News Article | May 8, 2017
« Porsche Digital, Inc. opens location in Silicon Valley | Main | IAV develops new close-coupled diesel exhaust gas aftertreatment system for improved emissions reduction » A new study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) estimates heavy fuel oil (HFO) use, HFO carriage, the use and carriage of other fuels, black carbon (BC) emissions, and emissions of other air and climate pollutants for the year 2015, with projections to 2020 and 2025. According to the report, potentially large increases in BC emissions may occur in the Arctic, further exacerbating warming, if ships are diverted from the Panama and Suez canals to take advantage of shorter routes to and from Asia, Europe, and North America. If even a small percentage (1%–2%) of large cargo vessels are diverted from the Panama and Suez Canals through the Arctic over the next decade, BC emissions could rise significantly—jumping up to 46% from 2015 to 2025. Dwindling sea ice is opening new shipping routes through the Arctic and shipping activity in the Arctic is expected to rise as oil and gas development increases and as ships take advantage of shorter trans-Arctic routes from Asia to Europe and North America. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, 2014a) estimates that 75% of Arctic sea ice volume has been lost since the 1980s. The Northwest Passage (NWP) and Northern Sea Route (NSR) … are the two most economically advantageous routes for trans-Arctic shipping. The trip between Shanghai and Europe is shortened by about a third when the NSR is taken in lieu of the traditional route through the Suez Canal. Similarly, the trip from Shanghai to New York City also is shortened by a third when taking the NWP instead of the path through the Panama Canal. Shorter distances result in fuel, labor, and time savings. The ICCT report uses exactEarth satellite Automatic Identification System (AIS) data along with ship characteristic data from IHS Fairplay to examine shipping in three Arctic regions: (1) the Geographic Arctic (above 58.95 ˚N); (2) the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Arctic as defined in the Polar Code; and (3) the US Arctic, defined as the portion of the US exclusive economic zone (EEZ) within the IMO Arctic. The report found that shipping within the Arctic as defined by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) consumed an estimated 436,000 tonnes of fuel and emitted 193 tonnes of black carbon in 2015. This is almost quadruple the most recent (2012, by DNV) estimate. HFO was the most consumed marine fuel in the Arctic in 2015. In the IMO Arctic, HFO represented nearly 57% of the nearly half million tonnes (t) of fuel consumed by ships, followed by distillate (43%); almost no liquefied natural gas (LNG) was consumed in this area. General cargo vessels consumed the most HFO in the IMO Arctic, using 66,000 t, followed by oil tankers (43,000 t), and cruise ships (25,000 t). HFO also dominated fuel carriage, in tonnes, and fuel transport, in tonne-nautical miles (t-nm) in the Arctic in 2015. Although only 42% of ships in the IMO Arctic operated on HFO in 2015, these ships accounted for 76% of fuel carried and 56% of fuel transported in this region. Specifically, bulk carriers, container ships, oil tankers, general cargo vessels, and fishing vessels dominated HFO carriage and transport in the IMO Arctic, together accounting for more than 75% of HFO carried and transported in the IMO Arctic in 2015. Considering the quantity of fuel these vessels carry on board and the distances they travel each year, these ships may pose a higher risk for HFO spills than others. the ICCT team concluded. Among the other key findings of the report: Some of the emissions growth between 2012 and 2015 can be attributed to increased vessel traffic, with satellites detecting roughly double the number of ship miles traveled in 2015 compared to 2012. Emissions from ships operating in areas that were previously ice locked and inaccessible to marine traffic can be clearly seen in 2015, particularly on the Northern Sea Route off of Russia’s coast. Estimates of HFO use and BC emissions is heavily dependent upon the definition of the Arctic. IMO’s narrow definition of the Arctic, which excludes significant coastal areas around Iceland and Norway, excludes 85% of ship traffic, 90% of fuel use, and 85% of BC emissions from shipping in the Geographic Arctic north of 59 degrees latitude. By 2025, emissions of CO and black carbon by ships in the Arctic are projected to increase 5% to 50%, depending upon the level of ship diversions from the Panama and Suez canals through the Arctic as well as the geographic definition of the Arctic used. While