21st Century Security

Israel, Iran, And The Global Energy Tightrope

April 16, 2024

The long-simmering conflict between Iran and Israel erupted this weekend when Tehran launched a massive air strike against the Jewish state. Over 300 drones, cruise, and ballistic missiles were aimed at Israeli airspace on Saturday night, April 13, and early hours of Sunday the 14th. This attack was not a surprise. President Biden warned days before the attack it would likely occur, and Iran itself stated as much after Israel allegedly bombed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps command building in Damascus, killing senior IRGC generals. Iran ignored and violated the diplomatic immunity of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and conducted a terror attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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STEM Education Reform Needed To Compete With China

April 11, 2024

While the Biden administration’s ongoing quest to forgive student loans has repeatedly captured headlines, a far more significant initiative, Advance Educational Equity, infused in the language of racial and economic equity, fails to address a significant American weakness: the development of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, the fields that form the drive our modern world. These fields are the bedrock of innovation, technological advancement, and national security.

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Putin's Information War Is Absurd—and Effective | Opinion

April 10, 2024

A terror attack on a Moscow suburban concert hall killed more than 130 civilians on March 22. The Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) claimed responsibility that same day, followed by body camera footage to prove it. ISIS-K is a predominantly Afghanistan-based branch of ISIS, with a massive deployment on the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border, which has a long and bloody history with Russia. After wars against Muslims in Afghanistan and Chechnya, Russian, Iranian, and Syrian forces decimated ISIS in Syria, and ISIS has retaliated a number of times against Russia's soft targets.

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American Deterrence Is Failing In The South China Sea

April 2, 2024

One of Beijing's enduring hobbies is accusing Washington of violating or abusing international law. This selective outrage is justifiably ignored, given China’s unwillingness to abide by international law and disregard for U.N. arbitration concerning demarcation in the South China Sea. “International law with Chinese characteristics” was easily mocked and ignored when American deterrence and international safeguards stymied Beijing’s ambitions. Unfortunately, that security architecture is unraveling.

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Ukraine Needs An Economic Victory

March 21, 2024

For Ukraine, winning on the battlefield is not enough, as Kyiv must ensure that the country’s economy stays afloat. If exports continue to slump, Kyiv could lose its ability to finance the war effort and sustain its population even further. Thus, maintaining the flow of its agricultural exports is vital.

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To Defend Democracy, Time To Revamp America’s Military-Industrial Base

March 16, 2024

America’s defense industrial base is not ready for the dangerous global environment in which the U.S. and the West find themselves. For the White House, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Congress, continuing to neglect this situation is no longer an option. The Center for Strategic and International Studies recently conducted and reported on a series of U.S.-China wargames —in nearly all of them, U.S. forces ran out of some precision-guided munitions within a week.

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Biden’s Waffling On LNG Can Hurt Mexico – And The US Too

March 12, 2024

With over half a dozen Liquefied Natural Gas  GAS-0.7%export projects underway in Mexico, stakeholders are watching anxiously to see if US politics will force them to stop. In January, President Joe Biden issued an executive order pausing the approval of new LNG export permits for countries that do not have a Free Trade Agreement with the US. This decision sparked outrage among industry stakeholders and politicians, who viewed it as a political ploy to appease environmentalists and gain their support in the 2024 Presidential election.

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Are Drones Putting Global Peace In Danger?

February 29, 2024

Three recent wars highlighted the use of drones in 21st-century warfare. Houthi and Iranian attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure and military in Yemen brought the war between Iranian proxies and the UAE-Saudi coalition to a stalemate by 2015. Azerbaijan used drones massively against Armenia in 2020 and 2023, and a deluge of drone-focused combat footage flooded the internet after Russia’s February 2022 re-invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian songs cheering on the Turkish Baykar company’s Bayraktar drone went viral as drones devastated Russian armor. The Kremlin is playing catch-up quite successfully. The Russian military used swarms of drones, many of them Iranian-made, in attacks against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure targets.

