March 08, 2010

This Weekend’s News: Iran, Energy and Us

Big, big natural security news from The New York Times this weekend. You know how we’ve been sanctioning Iran and discouraging U.S. investment in its energy sector? Well – prepare to be shocked – it turns out that the U.S. government “has awarded more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade to foreign and multinational American companies while they were doing business in Iran.” Wowzers.

The full article is a must-read. And not just the article – I’d say its supplemental materials are worth a glance as well. The Times provides a list of the companies it identified. In addition to most of the big financial and energy institutions one could think of, it includes many auto makers, airlines, and electronics makers and service providers (cameras, cell phones, etc.). I think looking through the activities companies engaged in since 2000 beyond energy development gives the Iran debate good context. At the bottom of the same link as that list, the Times provides its methodology.

To wrap up the coverage in that paper, see Jad Mouawad’s related piece framing various energy and geopolitical issues that will affect whether or not Iran’s energy resources provide it with an upper hand in the face of sterner sanctions. For a good contrast, then jump to Haaretz, which reported statements Sunday by an official of the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company that despite having reduced subsidies, Iran’s oil and gas demand has not dropped. The article implies that this could make sanctions on Iran’s energy sectors more potent, though I’m not so sure given the China factor and the myriad other pieces of the picture involved with that. Meanwhile, Iran continues to work toward its nuclear program, which I hear tell is aimed mainly at increasing the country’s energy security.

The Week Ahead

At noon Monday the Wilson Center hosts "Warning of Global Warming? Politics, Economics and Ecological Change in Siberia's Far East" based on in-country research. Wednesday at 6:00pm, check out CFR’s discussion on "Developing an International Framework for Geoengineering." (I wish I could attend this one – if anyone takes good notes and is in a sharing mood, shoot me an email.) The National Building Council holds “For the Greener Good: Greening the Supply Chain” at 6:30pm on Thursday. At 11:00am Friday AAAS convenes think tank and government experts for "Climate Policy: Public Perception, Science, and the Political Landscape."