The Hill’s Energy and Environment blog reports that the Department of Commerce has made a decision to impose new tariffs on imports of Chinese wind energy towers. The report comes at a time when the United States is stepping up pressure on China’s unfair trading practices, especially government subsidies for green technologies, such as solar panels.
Samuel Avro of Consumer Energy Report links to a report in The New York Times’ Wheels blog that says the abundance of cheap natural gas – largely as a result of shale rock exploitation – could make hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles more affordable. However, infrastructure challenges remain a significant hurdle to scaling up the technology, according to the report.
The National Intelligence Council (NIC) recently launched a new blog in advance of Global Trends 2030, which is expected to be published in November just after the presidential election. (The NIC releases a new edition of Global Trends after every presidential election in part to inform the incoming administration about what the world could look like in the future.) The new blog features experts’ commentary on a range of global trends that are expected to shape the future security environment, such as the rise of major non-western economies and the competition over natural resources, trends that readers are likely to read about in the new edition this fall.
A blog post by Myron Brilliant, a senior vice president for international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, offers some insights into how the NIC’s study will frame the discussion of natural resources, security and foreign policy by grounding that discussion in the context of other developing trends, such as emerging economic powers. In his post, Brilliant explores how rising economies such as China, India, Russia and Turkey will affect competition over resources. “[W]ill the growth of these economies put an inevitable strain on global resources and increase competition for water, oil and other commodities, culminating in a zero-sum race for resources — or is a collaborative approach possible?” Brilliant asks. “In India and China natural energy and water resources are scarce. Food wastage is a growing problem and developing a farm-to-market supply chain is evolving. Pressure is rising as we see increasing competition for resources (e.g., China’s appetite for securing resources in Africa). Global challenges require global solutions. We need to find ways to address these issues now before they become even more significant.”
Power shortages across Myanmar are contributing to small-scale demonstrations throughout the country, according to a report in The New York Times on Sunday. “Numerous small protests have arisen in Myanmar over persistent power shortages as the past year’s democratic reforms have led to rising expectations from a long-suppressed population,” the report said. “Demonstrations in the past week in Myanmar’s two largest cities and several towns could be seen as an indicator of the new openness under President Thein Sein, who has overseen the country’s emergence from decades of authoritarian rule.”
Despite Myanmar’s abundance of energy resources –particularly natural gas – the country suffers from major infrastructure challenges that could slow the country’s economic growth. “A poor power distribution infrastructure has lagged even more as the economy has grown,” according to The New York Times. Consequently, this poor infrastructure could constrain the country’s expected growth as the government continues to enact political reforms that encourage Western governments to ease economic sanctions and give rise to foreign direct investment in nascent industries, including in oil and natural gas production.
Moreover, political protests could potentially spook the government as it continues to gradually enact political forms. Although the demonstrations over power shortages are still small and rather peaceful – with the largest demonstrations including only between 200 and 300 protestors – the government is likely to keep a watchful eye as these and other political demonstrations develop over concerns that the country’s gradual political opening could embolden opposition groups and threaten the military establishment and long-time authoritarian leaders. “The most recent uprising, led by monks in 2007, began as small protests over fuel price increases,” The New York Times added, suggesting that there is a recent history of political demonstrations escalating beyond a point that the government finds acceptable. Although there is little to suggest that these protests will escalate and prompt a response from the government, the challenges over energy infrastructure are likely to be a defining feature of the political and economic landscape in Myanmar in the years ahead.
We are taking today off to remember the men and women who have sacrificed their lives in service to our nation. And we thank those who, every day, continue to put their lives at risk to protect the United States – and their families who endure.
Photo: A U.S. flag and a lei decorate a gravesite during a Memorial Day ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu on May 31, 2010. Courtesy of Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Hight and the U.S. Navy.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the national security and strategic rationale for ratifying the Law of the Sea Convention. (See their full remarks here.)
The hearing was the first of three planned ones, according to reports. The other hearings – not yet scheduled – will include high-ranking military officials building on the national security message and representatives from the business community making the economic case for ratifying the convention.
Photo: Courtesy of the Department of Defense.
Reuters reports on the international negotiations in Baghdad between Western and Iranian officials over Iran’s nuclear program. According to the report, negotiations appeared to be hindered by Western sanctions against Iranian oil exports. “Iran had served notice that it wanted immediate relief from economic sanctions as part of any deal to stop higher-grade uranium enrichment, a pathway to nuclear arms, whereas Western powers insisted Tehran must first shut it down,” the report says.