less than half of the ships in the Arctic use HFO, it represents 75% of the fuel onboard ships in the Arctic because larger ships, with larger fuel tanks, tend to use HFO instead of cleaner distillate fuels. The majority of HFO carriage in the Geographic Arctic is attributable to ships flagged to non-Arctic states with major ship registries like Panama, the Marshall Islands, Liberia, Malta, and the Bahamas. This points to the need for an international standard on HFO use and carriage at the IMO, the authors said. The authors suggested that several policy alternatives could reduce the dual risks of air pollution and fuel oil spills from ships in the Arctic, including regional emission control policies; restricting the use of HFO, the carriage of HFO, or both; and regulating BC emissions regionally or globally. Explicitly restricting the use and carriage of HFO in the Arctic would greatly reduce the risks of HFO oil spills and would also reduce air pollution, including BC, provided ships operate on distillate, LNG, or other alternative fuels. An even stronger approach would be to prohibit the use of petroleum-based fuels (e.g., HFO and distillate), which would require a complete shift to cleaner fuels (e.g., LNG, fuel cells), albeit at substantial cost to existing fleets. Finally, Arctic BC emissions could be addressed through regulations that either establish new emission standards for marine engines, require the use of low- or zero-BC fuels, or mandate the use of BC reduction devices such as diesel particulate filters. Such a policy also may encourage a shift toward fuels that are less damaging than HFO when spilled. … Policies could be implemented at the global, regional, national, or subnational scales. Consensus policies that apply specifically to the Arctic region could be effective because ships registered to Arctic states, particularly Russia, account for the majority of HFO use, carriage, and BC emissions in the Arctic. However, because the diversion of ships from traditional trade routes in favor of trans-Arctic routes is likely as the Arctic becomes ice-free for longer periods, policies that apply to the global fleet, or ships intending to sail in the Arctic, are more attractive. Global policies are also desirable given that emissions of BC outside of the IMO Arctic can be, and are, transported northward. Thus, global policies that prohibit the use and carriage of HFO and reduce BC from marine engines will help ensure that the impacts on the Arctic environment from ships are meaningfully reduced.
News Article | March 3, 2017
A somehow eerie-looking cosmic jellyfish along with other biological curiosities have been discovered by biologists with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in their latest dive in the remote American Samoa region of the Pacific. Onboard the NOAA research ship Okeanos Explorer, the team had been conducting research at the Utu Seamount, with the mission to hold one of the first expansive explorations of the 13,581-square mile marine sanctuary where the seamount belongs. Dubbed the 2017 American Samoa Expedition, the three-year campaign will gather crucial scientific data in and around the protected areas. American Samoa stands out as a biodiversity hotspot, with its three marine sanctuaries a site for protecting massive coral and deepwater reefs and even archeological artifacts. “Much remains unknown about the deep-sea habitats and geology in and around these protected places,” NOAA team member and molecular ecologist Santiago Herrera said in a Gizmodo report. There is also much to be known about the Samoa Islands and seamounts forming an “age-progressive volcanic hotspot.” Volcanoes on the east are young while those in the west are progressively older, and it remains unclear how Samoan volcanoes evolve over time. “This expedition will sample various volcanoes at different stages in their development, including the young active volcano, Vailulu’u, and the older Samoan volcanic feature that defines the island of Tutuila,” the group stated in its mission plan. The sea dives, conducted from Feb. 16 to 26, used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to unravel a number of new biological finds, including cosmic jellyfish, Venus flytrap anemone, and a range of mollusks. The translucent, UFO-like jellyfish, imaged during their first dive, appeared to have rows of tentacles that face up and down and were likely useful in catching prey. It hovered through the deep and dark ocean, with its digestive system in a red color and its reproductive organs in yellow. Further investigations will be done to determine if the cosmic jellyfish is a new species or not. A hydroid was also spotted making