May 03, 2010

This Weekend's News: Energy, Nonproliferation, and More Energy

This week (and those ahead) we’ll be watching news from the NPT conference for discussions on the intersections of energy and nonproliferation. You may be asking, “What does this intersection look like?” David Sanger and William Broad in The New York Times set the scene beautifully this piece from yesterday:

. . .to many analysts, the growing interest among Persian Gulf nations for nuclear programs reflects a desire for a military edge.

Still, there is another motivating factor: the economics of oil. When prices are high, gulf countries would prefer to sell their oil at great profit rather than burn it for power. A study done by the International Atomic Energy Agency and a group of gulf states concluded that nuclear power made sense for the region when the price of oil exceeded $50 a barrel.

Today it is above $80, and with the world economy gradually recovering, many expect it to go higher.

Every country in the region except Lebanon is planning to build nuclear reactors or has declared an interest in doing so.

They will of course need to take water availability into account as they explore siting these Middle Eastern reactors as well, though I much appreciate the linkage to petroleum prices. Here’s my question though: will agreements on reprocessing and fuel enrichment indicate lack of military intent by countries newly seeking nuclear energy technology, as the first line above indicates? I don’t know how you can venture to answer this question without looking at conventional military capabilities in the region – in addition to oil prices and broader goals in the science and technology realm by these countries.

And speaking of oil, the biggest story over the weekend was surely the continuing leakage of oil into the Gulf. As this was extensively covered, I’ll just offer you a few links you may not have seen:

  • Luckovich has a good summary here.
  • DOD Buzz features a great piece wondering the implications of a shrinking Coast Guard in light of this disaster.
  • A public opinion poll from The Onion.

I’ll leave you with the parting parlor question: how likely is this to alter the president’s offshore oil policy announced last month? My opening pitch is that it will come back to the full ecological impacts as they affect coastal communities and public opinion there.

Check out the Stimson Center today at 2pm for a discussion of Energy in Asia.

Cico de Mayo (May 5th for our non-Spanish speakers), will have a pretty interesting event over at the World Resource Institute covering the Biodiversity Impacts of Chinese Investment in Africa and Opportunities for Conservation, beginning at 9:30am. Later that day, at 3pm, the Wilson Center follows Wednesday’s trend, and hosts a very cool dialogue over China’s Growing Quest for Energy and Raw Materials, covering trade and investment in Australia, Africa and Latin America. If any of you out there get a chance to check this out, let us know what you thought, we’d love to hear from you.

Friday at 9am, the U.S. Institute of Peace will be hosting a pretty interesting discussion on Land Reform, Conflict, and Development in Bolivia and Colombia, featuring a keynote address from Representative Henry Johnson, in addition to many Columbian and Bolivian representatives.