The National Journal reports on Wednesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the national security case for ratifying the Law of the Sea Convention. Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that he would hold off on a vote until after the November elections, suggesting that Congress could have a heated debate on the treaty during the lame-duck session.
The Wall Street Journal reports that on Wednesday Turkmenistan agreed to supply natural gas to both Pakistan and India, a necessary step toward realizing the trans-Afghan pipeline that has been twenty years in the making. Instability in Afghanistan and billions of dollars in investments are the two major roadblocks facing pipeline construction through Afghanistan.
Later this morning the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will examine the national security and strategic imperatives for ratifying the Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC). Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey are scheduled to testify. (View the live webcast here starting at 10 AM.)
In preparation for today’s hearing, below is a primer on what I see as the national security rationale for ratifying LOSC. As I have written before here on the blog and in a recent policy brief on Security at Sea, ratifying the convention will serve a range of national security interests. For example:
To learn more, check out our recent study, Security at Sea: The Case for Ratifying the Law of the Sea Convention.
For additional resources, visit The American Sovereignty Campaign.
There is a good discussion going on at the National Journal this week on the role of clean energy in powering the U.S. military. The discussion comes on the heels of an effort by the House Armed Services Committee to constrain DOD’s ability to procure biofuels that are not cost competitive with conventional petroleum.
As I noted in the National Journal yesterday, recent congressional activity suggests to me that there is a bit of confusion about the military’s motivations to invest in biofuels. To be clear, these efforts are not, as some headlines suggest, for the sole purpose of combating climate change or promoting eco-friendly interests over military ones. Although being environmentally sustainable and promoting energy security are not mutually exclusive, it is important to understand first and foremost why the military is undertaking this effort: It is all about mission effectiveness and ensuring that our soldiers, sailors and airmen have access to the fuel they need to conduct their operations and protect U.S. interests. (Read more on this point here.)
Nevertheless, the rumblings on Capitol Hill suggest that the role of the military in advancing alternative energy solutions could be a chokepoint for congressional action as both chambers seek to reconcile their own versions of the 2013 Defense Authorization bill. Senator Mark Udall of Colorado weighed in on the National Journal discussion this morning, stating that “As the Senate Armed Services Committee marks up our version of the 2013 defense authorization bill this week, one of the key provisions under scrutiny will be how we approach the military’s use and development of alternative-fuel technologies.”
To that end, the National Journal discussion is an important and welcome one. The country should be having a public debate about the role of the military in advancing alternative energy solutions and clarify any uncertainty or misconceptions about what the military’s motivations are for advancing clean energy solutions. Simply put, it is first and foremost about preserving the military’s ability to protect U.S. national security interests by hedging against uncertainty around petroleum prices and supply, and ensuring that the military has the energy it needs to fuel the force.
Learn more about the challenges DOD faces with sustainable access to petroleum in our 2010 study, Fueling the Future Force.
Follow the National Journal discussion here.
Afghan poppy production is on the rise in some areas and may indicate backsliding in crucial provinces that have seen security gains in recent years. According to a report from McClatchy on Saturday, Nangarhar province has been heralded by U.S. and Afghan officials as a success story in recent years due to the successful routing of Taliban insurgents and near-eradication of poppy crops that dominated the province. Nangarhar, a major financial and political hub, has carried strategic significance for U.S. and coalition forces, according to the McClatchy report: “The province controls the centuries-old trade – and invasion – corridor that runs from Pakistan’s port of Karachi through the fabled Khyber Pass to Kabul, and north to Central Asia.”
The successful counterinsurgency and poppy eradication efforts there provided U.S. and Afghan officials with a success story that they believed could also be used as a model for the other 33 Afghan provinces. However, the success in Nangarhar appears to be short lived.
“The tide has since turned,” McClatchy reported on Saturday. “Poppy growing is rising, as is support for the insurgency, fueled in part by a harsh government poppy-eradication drive that’s sparked clashes and led some farmers to sow land mines. Many people fear that one of the most crucial provinces will only slip deeper into bloodshed and corruption as U.S. troops withdraw.”
The growth in poppy production also bodes poorly for other U.S. and international development projects that have sought to wean Afghan farmers off a dependence on poppy in lieu of food crops that could help feed famished Afghans. Poppy remains a valuable cash crop, even more so after a 2010 decline in opium production, largely resulting for a disease that attacked poppy crops. According to McClatchy, before 2010, opium sold for approximately US$165 per kilogram. Now it earns farmers as much as US$400 per kilogram.