rounds in Leoso Seamount, a place straddling the boundary from the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the American Samoa to the Cook Islands EEZ. Also alien-resembling in appearance, it is a close relative of many jellyfish species and attaches itself to rock while snatching floating food through a two-tier tentacle mouth. The researchers uncovered at least a dozen potentially new species made up of sponges, sea stars, corals, and other creatures they took samples of. The collections, according to Herrera, will set new species designations if needed, as well as enable DNA analyses for greater insight into biological relationships and evolutions among similar species. The NOAA presents photos and videos of their amazing finds online for the public to see and relish. Remember the glowing purple bob discovered by E/V Nautilus ship scientists deep beneath California waters last year? The googly-eyed squid, first thought to be a cuttlefish, actually was a stubby squid (Rossia pacifica) and looked like a cross between a squid and octopus. As for its strange eyes, scientists explained that the animal activates a sticky mucus jacket as it burrows deep into the sediment to camouflage – resulting in eyes poking out to spot its prey, which includes small fish and shrimp. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | December 13, 2016
SAN DIEGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--AFT Holdings, Inc., today updated its stakeholders on the growth and advancements of its two signature San Diego-based investments, Intesa Communications Group, LLC, a PR and government affairs firm, and The Global Fleet (Ocean Global, Sea Global, and Pacific Global) the largest tuna fleet operating in the region with 14 purse seiner vessels harvesting more than 100,000 tons of tuna per year. December 3, in Nadi, Fiji, the U.S. Government signed an extension of the 30-year-old South Pacific Tuna Treaty with 16 Pacific Island Nations. The finalized treaty was the product of the seven years of negotiations between the parties. It grants the fleet access to the critical fishing areas with the nations’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), while providing needed flexibility and continuing to promote combined interest of all. Max Chou, partner in The Global Fleet, attended the Treaty ceremony with representatives from all the Nations involved and Industry. “This was a tireless effort between U.S. Department of State Office of Seafood, Congressional leadership, and Tuna Industry leaders,” Chou said. “The treaty represents the best of all of us to come together and ensure the future of our Distant Water Tuna Fleet. Personal thanks go out Bill Gibbons-Fly and Michael Brakke of the U.S. State Department Office of Seafood, who supported the challenge over a long period. We also wish to thank the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee, chaired by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Bipartisan Congressional leaders for their support, including Representative Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). Another key investment within the portfolio, Intesa Communications Group, announced the completion of the restructuring that began in early 2016 with the addition of Maddy Kilkenny as a partner in the firm. This completes Intesa’s realignment to provide not only strategic communications, but also lobbying and public affairs council to companies doing business with San Diego city and county governments. Kilkenny has extensive experience working with local government at all levels in San Diego. She spent six years as Vice President of Government Relations at The Clay Company where she worked with Microsoft, Motorola, Kaiser Permanente, and many others clients in a variety of areas including land use, healthcare, and public safety. Prior to her work at The Clay Company, she spent 11 years at the County of San Diego, where she was a Senior Policy Advisor to Supervisor Greg Cox, focusing on health and public safety policy issues, community outreach and special events. “The addition of Maddy, working alongside Intesa co-founder Margie Newman, shows tremendous promise for Intesa’s ongoing expansion throughout the San Diego market and nationwide,” said AFT CEO J. Douglas Hines. “In an era of instant action and reaction, there is increasing demand for thoughtful planning to set the stage for efficient and effective communication and advocacy when it matters most.” AFT Holdings, Inc. is an international investment and management group with a diverse portfolio including commercial and residential real estate, sustainable foods development, global fishing fleets and technology. More at www.aftholdings.com.