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The US Must Boost Homeland Resilience In The 21st Century

February 22, 2024

On February 15th, 2024, the White House confirmed that Russia is attempting to deploy a nuclear spaceborne anti-satellite weapon. While the White House was quick to qualify that there is no immediate nuclear threat to the homeland, little doubt remains that Russia’s pursuit of this weapon, banned under international treaties, is a dire threat. The deployment of spaceborne weapons capable of disrupting the nuclear triad by attacking America’s communications or even launching warheads would represent a watershed event in the developing conflict between the US and its allies, and Russia, China, and their fellow travelers, such as Iran and North Korea. Moscow’s move risks bringing an arms race into space. This demands every technological, military, diplomatic, and legal response America can muster to maintain strategic deterrence.

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Can Europe Count On US LNG?

February 20, 2024

The US House of Representatives appears to be so dysfunctional that Mike Turner, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had to go public to respond to a major national security threat from new Russian anti-satellite weaponry. Meanwhile, the other Mike, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, is delaying a vote on crucial foreign aid to provide means for Israel, Taiwan, and Ukraine to defend themselves.

Energy, specifically the Biden Administration’s liquified natural gas (LNG) future infrastructure development pause/ban, is also on the Congressional agenda. The recent White House decision is one of the worst in a string of failed energy decisions, including the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada’s oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico.

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The World Is Going Into The Red From The Red Sea Crisis

February 7, 2024

The Houthis, an Iranian-backed proxy terrorist group in Yemen, trained and equipped by the theocratic dictatorship in Tehran, have unleashed chaos on the global supply chain and sent shockwaves through international markets. Now that the US is attacking Iranian targets proxies in Syria and Iraq while the UK and US are bombing Houthis in the Red Sea targets. The cost to the global economy is ticking upwards.

Nearly 30 percent of global container shipping navigates through the Suez Canal via the Red Sea, with 15 percent of global trade passing through the Red Sea, mostly destined for Asia. This traffic includes not only strategic resources like oil and gas but also everyday goods and commodities that keep the global economic engine humming.

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Xi And The Red Sea: Protect Iran Or China’s Economy?

February 2, 2024

A US bombing campaign against Iranian proxies, which hit more than 85 targets in response to a recent drone attack in Jordan that killed three Americans and injured dozens, threatens a regional conflagration. This crisis began after the Houthi attacks out of Yemen on commercial shipping in the Red Sea disrupted the supply chain, raised maritime insurance and transport costs, and threatened a global recession.

Amidst the deluge of international condemnation, one actor’s silence speaks volumes: China’s. Outwardly, China and President Xi Jinping are putting on an excellent poker face. However, this cannot hide China’s unenviable dilemma: its ambitions for global leadership require expanding influence in the Middle East, while simultaneously China’s economy and the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party are threatened by Iran’s truculence.

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The U.S. Is Losing the Nuclear Energy Race to Russia and China

January 25, 2024

Even as Russia remains under unprecedented Western economic sanctions, the U.S. finds itself dependent on one Russian vital import: enriched uranium. The U.S. is the largest producer of nuclear energy in the world, but it has allowed its civilian nuclear infrastructure to languish since Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan’s presidencies in the 1970s and 1980s.

While the U.S. has coasted on its laurels, with nuclear energy production not changing much in over 30 years, Russia continues its gradual climb upward and exports many reactors, while China is investing heavily in civilian nuclear tech and boosting its atomic power generation at home. Beijing plans to build 24 new nuclear power plants by 2030, bringing the total up to 60, overtaking the U.S. with its old reactor fleet. For comparison, the U.S. has 93 operational nuclear power plants in total, and in the same period as China’s building spree, the U.S. added 2 with none under development now.

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U.S. And China Vie For Copper As Demand And Prices Soar

January 23, 2024

The world is running short of copper, and companies and countries are scrambling. This essential metal, a staple of civilization going back to the bronze age, is the lifeblood of existing energy infrastructure and cutting-edge technology. Unfortunately, it faces a projected supply shortfall by 2025 with projections showing a 20% price jump by May 2027. Annual demand will surge to 36.6 million metric tons by 2031, up from 25.3 million in 2021.

This vulnerability isn’t merely an economic inconvenience; it’s a geopolitical powder keg. The U.S. finds itself in an increasingly high-stakes scramble for global copper supplies against China. If this competition isn’t managed the same way the competition for crude oil is, competition for copper could further destabilize the already rocky international system.