On Wednesday, several of us from CNAS had an opportunity to visit the Coast Guard’s 154ft Bernard C. Webber Fast Response Cutter (FRC), the first of the newest Sentinel class FRCs that are slated to replace the aging 110ft Island Class cutters. This new variant will serve to fill an endurance gap in the Coast Guard’s current patrol boat fleet by being able to perform near the coast or to deploy up to five days out at sea to conduct its missions. The missions set is diverse and includes marine environmental protection, fishery patrols, search and rescue, as well as law enforcement functions, such drug, arms and illegal migrant interdiction.
One of the key differences between the 110ft and 154ft Fast Response Cutters is the time and effort to deploy the small boats from the cutters, which is really a core function of the FRC – that is, deploying a boarding crew to perform the missions listed above. Whereas a 110ft cutter has to deploy the small boat from the deck of the cutter using a crane and many members of the crew, the 154ft cutter employs a stern-launching system where the small boat sits in a well at the stern of the ship and can be deployed by a single crew member if necessary. What is more, where the 110s took up to 20 minutes to deploy the small boats, the 154s are capable of doing it in less than a minute. This will save lives when the cutter is deployed in a search and rescue mission at sea or after a severe storm near the coast.
Special thanks to our Coast Guard Fellow Commander Shannon Gilreath for arranging this awesome visit.
Photo: The Coast Guard Cutter Bernard C. Webber off the coast of Miami in February 2012. Courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Global INT links to a Reuters report of a major gas find off the coasts of Mozambique and Tanzania that could make East Africa the next major exporter of liquefied natural gas to places like Asia. One of the blocs off the coast of Mozambique is estimated to hold up to 52 trillion cubic feet of gas, enough to meet the gas demands of France, Germany, Britain and Italy for five years, the report notes.
The New York Times reports on recent findings for the U.S. Geological Survey that found that erosion along Hawaii’s iconic beaches could accelerate as a result of sea level rise, imperiling coastal communities. According to one geologist at the University of Hawaii, scientists are encouraging coastal communities to retreat away from the beaches in order to adapt to this changing environment. One has to wonder how easy that is in practice, especially for major installations like the U.S. Navy’s bases in Honolulu and elsewhere.
Circle of Blue links to a story in Reuters that says a new study reports that economic losses from natural disasters will likely outpace economic growth in the world’s low- and middle-income countries. This could have devastating consequences for countries the United States is seeking to develop strategic partnerships with, including Vietnam and others. What is more, one has to wonder where Myanmar fits into this picture, a country that could potentially experience significant economic growth over the next decade through foreign investment and gradual relaxation of western sanctions, but that lies in a natural disaster prone region where more than 70 percent of the workforce relies on agricultural development for their income. (Cyclone Nargis upended agricultural communities in the Irrawaddy valley back in 2008, for example.)
Apologies for the abbreviated post, but some of the CNAS team (myself included) are on a field trip this morning exploring a U.S. Coast Guard cutter. It is part of my personal effort to learn more about the Coast Guard broadly. After all, it is always good to see and tour the platforms you’re writing about, no?
But before we step off, I wanted to point out a good post yesterday from Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell of the Center for Climate and Security. Femia and Werrell review a memo recently released by CNA that explores the impact of climate change on military energy use. “The conclusion,” Femia and Werrell write, “Higher costs, and adaptations in building design as well as heating and cooling systems, are likely on the horizon.”
Continue reading the post here.
There is some evidence that western sanctions on Iranian oil exports are taking a toll on the Islamic republic, even months before the sanctions go completely into effect in July. “Hobbled by sanctions against its banks and a growing international boycott of its petroleum, Iran is seeing its revenue sag while its oil sits in storage depots and floats in tankers with nowhere to go,” The Washington Post reports.
According to estimates by the Telegraph, approximately 19 of the National Iranian Tanker Company’s 34 oil tankers are lying idle off Iran, valued at about US$2.95 billion. “The fact that Iran is using valuable tankers for storage suggests that onshore holding facilities at Kharg Island, believed to have a capacity of 23 million barrels, must also be full,” according to the Telegraph. That holding facility could be storing an additional US$2.05 billion worth of idle oil. Moreover, Iran has become increasingly dependent on its own fleet of oil tankers since “One key impact of recent sanctions has been to choke off shippers’ access to maritime insurance, nearly all of which is underwritten in Europe,” according to The Washington Post.