News Article | November 14, 2016
HOUSTON, TX--(Marketwired - Nov 14, 2016) - ERHC Energy Inc. ( : ERHED), a publicly traded American company with oil and gas assets in Sub-Saharan Africa, today issued the following update on Company activities. a. ERHC's preliminary analysis of the Tarach-1 drilling results reveals encouraging information for further exploration. b. The objective of the well was to establish a working petroleum system and test a three-way structural closure trapping against a North-South trending normal fault. c. The Tarach-1 well encountered two different hydrocarbon-charged intervals, the first extending over 100 meters. d. The significant oil shows and highly-elevated gas readings encountered by the well indicate the presence of a working petroleum system with the strong possibility of significant hydrocarbon generation. e. As previously advised, the Tarach-1 well was always designed as an exploratory well. It has been plugged following conclusion of drilling. Post-well analysis continues. f. ERHC holds a 35% interest in Block 11A. a. ERHC continues to talk with potential farm-in partners. b. The next stage of exploration is a seismic survey on ERHC's two focus areas. ERHC is exploring, as one of its funding options, the possibility of a right-to-earn partnership in exchange for seismic services. c. Based on the result of an aero-magnetic and gravity survey that ERHC completed over the Block, total Petroleum Initially in Place (PIIP) for one of ERHC's two focus areas has been estimated at 278 million barrels (with a high case of 876 million barrels). d. ERHC holds a 100 percent interest in BDS 2008. a. ERHC has concluded negotiation of the terms of a Production Sharing Contract with the National Petroleum Agency of São Tomé and Principe (ANP-STP). b. ERHC is currently in discussions with potential farm in partners. c. ERHC holds a 100 percent interest in EEZ Block 4. a. The Nigeria - São Tomé and Príncipe Joint Development Authority (JDA) continues to engage with the remaining JDZ contracting parties, including ERHC, on the way forward for further exploration. b. A five-well exploration campaign in JDZ Blocks 2, 3 and 4 (in which ERHC holds significant interests) failed to discover hydrocarbons in commercial quantities but yielded invaluable information that will guide future exploration. a. In the light of the current oil price environment and continued constraints on funding for oil exploration activities, ERHC's management and board are working toward a strategic realignment of the Company. b. ERHC has also received and continues to consider exploratory enquiries about mergers and acquisitions, new strategic investments and other arrangements. c. In response to current economic conditions, ERHC continues to reduce costs across board. Investor relations and outreach has been affected but ERHC will endeavor to keep satisfying any mandatory regulatory requirements for disclosure, particularly to shareholders as whole. ERHC encourages shareholders and others to refer to quarterly and annual filings with the SEC, which can be found at http://erhc.com/secfilings/. We thank you for your continued interest in ERHC. ERHC Energy Inc. is a Houston-based independent oil and gas company focused on growth through high impact exploration in Africa and the development of undeveloped and marginal oil and gas fields. ERHC is committed to creating and delivering significant value for its stockholders, investors and employees, and to sustainable and profitable growth through risk balanced smart exploration, cost efficient development and high margin production. For more information, visit www.erhc.com. This press release contains statements concerning ERHC Energy Inc.'s future operating milestones, future drilling operations, the planned exploration and appraisal program, future prospects, future investment opportunities and financing plans, future stockholders' meetings as well as other matters that are not historical facts or information. Such statements are inherently subject to a variety of risks, assumptions and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated, projected, expressed or implied. A discussion of the risk factors that could impact these areas and the Company's overall business and financial performance can be found in the Company's reports and other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These factors include, among others, those relating to the Company's ability to exploit its commercial interests in Kenya, Chad, the JDZ and the Exclusive Economic Zone of São Tomé and Príncipe, general economic and business conditions, changes in foreign and domestic oil and gas exploration and production activity, competition, changes in foreign, political, social and economic conditions, regulatory initiatives and compliance with governmental regulations and various other matters, many of which are beyond the Company's control. Given these concerns, investors and analysts should not place undue reliance on these statements. Each of the above statements speaks only as of the date of this press release. The Company expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statement to reflect any change in the Company's expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any of the above statements is based.
