March 27 saw the culmination of a half-decade of negotiations between Beijing and Tehran, with foreign ministers meeting to sign a twenty-five-year $400 billion strategic and economic partnership. The specifics of the agreement are largely in line with China’s ongoing Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), spending billions in infrastructure investment with an eye on long term influence and economic and security hegemony. Major sectors include oil, gas, petrochemical, renewables, nuclear power, and energy infrastructure. The draft agreement also covered the high-tech and military cooperation, as well as port construction to facilitate Iran’s integration in China’s Belt and Road trade routes.
The idea of space-based laser weapons orbiting the earth has been a part of popular culture and real life government projects for decades, from James Bond’s Goldeneye to Ronald Reagan’s ambitious “Star Wars” program. Recently, the Pentagon began developing a framework to promote the innovation of what it calls Direct Energy Weapons (DEW) designed to weaponize laser systems for use against military targets. The U.S. military more than doubled its spending on DEWs between 2017 and 2019, from $535 million to $1.1 billion. Yet, compared with the massive funding for kinetic missile defense and nuclear modernization, these are minuscule budgets.
The global competition for critical minerals is heating up and the US isn’t winning. Among these critical minerals is a subset known as rare earth elements (REEs) which are vital to everything from the energy transition to national defense. On March 4th Tesla announced its partnership with a nickel mine in New Caledonia. The announcement comes amidst emerging rumors that China will impose export limits on rare earths metals. What’s the connection?
On Sunday March 7, Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked an Aramco oil facility in Ras Tanura, a major port on Saudi Arabia’s Persian Gulf Coast. Brigadier General. Yahya Sarea, a spokesman for the rebel group, said in a televised statement that ballistic missiles and drones hit the oil facility and one of its largest refineries, along with military positions in nearby Dammam. Sarea said the attack was part of the Houthis’ “natural right” as a response to the “aggression and total siege of our dear country” by the Saudis.
The Israeli government is accusing Iran of environmental terrorism over the historic oil disaster unfolding along its Mediterranean coast line. At this point, nearly 100 tons of tar and contaminated material have been scraped off the country’s shores since cleanup efforts began on the 21st of February. In the ensuing investigation the original culprit has since been identified by authorities as a pirate-owned Libyan oil tanker carrying stolen cargo from Iran to Syria.
A massive oil spill off the coast of Israel is being called the worst ecological disasters in the Mediterranean country’s history. The cause and full extent of the damage is still unknown, but Israeli authorities are investigating. Several tankers are under suspicion.
Beijing and Moscow assiduously followed former president Donald Trump's second impeachment trial for the same reasons they followed the first: the United States is China's and Russia's number one geopolitical rival. What's relevant to America's domestic politics, then, is relevant to its rivals' foreign policy ambitions. To prevent acts of hostility in a time of tumult—virtual and real—the Biden administration will need to reassure allies, shore up American institutions and deter aggression.
Let’s not mince words – the energy crisis in Texas is an unmitigated disaster on all fronts. Some 4.4 million people have been without power, heat, and running water for days and lack of the state grid’s preparation is to blame. Texas loves to brag about its energy independence and self-reliant electrical grid. But the events of the past week underscore that America’s largest energy producer is not as energy secure as once thought. About 90% of the Lone Star State is powered by a Texas-only power grid, but the current events strongly suggest that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) should join a regional transmission organization to meet energy demands.
Microsoft’s billionaire founder Bill Gates is financially backing the development of sun-dimming technology that would potentially reflect sunlight out of Earth’s atmosphere, triggering a global cooling effect. The Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx), launched by Harvard University scientists, aims to examine this solution by spraying non-toxic calcium carbonate (CaCO3) dust into the atmosphere — a sun-reflecting aerosol that may offset the effects of global warming.
The Biden Administration – due to take office January 20th, 2021 – is expected to turn political rhetoric into political action when it comes to the nation’s resource use and energy management. Central to this will be decarbonizing the US electricity sector through renewable power sources as part of the much-touted green energy transition.
Shortly after President Donald Trump ordered a U.S. retreat from Syria and Afghanistan in October 2019, events in the region drew U.S. forces right back in. The administration’s decision to target Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, triggered tit-for-tat retaliation between Washington and Tehran at the opening of 2020, bringing bilateral tensions to their highest levels since the 1979 hostage crisis. Despite these actions in the region, Washington is still seeking to retreat from its security commitments in the Greater Middle East and Central Asia. While there are financial and political benefits to reducing America’s footprint abroad, a reduced presence in this geopolitically critical part of the world could also create a strategic vacuum with dire diplomatic, economic, and security consequences.
On November 15th the world’s largest trade agreement was signed in a virtual meeting room, bringing an end to eight years of negotiations. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) links 15 Asia-Pacific economies, including the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), plus Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. This is a historic step – and a major trade blow to the United States.
With Joe Biden’s presidential election victory last week, climate change is set to be a top priority for the incoming administration, second only to the Covid-19 recovery. As discussed in my recent article, the president-elect has laid out an ambitious roadmap for decarbonizing the US economy, which includes a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions for the country by 2050. This will require unprecedented investments in green energy technologies: from traditional solar, wind, and storage to frontier tech like hydrogen fuel cells and small modular reactors (SMRs).
Days after Joe Biden’s contentious presidential win, the U.S. Federal Reserve – known as one of America’s most conservative institutions – acknowledged for the first time the financial risks of climate change in its biannual financial stability report. In comments attached to the publication, Fed Governor Lael Brainard said the following:
“Acute hazards, such as storms, floods, or wildfires, may cause investors to update their perceptions of the value of real or financial assets suddenly…slow increases in mean temperatures or sea levels, or a gradual change in investor sentiment about those risks, introduce the possibility of abrupt tipping points or significant swings in sentiment.”
The historic win of the Presidency by Joe Biden will massively change U.S. policies, foreign and domestic. It is too early to project the scope of that transformation. Without a doubt, Biden’s energy policy will differ from that of his predecessor.
At Thursday’s presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden pledged to transition the U.S. economy “away from the oil industry.” This goal cannot be achieved without the electrification of road transport, which accounted for almost 70% of America’s oil consumption in 2019. Market forces and green government policies are accelerating this shift in the United States and around the world.
In this video series, Dr. Ariel Cohen discusses current events happening around the world. The discussion in this video will focus on the recent Vice-Presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris.
In this video series, Dr. Ariel Cohen discusses current events happening around the world. The discussion in this video will focus on possible Tik Tok sanctions, the events in Belarus, & the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Thank you for watching and be sure to subscribe for more updates on currents events happening around the world.
Energy’s geopolitical and geo-economic importance means it is always at risk of becoming a pawn in wider strategic conflict. The standoff between Beijing, Washington and much of Europe—complicated by China’s ongoing crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong—is no different
Developments in the oil market over the past two months have been catastrophic. From the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the collapse of demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic, historic (but ultimately unsuccessful) OPEC+ cuts, to negative prices, the prospects of a crude market rebound seem dim.
In a historic collapse, U.S. oil prices plummeted over 300% on Monday as traders unloaded their positions ahead of the May contract expiration Tuesday. Of all the unpredictable economic swings in financial markets that have occurred since the onset of the global pandemic, Monday’s oil wipeout is without a doubt the most jaw-dropping.
Human history is replete with unanticipated catastrophic events that come like a bolt from the blue. During World War II, both Nazi Germany's attack on the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came as strategic surprises. Then as now, intelligence warnings were ignored.
Ariel Cohen, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council and Founding Principal of International Market Analysis, and David Wainer, Bloomberg International government reporter, react to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s press conference and the escalation with Iran.