Energy and the Atlantic: The Shifting Energy Landscape of the Atlantic Basin
Fondation OCP, Morocco
This conference argues that countries in the Southern Atlantic region are poised to become much more important players in the global energy trade.
Recent changes in global geopolitics — including the emergence of the developing world and structural crises in the northern Atlantic — have collided with ongoing trends in the energy sector to transform the future prospects of the Atlantic Basin. Many of these energy vectors are either unique to the basin or are more advanced in the Atlantic than in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific. The expansion of renewables, the shale gas revolution, the boom in southern Atlantic oil, the dynamism of liquified natural gas (LNG), and the possible emergence of gas-to-liquids (GTL) together have placed the Atlantic Basin at the cutting edge of the energy future.
While the world remains transfixed on China and U.S. foreign policy “pivots” to Asia, the tectonic plates of the global system continue to shift, offering much economic and geopolitical potential for Atlantic countries that can seize the coming opportunities. Indeed, if we were to reframe our traditional energy focus to embrace the entire Atlantic Basin, instead of focusing on North America, Europe, Africa, Latin America, or even “the Americas,” surprising new vectors come into view.
Beyond the headlines of global affairs, an incipient “Atlantic Basin energy system” has begun to quietly coalesce. Fossil fuel supply in the basin has boomed in the last ten years, with a southern Atlantic hydrocarbons ring slowly taking shape. Meanwhile, a wide range of renewable energies — from bioenergy to solar and wind power — are now rolling out in the Atlantic faster than in the Indian Ocean or Pacific basins. The gas revolution, encompassing unconventional gas, LNG, and GTL, is also increasingly focused on the Atlantic. The energy services sector is also exploding in the southern Atlantic hydrocarbons ring. Although energy demand has moderated in the northern Atlantic, it has been growing rapidly in the south, and is projected to continue to rise, part of a wider realignment of economic and political influence from north to south within the Atlantic Basin. By 2035, the southern Atlantic alone could account for as much as 20 percent of global energy demand, with the entire Atlantic Basin contributing nearly 40 percent.
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Paul Isbell is the CAF Energy Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University-SAIS in Washington, D.C. Previously the Calouste Gulbenkian Fellow at the CTR. Mr Isbell is the author of Energy and the Atlantic: The Shifting Energy Landscape of the Atlantic Basin (German Marshall Fund and OCP Foundation, 2012). As Gulbenkian and CAF Fellow at the CTR, Isbell has been exploring the potential coalescence of a pan-Atlantic world, particularly in energy terms, as well as the implications of the geopolitical emergence of the southern Atlantic. He also collaborates with the German Marshall Fund of the US on its ‘Wider Atlantic’ program.
Before coming to SAIS, Isbell was Senior Analyst for International Economy and Trade at the Elcano Royal Institute for International and Strategic Studies in Madrid (2002-2006) and, subsequently, also the Director of its Energy and Climate Change Program (2006-2010). Mr. Isbell has also been an economist and advisor for Banco Santander´s equity broker in Madrid (1999-2002), a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue (2008-2012) in Washington, D.C., an energy and climate change consultant to the Inter-American Development Bank (2011-present), and a visiting and adjunct professor of international economics, energy and global affairs at George Washington University, Syracuse University, Universidad Pontificia Comillas-ICADE, the Franklin Institute of the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, and the Instituto de Empresa, among others (1994-2008). Currently he is visiting professor at the Buenos Aires Technological Institute (ITBA) in Argentina (2004-2014). He is also the co-author (with Vergara et al) of The Climate and Development Challenge for Latin America and the Caribbean: Options for climate-resilient, low-carbon development (ECLAC-IDB-WWF, Washington, DC, 2013) and “Societal Benefits from Renewable Energy Deployment in LAC” (IDB, 2014), in addition to hundreds of essays, book chapters and articles.