News Article | April 15, 2016
Nord Stream 2, the controversial Russian-German pipeline project, is generating fierce opposition in Central and Eastern Europe as well as from the European Parliament and the European Commission. But could the opponents of the pipeline, owned 50% by Gazprom and 50% by some of the largest Western European companies, stop the project? They may be able to follow a complex legal route that could place formidable obstacles in the way of the pipeline. There is also an even more complex political route that could result in a blocking of the project, but this would involve a high-stakes battle at the highest political level. Energy Post editor-in-chief Karel Beckman reports. At a debate in the European Parliament on 6 April, the mood towards Nord Stream 2 could not have been more hostile. Petras Auštrevičius, MEP from Lithuania and Vice-Chair of the ALDE-faction (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) in the European Parliament, called Nord Stream 2 a “killer project”, that “would kill much of what the Energy Union was intended to achieve”. MEP (and former Polish Prime Minister) Jerzy Buzek of the European People’s Party (Christian-Democrats), and also Chair of the important ITRE Committee (Industry, Research and Energy) in the Parliament, said that “Nord Stream 2 and Energy Union cannot co-exist”. He also stressed that “the majority of the European Parliament opposes Nord Stream 2.” By pitting Nord Stream 2 against “the Energy Union” the opponents have turned their opposition to the pipeline into a high-stakes game. The Energy Union is one of the top priorities of the current European Commission. But their stance is not a surprise. Earlier, on 17 March, Prime Ministers and leaders of 9 EU member states (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovak Republic, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia) had sent a letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, speaking out against Nord Stream 2. They pointed out, among other things, that Nord Stream 2 poses “risks for energy security in the region of Central and Eastern Europe, which is still highly dependent on a single source of energy”. And the European Commission itself has also taken a highly critical stance towards Nord Stream 2. In a speech in October last year, Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner of Climate Action and Energy, said there were were “serious doubts” whether Nord Stream 2 was compatible with the EU’s “strategy of security of supply”. He said diversification of routes and sources is key to this strategy and “Nord Stream 2 does not follow this core policy objective. On the contrary, if constructed, it would not only increase Europe’s dependence on one supplier, but it will also increase Europe’s dependence on one route.” At the event on 6 April in Brussels, Maros Šefčovič, who as Vice-President of the European Commission is in charge of the Energy Union project, voiced equally strong criticism of Nord Stream 2. “Let me be very clear”, he said. “The impact of the Nord Stream 2 project goes clearly beyond the legal discussions. Nord Stream 2 could alter the landscape of the EU’s gas market while not giving access to a new source of supply or a new supplier, and further increasing excess capacity from Russia to the EU. This raises concerns, and I am pretty sure this will play a role in this debate.” The European Parliament and European Commission seem bent on stopping the Nord Stream 2 project. But can they? The EU is not directly involved in the decision-making process around Nord Stream 2: it is the national permitting authorities of the countries whose waters the pipeline will cross that must grant approval for the project. In this case, these are the permitting authorities of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Currently, the Nord Stream 2 consortium is “communicating” with the permitting authorities in the five countries, says Ulrich Lissek, Head of Communications of the company. If they give approval, the pipeline can go ahead, according to Lissek: “There is an established approval process based on the rule of law that we are going through. The outcome does not depend on a political decision in Brussels.” Lissek, who was one of the speakers at the debate in Brussels, said in a separate interview with Energy Post that, although he regarded the political debate in Brussels as “important”, “its outcome will not have a direct impact on the project”. Nor does Nord Stream 2 wait on an FID (final investment decision), Lissek explained. In effect, the FID has already been taken: the shareholders agreement that was signed in Vladivostok on 4 September last year was the start of the project, said Lissek. (At the time of the signing, Gazprom had a 51 per cent share in the joint project company, called New European Pipeline AG, while Eon, Shell, OMV and BASF/Wintershall each had 10 per cent and Engie 9 per cent. Later Gazprom’s share was reduced to 50 per cent and Engie’s increased to 10 per cent.) The implementation of the agreement requires a number of separate investment decisions, such as the selection of the pipeline supplier, which took place last month, and getting the required permits from the authorities. Lissek said