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Electric Vehicles 2024 Tax Changes Are Not Enough For Global Leadership

January 18, 2024

Considering an electric vehicle in 2024? Be aware of policy changes that could negatively affect your purchase. Starting in January, new rules will allow car dealers to give EV buyers their tax credit upfront. However, many EV models, batteries and components from China will no longer be eligible as the Sino-American competition goes green.

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which includes the Clean Vehicle Tax Credit, offers up to $7,500 to new EV buyers. As part of the U.S. strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bring industries back to the country, this initiative has boosted EV sales, benefiting manufacturers like Tesla and General Motors GM +1.2%. Since 2021, EV sales have tripled, with over 3 million vehicles currently on the roads.

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Houthis & Red Sea Crisis Threaten Global Energy Markets

January 17, 2024

The crisis in the Red Sea is spreading rapidly and is now set to threaten global energy flows unless decisive action is taken. What started with the Houthis, a Shi’a Islamic rebel group in control of large portions of northern Yemen trained and equipped by Iran, attacking shipping in the Red Sea to “support Hamas,” is rapidly turning into a regional conflagration. This emerging conflict is set not only to ignite tensions in the Middle East but also to ravage the world’s oil market.

Already ships from forty-four countries have been attacked by the Houthis in the open sea, prompting the United States and 12 other countries to sign a statement condemning these attacks against commercial vessels. The U.S. and U.K. have begun a joint operation dubbed Prosperity Guardian, aptly named for the consequences of failure, to stop these attacks. This operation is currently striking Houthi targets across Yemen, while the Houthis’ patron, Iran, has escalated by striking at targets in Iraq, including an alleged “Israeli spy base.” The strike killed a well-known Kurdish businessman and his 1-year-old daughter, and seriously wounded his wife and two sons.

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Angola, A Vital Member, Defects From OPEC. Now What?

December 22, 2023

Angola, the world’s 17th largest oil producer and the second largest producer in Africa after Nigeria, has left the organization following a lengthy disagreement over quotas. Only a few hours after this announcement, crude oil prices dropped by over a dollar as markets anticipated Angola’s state-owned oil company, Sonangol, to increase production.

Angola now joins just two other countries that have left OPEC: Qatar, in 2018, and Ecuador, in 2020.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries unites 12 of the world’s oil-exporting countries into a cartel of considerable influence. Together with Russia and a number of other producers that comprise OPEC+ the cartel has incredible leverage over the world’s oil supplies, increasing or decreasing production quotas several times a year and, with it, drastically impacting the international economy. Through the regulation of oil supply, OPEC tries to keep prices high, but not too high, fostering demand and, in doing so, profits handsomely.

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Venezuela Vs Guyana: The Battle For El Essequibo’s Oil

November 16, 2023

In a pivotal development, intentionally timed between concurrent crises in Ukraine and Israel to avoid the international spotlight, Venezuela’s National Assembly (noted for its non-transparent anti-democratic character) has given the green light for a national referendum in early December to determine the status of the Essequibo territory. The only problem – Essequibo is not a part of Venezuela, nor has it been since the days of the Spanish Empire. This region, internationally acknowledged as part of the neighboring, oil-rich Guyana and constituting about two-thirds of that country’s expanse, holds substantial oil wealth.

Guyana asserts that the current borders established in 1899 by an international arbitration tribunal during its British colonial era should remain in force. Conversely, Venezuela contends that the Essequibo River naturally demarcates the border, dismissing the 1899 verdict as ‘null and void”. Subsequent diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute have largely faltered, with a historical turning point being the 1903 Venezuela blockade, prompting U.S.-mediated peace talks among European countries, which again recognized the current borders and establishing the applicable legal precedent.

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Russia Uses New Arctic LNG To Dodge Energy Sanctions

October 31, 2023

Vladimir Nekrasov, a prominent executive in Russia’s energy sector who criticized Putin, has had a tragic accident. These unavoidable twists of fate mean that up to 40 of the top managers in Russian energy have died since the war in Ukraine began. Coincidentally, they all commonly express skepticism towards Russia’s energy strategy, its funding streams, and its ability to fund the Kremlin’s war effort.

Prior to exposés recently released by Le Monde and Der Spiegel, it was assumed these deaths were Putin sweeping away the opposition and shaking down oligarchs for much-needed capital. While this remains true, the revelations that multiple French and German companies were cooperating with the Russian state in an “arctic pivot” for energy exports may have revealed another reason. Many of these Russian executives stood to lose significantly from Russia’s new energy strategy: pivot exports to the difficult-to-monitor Arctic to mitigate sanctions and may have resisted the transition.

