A U.S. Air Force C-130 equipped with a Modular Airborne Firefighting System drops fire retardant to help combat the Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs that has burned more than 18,500 acres and displaced more than 30,000 people in the area. U.S. Northern Command has also used its immediate response authorities to provide bulldozers, military fire trucks and soldiers to cut fire breaks.
In our 2010 study, Broadening Horizons: Climate Change and the U.S. Armed Forces, we noted that the Department of Defense may be called on to respond to more frequent and intense wildfires as a consequence of climate-related drought and temperature rise, including in vulnerable areas in the United States.
Photo: Courtesy of Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher and the U.S. Air Force.
This morning, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold its third hearing on the Law of the Sea Convention that will focus exclusively on the economic benefits of ratifying the treaty. The hearing will include testimony from business representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers and Verizon Communications. (Watch the hearing live here beginning at 9 AM).
Although the hearing will focus mostly on the economic benefits of ratifying the treaty, including securing rights to offshore energy and mineral resources, it is important to remember that securing rights to these resources has attendant benefits for U.S. national security as well. Increased production of domestic energy resources bolsters U.S. assured access to energy, which helps reduce the vulnerability from energy choke points in the Middle East and elsewhere. Meanwhile, ratifying the convention and putting U.S. companies in a position to secure recognized claims to offshore mineral resources such as rare earth metals that are used in a variety of high-tech applications, including defense platforms, helps reduce the U.S. vulnerability to relying heavily on Chinese exports of rare earths. (China produces 95 percent of the global supply of rare earths but only has 50 percent of the global reserves.)
On a related note, the American Security Project has published a short primer on the Law of the Sea that separates fact from fiction. (Check it out here.) And the Department of Defense has launched a new webpage on the Law of the Sea Convention akin to the State Department’s website. The DOD page includes speeches and testimony from the Secretary of Defense and senior military officials on the national security benefits of ratifying the Law of the Sea Convention.
Some have suggested recently that renewed Iraqi crude oil production could be a boon to the country’s future, but a closer look shows that oil alone will not rejuvenate the Persian Gulf state.
Iraq has returned to oil production levels it has not experienced since the 1980s, producing 3 million barrels per day in 2012, up from 2 million barrels per day in 2006. Moreover, Baghdad announced a goal of expanding production by 400,000 barrels of oil per day by 2013 and eventually increasing production to a whopping 10 million barrels per day by 2017. (By comparison, the top three producers, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States each produce 9.7, 8.9 and 5.5 million barrels of oil per day, respectively.) This all sounds positive at face value, but the situation in Iraq is more complicated than observers let on, and the country faces four looming challenges that illustrate why oil may not be its saving grace.
According to a new study released Sunday by the journal Nature Climate Change, sea level rise is expected to affect the U.S. East Coast at a faster rate than the rest of the world. “U.S. Geological Survey scientists call the 600-mile swath [between Cape Hatteras, NC and Boston] a ‘hot spot’ for climbing sea levels caused by global warming,” The Washington Post reported on Sunday. “Along the region, the Atlantic Ocean is rising at an annual rate three times to four times faster than the global average since 1990.”
“Computer models long have projected higher levels along parts of the East Coast because of changes in ocean currents from global warming, but this is the first study to show that’s already happened,” The Washington Post added. “By 2100, scientists and computer models estimate that sea levels globally could rise as much as 3.3 feet. The accelerated rate along the East Coast could add about 8 inches to 11 inches more.”
The new study confirms findings that are well known to some East Coast communities, particularly Norfolk, Virginia, home to the world’s largest naval base. According to a report by The Washington Post last Sunday, Norfolk has spent the last several years battling storm surge made worse by sea level rise. Some have proposed buying up property in flood prone areas of the city to move people back away from the encroaching sea, while spending hundreds of millions of dollars in other parts of the city to build flood walls, tide gates, raised roads and flood pumps to protect critical infrastructure, including the Norfolk naval station.
The U.S. Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Republic of Korea Navy conducted trilateral exercises in the East China Sea on June 21, 2012. According to the U.S. Navy, the exercises are intended “to improve interoperability, readiness and the capability to respond quickly to various situations in the region, ranging from disaster relief to maritime security activities.”
Like the neighboring South China Sea, the East China Sea is prone to territorial disputes, including competing claims from China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.
Photo: Courtesy of Lieutenant Commander Denver Applehans and the U.S. Navy.
The Washington Post reports that Japan has approved a plan to restart two reactors at the Ohi nuclear plant to avoid potentially crippling blackouts this summer.
Andrew Holland of the American Security Project reviews a new RAND study on biofuels and argues that the report misses the strategic importance of developing alternatives to conventional petroleum fuel.