he does not expect problems with the environmental permits: after all, Nord Stream 1 was built in the same location and is already operational. Indeed, Nord Stream 1 also encountered a great deal of opposition, yet it has been fully approved and is functioning today. So, Lissek implied, why should Nord Stream 2 be treated differently? Does this mean case closed, Nord Stream 2 will be built if the shareholders want it to? Well, not quite. As Alan Riley, professor at City Law School in London and nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, pointed out in Brussels: Nord Stream 2 may well face both legal and political obstacles that Nord Stream 1 did not encounter. (See also his in-depth article on Energy Post.) “The world has changed since the first Nord Stream was launched in 2008”, he said. Riley noted that firstly, EU energy law has progressed (the Third Energy Package and Third Gas Directive were adopted in 2009) and secondly, Ukraine was invaded by Russia in 2014 and is still in a state of war, which creates a new political context. According to Riley, the European Commission and individual member states do have legal options to block Nord Stream 2. The key issue here is whether EU law – specifically, the Third Energy Package – applies to the pipeline or not. Under the Third Energy Package, the owners of major gas pipelines must be independent of the suppliers of gas, and they must allow equal access to all suppliers who want to make use of the pipeline. Nord Stream 2 clearly does not conform to these requirements: it is 50% owned by Gazprom, which is a supplier, and also partly by companies like Shell, OMV and Engie, also suppliers. If the Nord Stream 2 consortium were forced to submit to the unbundling and third party access rules of the Third Energy Package, it seems clear that the business case for the project would be destroyed. However, the Nord Stream 2 consortium takes the view that since the pipeline runs offshore, the Third Energy Package does not apply to it. The rules of the Third Energy Package, says Lissek, do apply to the connecting parts of the pipeline inside Germany (owned by different companies), but not to Nord Stream itself, which runs offshore and is an “import pipeline”. He said there are ample precedents for this view: “The five gas pipelines in the Mediterranean that run from Africa to Europe are not subject to the Third Energy Package either. Nor is Nord Stream 1. So Nord Stream 2 cannot be treated differently.” Riley disagrees. He says EU law applies to the territorial waters of the relevant member states (the 12-mile limits) and to their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). For Nord Stream 2 this means that “at least 100 kilometres of the offshore route fall under the Third Energy Package”. If the Third Energy Package has not been applied to existing “import pipelines”, said Riley, it’s because it was not in force yet when they were built. Since it has come in force, there is no reason why it should not apply. If he is right that would mean that the offshore pipe would need to be certified as TSO by the national regulators of the five countries involved. And under aticle 11 of the Third Gas Directive, the regulators must refuse to grant certification to a project if it does not a) comply with the “unbundling” and third-party access requirements of the Third Energy Package, and b) if the project puts at risk “the security of energy supply of the Member State and the European Union”. Maros Šefčovič also alluded to this point in his speech in Brussels. “Let me underline again that EU law applies in principle also to off-shore infrastructure under the jurisdiction of Member States including their exclusive economic zones”, he said. But he added, “What exactly within EU sectorial legislation applies has to be assessed in regard to their specific provisions.” In other words, the Commission Vice-President is not entirely sure yet of the applicability of the Third Energy Package to Nord Stream 2. A spokeswoman for the Commission did not want to make any further comments. She said “the Commission is in touch with the German Energy Regulator to find out more about the details of the project. On that basis the Commission will draw its conclusions on the extent to which EU law (internal energy market, environment, competition etc.) applies to the Nord Stream 2 project and the next steps to be taken by the Commission.” On 19 November last year, the European Commission sought the advice of its Legal Service on this question. To the disappointment of the Commission, the Legal Service replied that the Gas Directive does not apply to the part of the project running through the exclusive economic zones and territorial waters of the member states concerned. This was reported on 7 February by the website Politico on the basis of an analysis of the Legal Service reply written by DG Energy, which Energy Post also has a copy of. In this analysis, DG Energy concedes that “if the opinion of the Legal Service is applied, this would mean that the EU cannot claim any applicability of its energy legislation to any part of Nord Stream 2.” However, the author of the analysis then goes on to present a contrary opinion, arguing, in a detailed Annex, why, according to DG