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Undersea Strategic Minerals Mining : Huge Upside, Environmental Peril

October 30, 2023

Environmental advocates made an impassioned plea to the UN for a novel request: a moratorium on deep-sea mining. This call comes amid both forthcoming international meetings on the subject scheduled for 2024 and the rapid, albeit quiet, explosion of interest in deep-sea mining. Once a topic for science fiction, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) has already issued 30 seabed exploration licenses (with the most – 6 – going to China). This is only the beginning of a race that will upend the energy market and geopolitics.

The seabed contains most of the periodic table, including nickel, cobalt, gold, silver, zinc, lithium, and copper, in potato-sized, polymetallic nodules that sit on the sea floor. These nodules contain many Rare Earth Elements (REEs), which are crucial for emerging green energy production and cutting-edge technology such as semiconductors and AI. These strategic metals are seeing an exponential rise in demand due to the green transition, generating geopolitical competition and financial interests in them just as fierce as oil in the 20th century.

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War In Israel Will Not Damage Oil Markets Unless Iran Wants It To

October 13, 2023

Oil prices surged on Monday as fears of a broader war in the Middle East panicked investors. Worries about an escalation that could’ve affected oil-producing Middle Eastern countries caused a 4% rise in Brent Crude oil prices to $88 per barrel. After the heinous terrorist attacks in Israel committed by Hamas, which have thus far killed over 1,200 Israeli civilians and wounded nearly 3,000 and pushed Israel into a state of war, panic over oil prices is understandable, but not warranted.

Barring an escalation, crude oil prices will likely remain in the corridor between $80 and $90 per barrel. Prices will only surge higher if Iran, Hamas’ and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s funder and supporter, and Hezbollah’s creator and puppet master, decides to expand the war.

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Who Wins & Loses The New Sino-American Green Trade War?

September 24, 2023

In a bold move, the US has announced sweeping tariffs on Chinese solar cells and modules, intensifying the Sino-American trade war in the renewable energy sector. Like electric vehicles, U.S. will use the full power of its trade regulatory apparatus to stymie China’s unfair competition.

This latest announcement came after a Department of Commerce probe revealed solar cells and panels produced by 4 Chinese companies underwent final processing in neighboring Southeast Asian countries to evade American tariffs on Chinese goods. The investigation has sent ripples through the US renewables market, leading the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the largest national solar trade group, to reduce its 2023 and 2024 installation projections by 46% This comes as developers like NextEra Energy Inc (NEE.N) and Southern Co (SO.N) cautioned about significant project delays.

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Rising Oil Prices Fuel Inflation And Threaten Biden’s Re-Election

September 14, 2023

The world economy has mostly recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, but nonetheless, US inflation remains well above the desired 2% threshold at an estimated 3.7% in August. Core inflation for the year 2023 is expected to be 4.3%. It is possible that the Fed would need to apply another rate hike to drive inflation down, causing a rougher landing than the Biden Administration hoped for.

Inflation and gasoline/oil prices will be key issues during the 2024 presidential election and the Republican party may attack President Biden on the shape of the economy, which could deteriorate if prices continue to rise, and the recession ticks unemployment up.

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BRICS Expansion: China’s Energy Victory?

September 13, 2023

At a recent summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) group, which some believe can counter-balance the West, for the first time in over a decade, opted to invite six new members: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE UAE0.0%). This disparate group of emerging economies has one common feature greatly influencing their January 1st, 2024, entry into BRICS – ample energy endowments. At first glance, this seems like an assertive BRICS move towards energy dominance. The newly admitted countries would not only boost the bloc’s energy production but also greatly diversify it.

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Putin’s Threats To Zaporizhhia Nuclear Power Plant Endangers Energy Transition

July 16, 2023

Carl Sagan once said, “The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist-deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.” The near-universal recognition of the futility of an all-out nuclear war led to widespread cuts in nuclear armaments since Gorbachev’s perestroika and the Soviet collapse in 1991. Even anti-communist hawks like former President Ronald Reagan pragmatically cut nuclear arms. The US and the USSR cut strategic arsenals from over 30,000 warheads each to approximately 1550 by 2011.

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