Category Archives: What’s new

New working paper on U.S. energy diplomacy

Tim Boersma and I have a new working paper on energy diplomacy published by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. It is available here.

Executive Summary

The oil and gas boom has turned the US energy landscape upside down, with ripple effects around the world. This transformation has given rise to discussions of how Washington can leverage these newly found riches to its advantage internationally. The emerging literature in this field seems to agree that major benefits accrue to those nations that produce massive amounts of hydrocarbons but too often misses a clearly defined starting point for analysis, for instance regarding the division of labor between public and private actors.

The Obama administration was the first to have this “tool” in its diplomatic toolbox and made repetitive claims about how American resources were going to be used to help allies in, for instance, Europe. The transition to the Trump administration brought with it numerous policy changes, including on the diplomatic front, though the mantra to “unleash” US resources into the world has suggested continuity, rather than change, absent the tone of diplomacy.

This paper examines the history of US energy diplomacy and how it has been altered by the US oil and gas boom. It then explores the limitations of US energy diplomacy and provides a case study to illustrate areas where it has come up short and areas where it has found success. In short, the paper finds the following:

  • While discussions around US energy diplomacy have oftentimes been framed around the benefits US energy exports can bring to allies and to pushing back against foes, there seems to be very little evidence that supports the notion that diplomats can exert this kind of influence.
  • Diplomatic objectives are often overwhelmed by energy market realities. The US oil and gas sector consists of thousands of companies of vastly different sizes, making independent investment decisions based on commodity price expectations—not on diplomatic desires.
  • Whether and when energy resources are sold is determined by a number of factors, including available infrastructure and existing regulatory frameworks, but the chief factor is price. If making a profit is the key objective of US companies, and their actions are independent, it can be no surprise that there are substantial limits to how the US diplomatic corps can steer the flow of commodity to achieve desired political goals.
  • In specific cases where US diplomats have tried to persuade importing allies to diversify their fuel mix, such as natural gas in Europe, that mix has not materially changed. European efforts to increase optionality for various member states have generated meaningful results, even though it is more complicated to declare that an American diplomatic success.
  • It is important to consider energy as just one topic in a broader diplomatic playbook, contrary to what a phrase like “energy diplomacy” may suggest.
  • Our analysis suggests further study to better comprehend the merits of and limitations to US energy diplomacy is likely valuable but that achieving desired outcomes can be difficult and that its promise to the broader public therefore must be modest.
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Working Group on Climate, Nuclear, and Security Affairs report

A report released today by the Working Group on Climate, Nuclear, and Security Affairs, chaired by the Center for Climate and Security looks at the intersection of two of the key risks facing the globe, namely climate change and nuclear detonations. I am a member of this working group.

From the press release: “The report finds that the effects of climate change are complicating that landscape, and intersecting with nuclear trends, including new countries seeking nuclear energy, some traditional nuclear energy-producing countries pivoting to other power sources, new pressures on the nonproliferation regime, and many specific nuclear risks persisting or increasing. Even more important,” said Dr. Janne Nolan, the Working Group’s Co-chair, Chair of the Nuclear Security Working Group, and Center for Climate and Security Advisory Board Member, “these dynamics are connected. Climate, security, and nuclear trends influence one another, and risk combining in unprecedented and catastrophic ways. This is why understanding systemic risks and remedies and their interconnections is so critical, and the heart of the Working Group’s first report.” For example, some experts are concerned that combining tensions over water, territory, and other issues may increase nuclear detonation risks in regions like South Asia.”

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New paper in Geopolitics

I’ve just published a new paper in the journal Geopolitics on “Competing Para-Sovereignties in the Borderlands of Europe”. The abstract is below. It is part of a special issue organized by Kristine Beurskens and Judith Miggelbrink on “Sovereignty Contested.”

