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On February 11, US ambassadors from twelve EU member states met in Warsaw to discuss the ways in which the United States can help the Three Seas Initiative, a project that seeks to facilitate interconnectivity on energy, infrastructure, and digitalization projects in Central and Eastern Europe. The meeting, led by the Atlantic Council and its Executive Chairman Emeritus retired Gen. James L. Jones, Jr., comes on the heels of US Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s visit to the Three Seas Initiative summit in Bucharest in September 2018, and a little over a year after US President Donald J. Trump endorsed the project while taking part in a 2017 summit in Warsaw.

No one knows just what will be the outcome of Britain’s fraught negotiations to leave the European Union—and that means no one knows whether the United Kingdom will remain united after Brexit.


Several ministers in British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet, speaking anonymously, have told the BBC they believe a “no deal” Brexit could lead to a vote on Irish unification. Sinn Fein, the Republican party which wants to see the British province of Northern Ireland unite with the independent Republic of Ireland, has already called for a vote on Irish unity after Brexit.

The Atlantic Council convened government, private sector, and academic experts to set the global energy agenda for 2019 at the Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from January 11 to 13.

The future of the oil market was frequently discussed as policy makers and experts attempted to parse the dramatic developments of the past year and provide some guidance for what 2019 holds. Here are the highlights from those conversations:

OPEC’s secretary general and its former president on January 13 defended the group’s decision to cut oil production by 1.2 million barrels per day from criticism that the cut is insufficient to address the slowdown in the market.

The United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Energy and Industry Suhail Al Mazrouei, who concluded his term as president of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on January 1, said there was no immediate need to cut oil production further.

Although US shale production reached 11.7 million barrels per day in 2018, shale oil and natural gas experts caution that the days of rapid expansion for US shale could be numbered as concerns mount about global economic growth in the short-term, easy access shale sources are depleted, and capital markets decrease their investments.

Climate change, geopolitics, economic development, energy transitions and security of supply are just some of the challenges facing energy security in the twenty-first century.

 

“It doesn’t take more than a glance at newspaper headlines to recognize that the current period is a time of great change and volatility,” said Richard L. Morningstar, founding chairman of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center.

 

China’s massive global energy and infrastructure investment is already paying off.

Five years ago, “Pakistan was suffering from large amounts of brownouts [and] huge challenges in infrastructure,” according to Ali Siddiqui, an adviser with Pakistani financial services company JS Group and former ambassador of Pakistan to the United States. But after engaging closely with China’s Belt and Road Initiative “there is a large amount of investment that has been made in the power sector, in roads, and soon there will new investment from China in rail. Once that is done, our entire infrastructure shortage will be completed,” Siddiqui said.

Decarbonization—the reduction or removal of carbon dioxide from energy sources—has become increasingly significant in light of the threat posed by global warming as illustrated in a United Nations report that looks at the dire consequences of an increase in the Earth’s temperature above 1.5 degrees Celsius.

As a consequence, countries and companies around the world have undertaken a diverse set of strategies in their quest to cut emissions. Saudi energy giant Saudi Aramco, for example, decided in the 1970s to end the practice of flaring—the process by which natural gas is burned off in a controlled manner when extracting oil.

Khalid Al-Falih says he’s convinced ‘the oil market will quickly return to balance’

On January 13, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources Khalid Al-Falih sought to assuage market concerns about potential oil demand as producers try to reverse massive dips in price at the end of 2018.

“Market sentiment today is being shaped by undue concerns about demand, underestimation of the impact of agreed supply cuts, and a misreading of the supply-demand trends which causes counterfactual actions by financial players,” Al-Falih said. “In other words, if we look beyond the noise of weekly data and vibrations in the market, and the speculators’ herd-like behavior, I remain convinced that we are on the right track and that the oil market will quickly return to balance.”

Nuclear power evokes a broad spectrum of responses around the world. While the United Arab Emirates is building a nuclear power plant and Saudi Arabia has announced its intention to do so, in Japan—where the memories of the Fukushima plant disaster of 2011 are still fresh—there is a reluctance to embrace nuclear power, while Germany is implementing a plan to take all of its nuclear reactors offline by 2022.


Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Al Hammadi and King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy Chief Atomic Energy Officer Maher Al Odan say their nations are pursuing nuclear power with the objective of diversifying their energy sources.



    

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