For nearly a century, Energy Security, the relationship between national security and access to natural resources that can be used for energy consumption, has played a critical role in diplomatic relations between Western and developing countries. Since the 1970s, the availability of oil in particular has been a large driver in U.S. foreign policy as it relates to oil-producing countries. However, as technology has evolved and led to the discovery of new oil reserves around the world, the global politics of securing energy resources have begun to change. One of the largest recent technological advances has been development of the ability to utilize "tight oil," which is derived in large supply from oil sands in Canada and Brazil's offshore.
U.S. Role in Caribbean Energy Summit
As the oil market rebalances, the U.S. is increasingly focusing on the security of oil supplies in the Western Hemisphere. The Obama administration announced that it would be hosting a summit in Washington, D.C. to help Caribbean countries lower their energy costs and increase their use of renewable power sources. Many of the island countries rely on diesel fuel imports from Venezuela. The meeting's aim is to diversify the sources of energy that are available to the island countries. Discussions will focus on encouraging investment in the island countries by improving their regulatory framework and creating financing mechanisms. Canada, Mexico, and Spain may offer technical assistance to encourage new renewable energy sources in the island countries. Countries that are expected to attend include Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, and Dominican Republic.
Energy and Politics in Europe and Central Asia
Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to cancel the South Stream gas pipeline that would extend from Russia to Western Europe may present a golden opportunity for Central Asian country Turkmenistan. With the world's second-largest gas field, Turkmenistan holds 10 percent of the world's gas reserves. The country has shown renewed interest in potentially supplying Europe with gas as it has agreed with Turkey that it would supply gas for the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline project. One potential hurdle to moving forward with the project is the Caspian Sea, which is the subject of a dispute between Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Iran. The pipeline would travel through the Caspian Sea and into Azerbaijan. Although critics question whether Turkmenistan, whose main buyer of gas is China, would even need to supply gas to the European market. However, it is within Turkmenistan's interest to diversify and avoid dependence on China as its key customer especially in light of Russia's agreement to build the "Power of Siberia" pipeline to supply gas from Eastern Siberia to China.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, access to energy resources has very quickly risen to become a major geopolitical issue. In the past few decades, Western countries have found themselves shifting from policy formed within the context of a heavy dependence on Middle Eastern countries to supply oil to policies that seek to protect newly accessible oil supplies that do not require reliance on the Mid-East and other governments with which relations have historically been strained. The economic rise of China and political developments in Eastern Europe are new issues global leaders must consider as they seek to maintain stable, affordable access to the energy resources they need.