The Philippines announced on Sunday (Monday in Manila) that it will ignore China’s fishing ban near the disputed Scarborough Shoal that is set to begin on May 16 and run through August 1. “DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] Secretary Albert del Rosario explained the Philippines will not follow the ban because it has sovereign rights over a portion of the waters where China plans to impose the ban,” according to ABS-CBSNews.com. “However, del Rosario said the Philippines may also impose a similar ban given the depletion of marine resources in its territorial waters.”
China’s announced fishing ban comes as Filipino and Chinese vessels remain in a standoff near the Scarborough Shoal, approximately 120-natutical miles off the Philippine island Luzon. “The stand-off erupted last month after Philippine authorities detected Chinese ships fishing near the Scarborough Shoal,” the Bangkok Post reported. “The two nations have stationed non-military vessels at the shoal since April 8 in an effort to assert their sovereignty over the area.” The standoff has elicited emotional protests in Manila as well as in Beijing.
Although the Philippines announced it would not abide by China’s fishing ban, Manila expressed a desire to find a peaceful resolution to the ongoing dispute, according to reports. “Despite the pronouncement of resistance against the ban, DFA spokesperson Raul Fernandez said the Philippines is still willing to hold diplomatic talks with the Chinese government to settle the dispute, which has been running for over a month.” Moreover, according to one expert writing in the Asia Times Online, “Even as the rhetoric escalates, moves are being made for economic integration and mutual-benefit.”
Nevertheless, U.S. policymakers charged with managing tensions in the region will remain watchful of developments as they unfold. The recent spat between China and the Philippines also comes on the heels of China’s announcement last week of a technological breakthrough in deep-sea drilling, which may help put China in a position to exploit deep-sea hydrocarbons in contested areas of the South China Sea.
On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta joined Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Senators John Warner and Chuck Hagel in a forum on the Law of the Sea Convention hosted by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Atlantic Council. Secretary Panetta urged the U.S. Senate to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention in order to protect U.S. security interests. “Treaty law remains the firmest legal foundation upon which to base our global presence, on, above, and below the seas,” Secretary Panetta said, adding “How can we argue that other nations must abide by international rules, when we haven’t officially accepted those rules.”
To learn more about the national security rationale for ratifying the Law of the Sea Convention, see our recent study Security at Sea.
Photo: Secretary Panetta addresses the audience of the Forum on the Law of the Sea on Wednesday, May 9, 2010. Courtesy of Glenn Fawcett and the Department of Defense.
Defense News reports on a forum on the Law of the Sea Convention hosted by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Atlantic Council that featured keynote addresses by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and General Martine Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who both urged the U.S. Senate to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention in order to safeguard American interests and U.S. Armed Forces.
Dr. Fravel links to a story in the Philippine Star that reports that Chinese maritime vessels have imposed fishing restrictions on Filipino fisherman in an area approximately 120-nautical miles off the coast of the Philippine island Luzon, an area that would be considered within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone.
On Monday, Chinese media reported that China’s first deep-water drilling rig (developed domestically by the state-run China National Offshore Oil Corporation) will begin operations today in the South China Sea.
To date, China’s offshore oil drilling activities have been restricted to shallow waters (less than 300 meters deep) largely due to the country’s lack of technological capability to drill in deep- and ultra-deep waters. According to one report, China State Shipbuilding Corporation – the company that developed the new rig – says that China will now be able to drill to depths of between 10,000 and 12,000 meters, possibly eclipsing the record set in 2009 by the Deepwater Horizon rig that could drill to 10,683 meters.
The technological milestone is an important development in the South China Sea dispute, where competition over potentially lucrative deep-water oil and natural gas reserves has raised tensions among countries with overlapping claims in the region. China, for example, claims the entire South China Sea as its own. The deep- and ultra-deep water drilling capability will unlock reserves in deep waters, according to reports. Chinese media reports that “About 70 percent of oil and gas reserves in the resource-rich South China Sea is [sic] contained in 1.54 million square km of deep-water regions, or sea areas with depths of over 300 meters.”
A new report from Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) debunks the myth about America’s oil boom leading to energy independence.
The SAFE study, The New American Oil Boom: Implications for Energy Security, comes on the heels of recent reports that increased domestic petroleum production – made possible through technological innovations such as hydraulic fracturing, enhanced oil recovery and improvements in offshore oil production – could make the United States energy independent over the next few decades. “The nature and meaning of energy independence, however, is widely misunderstood,” the authors of the SAFE report state. “Although increased domestic oil production will have clear positive effects on the U.S. economy, it alone will not insulate America from the risks of oil dependence. This can only be accomplished by reducing the role of oil in our economy.”
