On September 17th, Delta Phi Epsilon had the honor of hosting acclaimed journalist Steve LeVine, who led a discussion on the geopolitical implications of the recent technological progress in energy extraction technology.
According to Mr. LeVine, two developments stand to reshape world energy markets and international politics: the extraction of shale natural gas and shale oil as well as ultra-deep-water energy exploration. Over the past decade, American energy companies have pioneered the economical extraction of oil and natural gas from the Earth’s shale. This new supply is on the verge of making the United States self-reliant consumer — perhaps even a large exporter — of natural gas. Similarly, by 2020, according to a Citi Bank projection cited by Mr. LeVine, due to shale oil in the United States as well as Canadian tar sands, the Western Hemisphere may become a major exporter of oil.
The new energy supply flooding world markets, however, will not only come from North America. The technological advancements that have allowed the United States and Mexico to increase deep-sea oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico are slowly spreading around the world. Now, formerly unknown or inaccessible reserves in African countries such as in Mozambique and Tanzania or South American countries like Guyana stand to further expand the world’s supply of fossil fuels.
In light of this new supply, according to Mr. Levine, we may be entering an era defined by the “Geopolitics of Plenty.” Previous reserves destined to the large American market as well as incoming American exports, are begging to end up in Europe and Asia reducing the relative influence of energy exporting countries, particularly Russia. At the same time, the increase in oil supplies will further erode OPEC’s quasi-monopoly on oil production.
A fascinating question, though, arises about the role of China in the new geopolitical situation. Geologists claim that there is a strong possibility that China may possess large reserves of shale natural gas. What is uncertain is whether China will be able to access the technology, capital, and managerial expertise necessary to unleash its energy resources. Should this happen, China may shift away from burning highly polluting coal to satisfy its energy needs. In turn, such a development may — at least temporarily — abate the looming threat of worsening climate change. Ironically, China may become one of the harbingers of a greener and healthier global economy moving forward in the 21st century.
After outlining this argument, Mr. LeVine led a vigorous and engaging conversation about the future of energy and its influence on geopolitics and global issues such as climate change. The discussion facilitated the sharing of ideas between Mr. LeVine, the GW community, as well as representatives from embassies of China, Russia, and the United Kingdom. The size and diversity of the guests — more than 100 people participated — highlights the importance of energy issues on the global affairs.
Delta Phi Epsilon is proud to host such a successful event and gracious to Mr. Steve LeVine for leading it.
Mr. LeVine is an adjunct professor of energy security at Georgetown University and a Bernard L. Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation. Until recently Mr. LeVine was a managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine and author of their energy security blog, “The Oil and the Glory.” He served as a foreign correspondent for 18 years in the Soviet Union, Pakistan and the Philippines, for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, and Newsweek. He has authored two books: The Oil and the Glory (2007) and Putin’s Labyrinth (2008).