisan coalition of thirty-four student groups from around the country—twenty-three of which are College Republican chapters—launched Students for Carbon Dividends (S4CD). S4CD advocates for the Baker-Shultz carbon dividend, a policy proposal that would impose a carbon tax of $40 per ton, return those tax proceeds to Americans taxpayers, create border carbon adjustments for exports and imports, and circumscribe the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s regulatory authority, including the repeal of the Clean Power Plan.

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Mexico’s historic and successful energy reforms are at risk in its upcoming Presidential elections. The leading candidate for the Presidency, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, referred to as AMLO, of the Morena party, has recently doubled down on his critiques of the reforms. He has pledged to review existing oil contracts, indicated he would require national oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) to refurbish six and construct two new oil refineries, and demanded that the current administration suspend the next two bid rounds if he wins the election. He has also committed to end oil exports by the middle of his term (approximately early 2022), in theory to maximize the value of Mexico’s natural resources for the state.

While strident, AMLO’s rhetoric has often been dismissed as campaign talk.

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Few countries have navigated as challenging an energy landscape as Japan in recent years. Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, Japan’s dependency on energy imports has climbed to 93 percent and its energy costs have risen sharply, straining consumers and industry alike. With Japan’s forty-eight nuclear reactors offline, the country began using more coal, gas, and oil to generate electricity, driving a spike in greenhouse gas emissions that has only recently begun to abate. While some “green” shoots are visible in the form of growing renewables, maturing LNG markets, and a handful of nuclear plant restarts, these trends are not guaranteed to continue and will require sustained policy support—and societal acceptance—if Japan is to regain its energy security and decarbonization trajectory.

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The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) promised economic recovery for Iran in the form of sanctions relief, and many expected it would boost the country’s prosperity and general economic outlook. However, despite the initial optimism and some positive trends following the implementation of JCPOA, broad economic improvements have not materialized. The challenges are both internal and external, including a concerted effort by the Trump Administration to thwart business with Iran.

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Bilateral and global energy issues are front and center as the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, arrives in the United States. While the biggest focus might be on Saudi Arabia’s vital role as the world’s largest crude oil exporter and the impact that growing US oil production and market influence are having on Saudi leadership and OPEC, the energy implications of the crown prince’s Vision 2030 for the modernization and diversification of the Saudi economy and opportunities for US commercial involvement are also critical. 

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Rarely a day goes by without a headline about Saudi Arabia and the reforms underway as part of Vision 2030, the plan intended to help Saudi Arabia pivot from an oil-based to a knowledge-based economy. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) is making his rounds internationally, including a much-heralded visit to the United States this week, to increase foreign investments in Saudi Arabia in support of the Vision. However, while Saudi Arabia may be moving away from an oil-based economy, they are not moving away from an energy-based economy. In fact, through investments in petrochemicals and other energy sector opportunities, Saudi Arabia is doubling down on energy—and won’t be able to diversify to a knowledge-based economy without investing in human capital.

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in the United States Monday to much fanfare. One of the hot topics during the crown prince’s visit is the long-expected, much-anticipated privatization of Saudi Aramco. One major unanswered question surrounding the plan for privatization is where Saudi leadership wants to locate the initial public offering (IPO) for 5 percent of the company. Prevailing wisdom holds that shares will be floated in Riyadh on the Tadawul stock market, while a large portion will be floated either in New York, London, Shanghai, or Hong Kong. It is also possible that Chinese firms will buy a certain amount of the shares privately ahead of the IPO.

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From the campaign trail to the Oval Office, US President Donald J. Trump has made no secret of his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and has more recently called for legislation and a new agreement with key European allies to supplement the deal. With the May 12 deadline for the president to renew critical sanctions waivers to continue implementing the JCPOA looming, US diplomats and their European counterparts have a tough task ahead to reach an agreement that can satisfy the president’s demands, lest he withdraw the United States from the deal altogether.

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