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14650045.2017.1314962

Abstract: This article is broadly concerned with how we conceptualise the geography of the tensions between the nominally stable orders of the modern state system against the turbulence of the past few decades in relation to that order, especially in the realm of border controls. Specifically, it considers the rescaling and relocation of border enforcement in the European Union in relation to state sovereignty. The article argues that existing “soft” conceptualisations of the EU’s relationship to sovereignty and bordering—“shared,” “joint,” “multi-level,” “consociational”—are inadequate to understand the transformations of exercises of sovereign power in European borderlands. Instead, we are witnessing the emergence of competing para-sovereignties acting within the same spaces, with both traditional states and the incipient state-like EU fulfilling particular bit roles in realms that were traditionally viewed as the exclusive responsibilities of modern, sovereign, territorial states. This dynamic is made visible in recent years in observing individual humans negotiate and subvert the fluid political geographies of European border space. Examples are taken from the activities of the EU border agency Frontex in southeastern Europe.

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New interventions on the state of sovereignty at the border in Political Geography

 

Just out in the journal Political Geography (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2017.02.006)

Interventions on the state of sovereignty at the border

Reece Jones, Corey Johnson, Wendy Brown, Gabriel Popescu, Polly Pallister-Wilkins, Alison Mountz, and Emily Gilbert

“Inspired by recent scholarship in political geography, political science, and border studies, these interventions spatialize the sovereignty of the state at the border by considering how scholars should interpret the global expansion of security infrastructure ranging from new walls to the deployment of drones and military hardware to monitor and secure space. The interdisciplinary group of scholars was asked to intervene on the question: What is the state of sovereignty at the border?

The common thread throughout the intervention is that while borderlands and borderlines remain significant, a series of new locations—what we term corridors, camps, and spaces of confinement—have emerged as key sites to understand the practice of sovereignty through borderwork.”

 

 

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New paper in Territory, Politics, Governance

Reece Jones and I have a new paper in Territory, Politics, Governance on “The biopolitics and geopolitics of border enforcement in Melilla.”

Abstract: This article uses the multiple and contradictory realities of Melilla, a pene-enclave and -exclave of Spain in North Africa, to draw out the contemporary practice of Spanish, European Union, and Moroccan immigration enforcement policies. The city is many things at once: a piece of Europe in North Africa and a symbol of Spain’s colonial history; an example of the contemporary narrative of a cosmopolitan and multicultural Europe; a place where extraterritorial and intraterritorial dynamics demonstrate territory’s continuing allure despite the security challenges and the lack of economic or strategic value; a metaphorical island of contrasting geopolitical and biopolitical practices; and a place of regional flows and cross-border cooperation between Spain, the EU, and Morocco. It is a border where the immunitary logic of sovereign territorial spaces is exposed through the biopolitical practices of the state to ‘protect’ the community from outsiders. In light of the hardening of borders throughout European and North African space in recent years, this article offers a rich case study of our persistently territorial world.

 

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ABS Award for Placing the Border in Everyday Life

Placing the Border in Everyday Life, co-edited by Reece Jones and myself, has won the Association of Borderlands Studies Past President’s Gold Book Award. The ABS Past Presidents’ Book Award is presented to any published monograph (single or multiple authored, including edited) in the social and natural sciences, and humanities involving original research on borders, borderlands and border regions, and reviewed in the Journal of Borderlands Studies. This is really a testament to the great contributions by some of the leading scholars in border studies.

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New paper in Transactions

Reece Jones and I have a forthcoming paper (paywall) in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers entitled “Border militarisation and the re-articulation of sovereignty.”

Abstract: This paper identifies a global trend towards hardened, militarised borders through the use of military technologies, hardware and personnel. In contrast to claims of waning state sovereignty, drawing on detailed case studies from the United States and European Union, we argue the militarisation of borders represents a re-articulation and expansion of state sovereignty into new spaces and arenas. We argue that the nexus of military-security contractors, dramatically increased security budgets, and the discourse of threats from terrorism and immigration is resulting in a profound shift in border security. The construction of barriers, deployment of more personnel and the investment in a wide range of military and security technologies from drones to smart border technologies that attempt to monitor, identify and prevent unauthorised movements are emblematic of this shift. We link this increasing militarisation to dehumanisation of migrant others and to the increasing mortality in border spaces. By documenting this trend and identifying a range of different practices that are included under the rubric of militarisation, this paper is both a call for nuanced interpretation and more sustained investigation of the expansion of the military into the policing of borders.

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