This is shaping up to be a summer marked by its extensive natural disasters around the world. In addition to the heat waves, projections hinting at a bad hurricane season in this hemisphere, Russia’s massive wildfires, and floods hitting Central Europe, Pakistan’s already-terrible flooding is expected to grow worse. First, according to The New York Times, the Russian wildfires have “forced the military to transfer rockets away from a garrison near the capital” after “they burned through forests toward a nuclear missile warning center outside Moscow.”
Second and even more concerning in its scale, yesterday The Washington Post highlighted concerns of Pakistani officials that the extensive damage from flooding, which has killed about 1,600 to date, could set back gains against insurgents:
Over the past year, Pakistan's army has succeeded in driving Taliban fighters out of key sanctuaries in South Waziristan and the Swat Valley. But the damage from the floods could jeopardize those gains, officials acknowledge, unless infrastructure is quickly rebuilt -- an undertaking that will cost billions of dollars and will likely take years.
In domestic news of bad (but likely politically necessary) investments, the Department of Energy announced last week that we’re putting another billion dollars into a reconfigured plan for the FutureGen project, which has proven about as successful as the attempts to keep Lindsey Lohan out of jail. Several articles covering this move by DOE pointed out that a simpler option (that’s technically feasible today) could be to use natural gas for power generation rather than continuing reliance on coal, as several other countries are already beginning to do. But they reveal that part of that decision is coming back to price: if you ignore price supports and externalities that we don’t price at all, coal is cheaper than natural gas. And as we’ve seen lately, policies to price in externalities such as greenhouse gas emissions are unfortunately beyond the political will of Congress at the moment. (On that note, The Washington Post’s “On Leadership” section yesterday included commentary on why the country can’t muster the leadership needed to act on climate change.)
While the historical record shows that no states have ever fought a war over transboundary water resources, such resources have long served as focal points for potential conflict. But despite growing water scarcity in regions of the world – due in part to global population growth and increased drought in those regions – there are still great efforts among states to negotiate and even cooperate over many contentious and increasingly constrained water resources.
Two examples strike me as being particularly relevant to U.S. national security: the Nile Basin Initiative and the Mekong River Commission. The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) is a partnership of all 10 Nile Basin riparians to develop the river in a cooperative manner, share the socio-economic benefits, such as hydropower, that the river provides and “promote regional peace and security.” Similarly the Mekong River Commission, an agreement between Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam and with China and Burma as “dialogue partners” but not full participants, is meant to help regional riparians to manage the Mekong River’s shared water resources and develop the economic potential of the river.
Both organizations are good examples of integrated water resource management, a process to manage a river or body of water as a whole to maximize the development potential of an entire river. Yet both organizations are still missing a crucial piece: that is, the cooperation of the most powerful state in the river basin and the state that has historically been able to control the river’s water resources.
This post, written by CNAS colleague Matt Acocella, was originally posted on Tom Ricks's The Best Defense blog. Thanks Matt!
The International Energy Agency announced last week that China had overtaken the U.S. as the world's largest consumer of energy, citing data showing that "China consumed the equivalent of 2.25 billion tons of oil last year, slightly above U.S. consumption of 2.17 billion tons. The measure includes all types of energy: oil, nuclear energy, coal, natural gas and renewable energy sources." Chinese officials moved quickly to dispute this assertion and questioned the IEA's calculations.
This pushback is predictable, according to Fereidun Fesharaki, Senior Fellow at the East-West Center and Senior Associate at CSIS. At a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last week on "China and India's Energy Policy Directions," Ferashaki explained that China is loathe to take on the title of World's #1 energy user because it prefers the U.S. to be in the global hot seat. One fact particularly struck me: according to Dr. Fesharaki, China purposely waits until a lull occurs in the price of oil before it buys up large amounts for its strategic petroleum reserves, in order to avoid being accused of spiking the price of crude.
Following up on a story we highlighted here on the blog last Friday, China has issued a stern warning to the United States not to meddle in a longstanding dispute between China and its South China Sea neighbors over territorial claims to a string of strategic islands with deposits of oil and natural gas. The more assertive warning came several days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the United States had a “national interest” in freedom of navigation and open access of the maritime commons in the South China Sea.
On Friday, China “put American officials on notice that it will not brook foreign interference in the waters off its southeastern coast, which it views as a ‘core interest’ of sovereignty.” But yesterday, The New York Times reported a more direct warning from Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi that U.S. interference “would increase regional tensions.”
In an excerpt from the Times report published this morning, reaction to Secretary Clinton’s remark seemed to vacillate from diplomatic to less than so: “‘What will be the consequences if this issue is turned into an international or multilateral one?’” the Times quoted Foreign Minister Yang as published on the Foreign Ministry’s website. “It will only make matters worse and the resolution more difficult,” the web posting stated. Meanwhile, The New York Times reported China’s state-run media as labeling Secretary Clinton’s remarks as “an attack,” with an editorial appearing in People’s Daily that cited her remarks as American aspirations to “contain a China with growing military capabilities.”
The New York Times reported this morning that the United States is willing to wade into a dispute over “a string of strategically sensitive islands in the South China Sea.” The above photo is an aerial image of one of the small islands in the Spratly island cluster. The Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea have long been a source of tension and even deadly dispute between Vietnam and China; they skirmished over them in 1988: dozens of Vietnamese sailors were killed, and several Vietnamese ships sunk.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, addressing a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN), said, “The United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea,” the Times reported. The Times acknowledged that China “has long laid claim to islands in the South China Sea because they are rich in oil and natural gas deposits,” adding that Beijing “has put American officials on notice that it will not brook foreign interference in the waters off its southeastern coast, which it views as a ‘core interest’ of sovereignty.”
Photo: Courtesy of flickr user Storm_Crypt.
In honor of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit to Washington this week, we will be focusing the blog on Afghanistan and Pakistan (given the consensus that the later is critical to our goals in the former). Focus on our pet issues in these countries usually begins and ends with the energy needs of U.S./ISAF personnel and the pernicious fuel and water logistics problems. Me and the other bloggers will be highlighting a broader range of natural security issues in these neighboring countries for you, with the hope of adding to your knowledge of how resources play into the U.S. security interests at stake there.
Today, I’m beginning in Pakistan.
By now you all know that China is going to supply two new nuclear reactors to Pakistan. FT and other sources are reporting that they will be 650-megawatt reactors, a major increase from the 300-megawatt reactors China previously built at Pakistan’s Chashma site, where the new reactors are to be located.
Details on the reactor designs are yet to be revealed, but I’d assume they will also be pressurized water reactors, which will of course use a fair bit of water from the Indus River, on which they will sit. And Pakistan is the most water-starved country per capita in its region. Which all makes me hope that several factors play out in favor of the continued operation over the expected 40-year life of these plants once they are on line:
China is also lending a helping hand with Pakistan’s water problems, as the two countries signed MOUs last year for China to assist Pakistan in improving its very poor irrigation systems, which use up to 90% of that country’s fresh water. Other bilateral agreements extend to mining and other types of energy cooperation.