The New Security Beat cross posts to an article by Kirk Talbott on the Columbia University Earth Institute’s State of the Planet blog on the prospects for improvements in peacebuilding and natural resource governance in Burma.
Blogs of War links to a report from The New York Times on the nuclear negotiations between Iran and other world powers in Moscow.
America’s relationship with Middle East energy resources is changing. Technological breakthroughs in hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”), renewed drilling in ultra-deep waters in the Gulf of Mexico and, soon, drilling in the Arctic Circle are re-energizing U.S. domestic petroleum production and shrinking the demand for foreign petroleum imports. Meanwhile, oil and natural gas production in the Americas — from Canada in the North, to Brazil and Colombia in the South — are beginning to displace U.S. reliance on Middle East oil. These emerging energy trends will affect America’s relationship with the Middle East in important ways. But do not expect a fundamental shift in U.S. foreign policy in the region any time soon.
The Carter Doctrine and U.S. Energy Interests in the Middle East
The United States has had historical concerns about assured access to Middle East petroleum resources that have shaped U.S. involvement in the region. President Jimmy Carter famously declared in his 1980 State of the Union address that the United States reserved the right to use force to protect the flow of petroleum from the Middle East to the United States: “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”
Although U.S. interests in the Middle East have become more complex since the Carter administration – to include concerns about violent extremism, human rights abuse and nuclear proliferation – it has become almost axiomatic to say that U.S. involvement in the Middle East has been tied solely to concerns about securing access to the region’s petroleum resources. Whether or not one buys that, the perception that U.S. interests in the Middle East are tied solely to concerns about energy supplies raises some questions about whether the United States will lose interest in the Middle East as it becomes less reliant on energy imports from the region.
Continue reading the post at ConsumerEnergyReport.com.
Burma’s Shwe Pipeline project could begin delivering oil and natural gas to China as early as 2013, providing China some relief from its so-called Malacca Dilemma and potentially changing its strategic calculus with respect to energy resources in the South China Sea.
The Strait of Malacca has long posed a strategic vulnerability to China. Up to 80 percent of China’s Persian Gulf and African oil imports pass through this energy chokepoint nestled between Indonesia and Malaysia, fomenting anxiety in Beijing that any obstruction of the strait or neighboring sea lanes could have an immediate impact on the Chinese economy and stability. “[I]f the Malacca Strait were closed for just one day, the disruption in energy supplies might cause social unrest in China, according to a well-placed officer of the People’s Liberation Army,” wrote Patrick M. Cronin and Robert D. Kaplan in a January 2012 CNAS study on the South China Sea.
China’s Malacca Dilemma has exacerbated fears over assured access to energy resources and could be influencing Beijing’s assertive behavior in the South China Sea. Despite the uncertainty over how much oil and natural gas actually lays beneath the South China Sea, policymakers in Beijing appear to be making a bet that those energy resources could provide some strategic relief from its energy problems elsewhere, particularly the Strait of Malacca. Moreover, China’s vast infrastructure of overland energy pipelines from Central Asia carries strategic risk as well. Those energy resources must cross through vulnerable transit states like Pakistan and are delivered to western China, where Beijing’s influence waxes and wanes.
Iran has renewed negotiations with other world powers in Moscow over its nuclear ambitions after recent talks in Baghdad failed to produce any significant progress. The negotiations, which began today, include the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – Germany, the European Union and Iran.
The Moscow talks come on the heels of poor economic news for Iran and just two weeks before European sanctions against Iranian oil exports go into full force on July 1. According to The Washington Post, Iran’s currency – the rial – has lost 50 percent of its value in just 10 months; oil exports have declined by 40 percent from a year ago, contributing to a loss of about $4.5 billion a month in revenue; and targeted financial sanctions against Iranian banks and industries are constricting economic flow.
Meanwhile, Iran’s oil production is outpacing the available storage, which could force the industry to scale back production. “A report last week by the International Energy Agency said Iran was storing tens of millions of barrels of unsold oil in offshore tankers and would probably soon run out of space, forcing it to drastically cut production,” The Washington Post reported.
Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee convened a hearing with top military officials to discuss the national security benefits of ratifying the Law of the Sea Convention. The panel of top military officials – referred to as the “24 star” military witnesses, with four Admirals and two Generals – voiced strong support for ratifying the convention.
The presence of several U.S. Geographic Combatant Commanders reinforced the message that the Law of the Sea Convention enables the U.S. military to safeguard U.S. interests in important maritime domains, such as the South China Sea and the Arctic.
From left to right: Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, III, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command; General William M. Fraser, III, Commander of U.S. Transportation Command; Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations; Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr., Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard; and General Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., Commander of U.S. Northern Command.
Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense
Burma, also known as Myanmar, was ruled for decades by a military junta until reversion to nominal civilian control in 2011. President Thein Sein’s openness and reform agenda has led Europe, the United States and others to ease or suspend sanctions. Recent months have seen the election of Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) in April 2012 parliamentary by-elections as well as the nomination of Derek Mitchell in May to become the first U.S. ambassador to Burma since 1990. Our very own Dr. Patrick M. Cronin, Senior Advisor and Senior Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at CNAS, had the opportunity to travel to the country recently. He offered his thoughts on a broad range of issues, including natural resources and the environment.
Daniel Katz (DK): Burma has been touted by some as the potential energy crossroads of Southeast Asia, with plans for pipelines and offshore oil and natural gas development that could contribute to strong economic growth over the next decade. What do you see as the most important political, social and environmental challenges to robust energy development in the near term?
Patrick Cronin (PC): Well, Burma or Myanmar, is rich with resources, not just hydrocarbons but obviously jade, gold, timber and other resources and it is certainly being eyed not just by China but by the entire world potentially to tap its oil and gas reserves. First, from China’s perspective, completing the oil pipeline by next year in 2013 is seen as critical for redrawing the map of Asia and providing China some relief from its so-called Malacca Dilemma, under which all of its trade and resources must go through a narrow choke point in the Strait of Malacca. This will allow major oil and gas to flow from the Persian Gulf and Africa as well as out of Myanmar itself to China. This is very important. Now, as for extractive industries being open to the international market as sanctions are lifted or suspended, there’s a great deal of interest in this, but unfortunately some of the early bids have been coming from countries that have companies that may not be the most high-standard, not exactly the gold standard of transparency. I know there was one deal just made with Thailand. Thailand may be better than most. I’m talking about some other countries where these companies will only contribute to the so-called “resource curse” that so many developing countries with resources have faced in the past, especially when they have a couple commodities that are extracted. It’s so easy for those resources to leave the country for good and for all of the profits to go into the hands of a very small group of people. Hitherto, this has been the military top leadership and they’re still sitting on treasure troves of money from their rich resources. So one of the big political challenges on development is to ensure that they build institutions in Myanmar going forward that have much more transparency over extractive industries overall, including oil and gas, and that outside companies that come in to develop it must try to build a much more transparent system for the good of Myanmar. I think they can. I think this will be a big boon to Myanmar’s development and to regional development. But we’ve seen so many horror stories in the developing world and they’re trying to do so much so quickly in Myanmar that this is a big challenge.
Tomorrow is our annual June conference, affectionately referred to by one of my colleagues as Woodstock for wonks.
We have a terrific agenda lined up, with a special address from The Honorable Kurt Campbell, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and a co-founder of CNAS, and a conversation with The Honorable Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank.
The program will cover a variety of our research issues, from Afghanistan and defense in an era of austerity, to the Middle East after the Arab Spring and veterans reintegration.
Like every year, the conference will feature a variety of CNAS reports released in recent weeks. Some of them are directly or loosely related to the work we do on natural security; the ones that are not are nevertheless great contributions to the national security and defense policy debate.
Here is a breakdown of some of the natural security issues woven into this year’s conference papers, in no particular order:
In this report, Lieutenant General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.), Dr. Nora Bensahel, Matthew Irvine and Travis Sharp argue that the Department of Defense should organize and operate America’s armed forces in new ways. According to the authors, one of the ways to do this is for the Department of Defense to increase leap-ahead research and development investments in important areas, including energy conservation and alternative energy.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda cautioned on Friday that Japan could not afford to keep its nuclear reactors offline. “Cheap and stable electricity is vital. If all the reactors that previously provided 30% of Japan's electricity supply are halted, or kept idle, Japanese society cannot survive,” Noda said in a televised address.
During the 10-minute speech, Prime Minister Noda emphasized the national security concerns of relying more on imported energy to compensate for the decline of domestic power generated from its nuclear reactors. Noda said that, “Japan needed nuclear power to avoid relying too heavily on oil and natural gas from the politically volatile Middle East,” The New York Times reported.
Since last year’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident, Japan has burned about 135.5 percent more oil, the International Energy Agency reports. The increased oil consumption has likely contributed to a greater dependence on Middle East petroleum – although imports may also be coming from Southeast Asia neighbors, like Brunei.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store on a tour of an Arctic research vessel while visiting Tromso, Norway on June 2, 2012. “The world increasingly looks to the North," Secreatry Clinton told reporters following the two-hour tour. “Our goal is certainly to promote peaceful cooperation,” she added.
Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. State Department
DOD’s Twitter feed linked to a blog post by Secretary of Commerce John Bryson on the Commerce Department’s website where Secretary Bryson argues the business case for ratifying the Law of the Sea Convention. Secretary Bryson notes that acceding to the convention enables the United States to promote energy security efforts by securing sovereign claims to oil and natural gas on the extended continental shelf.
The United States is pushing for an Arctic agenda that promotes resource cooperation among Arctic and non-Arctic countries as part of a broader effort to foster diplomatic engagement in the High North. During a recent visit to Tromso, Norway in the Arctic Circle, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasized that the United States is “committed to responsible management of those [Arctic] resources,” including oil, natural gas and other mineral resources. But while much attention is being focused on these lucrative mineral resources, there are significant opportunities for the United States and the other Arctic countries to enhance broader international cooperation, beginning with fisheries conservation.
The Arctic is emerging as one of the most important maritime domains in the world. Environmental change is giving rise to new sea lanes that will cut the transit time between the Pacific and Atlantic, and opening up new areas for commercial development, including for oil, natural gas and minerals extraction, as well as fishing. There is no doubt that the opening of the Arctic is leading today to increased military, commercial and scientific activities. As these activities increase, it will become ever more important for Arctic countries and non-Arctic countries to cooperate around a range of emerging trends, including offshore energy development that could generate environmental challenges, commercial activity that could contribute to greater demand for search and rescue and other law enforcement capabilities, and increased military presence from Arctic (and potentially non-Arctic) countries that could foment uncertainty and lead to misperceptions about other countries’ intentions in the region.
As U.S. policymakers look for opportunities to enhance cooperation in the Arctic Circle, it may be useful to begin with fisheries conservation. This rather low-politics area of engagement could get partners comfortably engaged in a discussion on Arctic issues that could then snowball into a broader conversation about cooperation around other security and foreign policy interests in the region.
Here are a couple of ways that cooperation around protecting fisheries may serve broader foreign policy purposes in the Arctic Circle:
Countries are increasingly investing in new energy projects to boost domestic energy production and shrink the demand for foreign energy imports. However, climate change may undermine efforts by countries to promote assured access to energy, including with nuclear power, hydroelectric dams and other energy projects that are tied to water resources.
A new study by the journal Nature Climate Change cautions that energy production from thermoelectric power plants could become increasingly constrained as a result of climate change. On the one hand, climate change is expected to warm river and other water resources generally used by thermoelectric power stations (such as nuclear and fossil-fuelled plants) for cooling. According to the study, the United States relies on thermoelectric power stations for about 91 percent of total energy generation (compared to 78 percent in Europe). “During recent warm, dry summers in 2003, 2006 and 2009 several thermoelectric power plants in Europe were forced to reduce production, because of restricted availability of cooling water,” the study found. “In the US a similar event in 2007–2008 caused several power plants to reduce production, or shut down for several days owing to a lack of surface water for cooling and environmental restrictions on thermal discharges.”
Iraq’s crude oil production has increased substantially this year despite sectarian violence, political infighting and modest recovery from years of war.
Increased oil production has contributed to a 20 percent rise in oil exports, bringing total exports to approximately 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, according to a report in The New York Times. The increased production is owed largely to modest improvements in security as well as technical service contracts with experienced foreign oil companies. “The companies brought in modern seismic equipment and modern well recovery techniques to resuscitate old fields,” The New York Times reported. Baghdad claims that these production improvements will enable the country to produce an additional 400,000 barrels a day by 2013, a step on the road to an announced goal of producing 10 million barrels of oil a day by 2017.
Iraq’s resurgent oil sector is likely to have positive benefits for the country and the global oil market. On the one hand, increased oil production will provide Baghdad additional revenue to help the fledgling government strengthen its legitimacy. As The New York Times reported, “Oil provides more than 95 percent of the government’s revenues, has enabled the building of roads and the expansion of social services, and has greatly strengthened the Shiite-led government’s hand in this ethnically divided country.” Moreover, Iraq’s production increase comes as Libya’s oil production is nearing a full recovery. Last week, Libyan officials announced that oil production had reached 90 percent of pre-civil war levels, with the country producing 1.6 million barrels of petroleum a day. Taken together, Iraq’s and Libya’s oil recoveries could help offset the impact of Iranian oil sanctions that will come into full force beginning in July. This will provide the global oil market added volume to satisfy demand and insulate consumers from dramatic price spikes.
The United States is participating in an annual bilateral exercise in Southeast Asia, Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, intended to build the capacity of partners to respond to a range of challenges, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and other missions critical to the region. In this photo, Indonesian Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts complete a tour of the guided missile frigate USS Vandegrift and USCGC Waesche in Surabaya, Indonesia.
Photo: Courtesy of Chief Mass Communication Specialist Aaron Glover and the Department of Defense.