Europe and the Geopolitics of Energy (Spring 2016)

European perspectives on the global energy landscape are colored by elements such as the Ukrainian crisis, security-of-energy-supply, instabilities in the Middle East, volatile oil prices, and the U.S. shale oil and gas revolution. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is about to become a game changer for incumbent major European natural gas suppliers Russia, Norway and Algeria. Cheaper and more flexible supplies challenge costly Arctic petroleum developments as well as the potential for piped gas from Central Asia and the Middle East. These forces are, together with more renewable sources and improved energy efficiency, causing European geopolitics of energy to change more rapidly than ever before.

Especially important in the European context is the politicized relationship between EU and Russia. The 2014 Ukraine Crisis and accompanying gas crisis was a reminder to the EU of its energy dependence on Russia. The Russian annexation of Crimea sparked a revival of energy-security concerns in the Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC). The East-West tensions of the Cold War were to some extent revived. However, NATO and EU borders have moved eastwards and all CEEC and some former Soviet republics are members of both the EU and NATO. At the same time, Russia attempts to profit from combining economic and geopolitical goals, as in Soviet times. While the EU largely in this context is an intergovernmental system of economic regulation, Russia is in the end dominated by a strong and interventionist government. The two systems have opposing interests in who shall benefit from energy trade and opposing views how policy should be designed and work.

Preliminary schedule 
NOTE: To enroll - Advance registration is not required. All sessions are open.

FEBRUARY 24, 4pm-5:30 pm
Title: "The Economics of Shale Gas & Tight Oil Production"
Guest speaker:  Dr. Robert L. Kleinberg, Schlumberger, Cambridge Massachusetts
Unconventional energy resources may change not only the American energy situation but also global energy markets and the geopolitics-of-energy in fundamental ways, including in Europe. This seminar on the economics of shale gas and tight oil production will focus on their costs and breakeven points and how they change; resources in the USA vs Europe; tax and regulatory systems in the USA vs ROW; geological, geographical and geopolitical risks; and infrastructural bottlenecks.
Location: Rubenstein 219 (Carr conference room)

MARCH 7, 4pm-5:30 pm
Title: "The Failure of Long-term Oil Price Forecasting"
Michael Lynch stated in his MIT paper of 1992 “The Fog of Commerce” that the continuous inability to forecast long-term oil prices was neither caused by history, extrapolation, conservatism or wishful thinking. They just appear to be logical, calling for market stability and consensus. Lynch argued that the rising price forecasts are results of psychological and institutional factors rather than any model for how the market works. In a multidisciplinary understanding I attempted, in an article from 1992, “Limits to oil pricing,” to determine boundaries for how the price may develop over time, rather than to rely on more or less exact forecasts. In the seminar, the continuous failures in long-term oil price forecasting will be presented and how the oil market can be better understood discussed.
Location: Fainsod (Littauer 324)

APRIL 14, 4pm-5:30 pm
Title: "North Dakota shale oil: Social and Economic impacts"
Guest speaker:  Lee Kaldor, Former Senior Policy Advisor, Legislator, and Energy Coordinator for USDA
North Dakota and Bakken shale oil appear to be a game-changer in the oil industry, with potential for widespread impacts on international energy markets, including in Europe. What are the costs and potential for further developments in ND? What are the impacts of low oil prices on production? Can the ND experience be copied elsewhere? Kaldor will also discuss the huge socio-economic consequences of shale oil developments on state and social developments in North Dakota.
Location: CBG Conference Room (Belfer-503)

APRIL 21, 4pm-5:30 pm
Title: "Azerbaijan Gas in new market and geopolitical environments"
Guest speaker:  Gulmira Rzayeva, senior research fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies (CSS) of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Research Associate at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES), Oxford University
Azerbaijan and its State Oil Company SOCAR have been developing  the multi-billion Southern Gas Corridor, including  the upstream project of the giant Shah Deniz field phase II and long distance pipelines to and contracts with buyers in Turkey and Europe.  If politics allow, natural gas may however flow also from Iran and other resource rich Persian Gulf countries through the same corridor.  Russian gas and the proposed Turkish Stream pipeline across the Black Sea are also targeting the same market, which is the case for the increased international LNG trade.  Ms Rzayeva will discuss Azerbaijan's capability to provide gas export volumes without long-term contracts beyond Shah Deniz phase 1 and 2 developments in the 2020s and 2030s, and where this gas could flow in the new market and geopolitical environment. 
Location: CBG Conference Room (Belfer-503)

APRIL 26, 4pm-5:30 pm
Title: "Europe & the New Russia as seen from Northern Europe"
Guest speaker: Professor Ulf Sverdrup, Director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
Professor Sverdrup will address the political tension between the U.S. and EU on the one side and Russia on other, resulting in mutual sanctions, militarization and energy security problems. He will discuss how recent developments challenge the attitudes and positions of the Nordic countries relative to pursuing a policy of continued cooperation with Russia.
Location: CBG Conference Room (Belfer 503)

Ole Gunnar Austvik
Ole Gunnar Austvik is professor at BI Norwegian Business School and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). He is on leave from and adjuncted lecturer at Lillehammer University College (HiL) where he for many years was professor and provost/head of research. He has previously also worked with Statistics Norway (SSB). Austvik holds a doctorate in political science and a master in economics (cand.oecon) from University of Oslo. He also holds an MPA from Harvard Kennedy School. He has written numerous articles and books on international economics and political economy, the interaction between national and international policy making, business and government relationships, the European Union, oil and natural gas markets, the geopolitics of oil and gas, petroleum economics, energy security, Norwegian oil and gas policy, innovation, and political entrepreneurship. As a senior fellow, he will explore the fields of international political economy, energy economics, and European integration. His faculty sponsor is William Hogan, Raymond Plank Professor of Global Energy Policy and Harvard Electricity Policy Group (HEPG) Research Director. Web: Email:

Ole Gunnar Austvik headshot.

M-RCBG Senior Fellow Ole Gunnar Austvik.