The report correctly notes that while increased U.S. domestic petroleum production will have positive benefits for the U.S. economy (e.g., narrowing the U.S. trade deficit), the United States will still be vulnerable to oil price spikes since oil is a globally traded commodity with prices set by the international market. Consequently, while the United States continues to reduce its reliance on Middle East oil, U.S. security will still be tethered to developments in the Middle East given that events in the region can have immediate and lasting impacts on the price of oil, which has implications for the United States. The only solution, the authors note, is to move away from reliance on oil – that is, diversify our liquid fuel sources, particularly in the transportation sector.
Japanese officials shutdown the last of 50 nuclear reactors late Saturday evening, taking the country off of nuclear power for the first time in more than four decades. Most of Japan’s nuclear reactors will remain idle for the foreseeable future as they undergo stress tests to determine their ability to stand up against a major disaster, a measure introduced after the March 2011 triple disaster that crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant and left the country’s nuclear-power future in a tailspin.
Japanese officials remain concerned that the country could experience electricity shortages during the peak summer months without nuclear power, which previously provided approximately 30 percent of Japan’s total electricity demand. A panel of experts reported to Japanese policymakers in April that nine utilities could see electricity shortfalls in August. As a result, Japanese officials may power up two reactors during the summer in order to meet electricity demand. The Japanese Times reports that “Last month, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and key members of his Cabinet decided that firing up the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi power station is essential to ensure a stable supply of electricity in the Kansai region in summertime,” even as the country continues to reduce its reliance on nuclear power. It is not clear if those two reactors will be back online by the summer.
It is always good to be reminded from time to time about why the U.S. national security establishment has a stake in how climate change manifests itself today and in the future. Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell of the Center for Climate and Security have an excellent post on their blog that provides a broad overview of why and how the U.S. security community has taken an interest in climate change that is worth reading at length.
According to Femia and Werrell:
The national security establishment in the United States, including the U.S. military and the U.S. intelligence community, understand that climate change is a national security threat, and that we cannot wait for 100% certainty before acting to mitigate and adapt to its effects. But not only do they understand it, they plan for it – considering it’s implications in strategic documents like the Quadrennial Defense Review, and setting up an office within the CIA called the Center for Climate Change and National Security. But why? Why do those organs of government that the public normally associates with fighting wars, devote time and effort to an issue that is branded as hogwash by many on the right of the political spectrum, and the exclusive domain of environmental activists on the left? The simple answer: climate change is, actually, a national security threat. It’s not just a politically expedient narrative politicians use to convince those that couldn’t care less about polar bears, rainforests, or “bugs and bunnies.” It’s actually a problem worthy of attention by those whose primary job it is to protect the United States from harm. The following is a brief outline of how and why the U.S. national security community treats climate change the way it does, starting with:
- The common definition of a national security threat, and how climate change fits into that definition;
- The actual national security implications of climate change;
- Why climate change is a national security threat at least as significant as other traditional threats, such as the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials.
Continue reading here.
Dr. Jay Gulledge is a Senior Scientist and Director of the Science and Impacts Program at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Center for a New America Security. He is a co-author (with Dr. Rob Huebert) of Climate Change & National Security: The Arctic as a Bellwether, a new study published by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
Today the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions – C2ES, formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change – is releasing a new report, Climate Change & National Security: The Arctic as a Bellwether. The lead author of the report is Dr. Rob Huebert, Associate Director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.
Official military doctrine in the United States now holds that “climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked.” Nowhere is this linkage more clearly illustrated than in the Arctic, and that’s why we think the region is a bellwether for how climate change may reshape global geopolitics in the post-Cold War era.
As the planet has warmed over the past few decades, temperatures in the Arctic have been increasing at about twice the global rate. And the Arctic sea ice cover has been shrinking much faster than scientists anticipated. The five smallest sea ice covers ever recorded have all occurred in the past five summers. As a result, the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Archipelago has opened up every summer since 2007, and the Northeast Passage along Russia’s coastline has opened up every summer since 2008.
New and expanded shipping routes through the Arctic can cut the distance to transport goods between Asia, North America, and Europe by up to 4000 miles. We’re seeing increased interest and investment in oil and gas exploration. The United States Geological Survey estimates that 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13 percent of undiscovered oil lies in the Arctic. Russia likely possesses the largest share of any country. There’s also growing interest in tourism and fishing.
As the economic potential of the Arctic becomes more apparent, governments and militaries have begun to reposition themselves. What’s happening in the Arctic is the starkest example yet of the way climate change directly affects international security.