Energy, the Legal Service opinion is wrong and EU law should apply to Nord Stream 2. Thus, the issue is not settled yet. That’s as far as the Third Energy Package is concerned. But as Riley pointed out, the certification process by the national regulators also involves a “supply security test”, and he wondered, “how on earth can Nord Stream 2 ever pass such a test?” The issue of “energy security” is a critical one in the debate around Nord Stream 2. The opponents invariably argue that the pipeline has an extremely negative impact on Europe’s energy security. This is enough reason, they say, for EU leaders to block the project. One of the critical strategical objectives of the EU’s Energy Union is after all “energy security, solidarity and trust”, as it was phrased by the European Commission when it launched the Energy Union in 2014. This phrase also appears in the official Energy Union “package” that was published on 25 February 2015. Šefčovič repeated it in Brussels: “Energy security, solidarity and trust constitute a key dimension of our framework strategy of 25 February 2015”, he said. But what exactly is “energy security”? And what is “solidarity”? From an economic perspective, energy security in the gas market is defined by the European Commission as “diversification of energy sources, suppliers and routes”. As Šefčovič put it: “diversification of energy sources, suppliers and routes are crucial for ensuring secure and resilient energy supplies to European citizens and companies.” The critics of Nord Stream 2 have no doubt that the pipeline fails to meet the energy security test on these grounds. Šefčovič said: “Nord Stream 2 could alter the landscape of the EU gas market while not giving access to a new source of suply, and further increasing excess capacity from Russia to the EU.” He added that “Nord Stream 2 could lead to decreasing gas transportation corridors from three to two, abandoning the route through Ukraine. Also the Yamal route via Poland could be endangered.” Buzek too said that “Nord Stream 2 is against the EU strategy of energy diversification. It would further strengthen the position of a dominant supplier who is already under investigation for abusing its position.” Yet this argument seems debatable. Even if Nord Stream 2 does not bring additional supplies (the consortium says it will, opponents deny this), all it does is change the route by which Russian gas is transported to Europe. This may not increase suppliers or bring additional routes (since there already is a Nord Stream 1), but neither does it reduce the number of routes or supplies. So how can it reduce competition or energy security? The answer is: from an EU perspective it clearly doesn’t. From an Eastern European perspective, however, things look rather different. Once Nord Stream 2 becomes operational, Gazprom may close down its gas transit through Ukraine (this is not certain yet), and through countries like Poland and Slovakia, either completely or partially. This will lead to huge losses for these countries. Ukraine stands to lose $2 billion in annual transit fees, but a country like Slovakia also makes $800 million annually on its gas transit contract. This puts the opposition from Central and East European countries in a somewhat different light. For many years they have made profits from their transit capabilities. Now they are afraid to be passed by. This is painful for them, but why would Russia and its Western European partners not be allowed to decide on a more profitable arrangement for themselves? Isn’t this the whole idea of the “well-functioning gas market” the EU has managed to create – against Russian opposition – over the last seven years, since the last supply crisis in 2009, when Gazprom cut off gas transit through Ukraine? Péter Kaderják, Director of the Regional Centre for Energy Policy Research (REKK) in Budapest – an opponent of Nord Stream 2 – said in Brussels that the diversification strategy of the EU has worked very well so far. He pointed to the new LNG terminals being built or planned in Lithuania and Poland, the new interconnectors that have been built, and the reverse flow capabilities that have been created since 2009. As a result, he said, “supply security risk has significantly decreased” and Eastern European gas markets have increasingly integrated with the west. The result of this diversification effort is that Eastern European countries have become much less dependent on Russia. They can now easily import gas from Western Europe. True, their market position will clearly worsen, once Nord Stream 2 is built. As Kaderják said, there will be “a widening price gap between West and East”. But one could argue that this is what competition is about. The market is not about “solidarity”. It may also be noted that it is rather misleading to argue, as the 9 prime ministers do in their letter to Juncker, that Eastern European countries are “still highly dependent on a single source of energy”. They may still be “highly dependent” on Russia for their gas supplies, but gas is only part of their energy needs. Many countries in Eastern Europe, like Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, actually do not use much gas in their energy mix at all. And they can choose to develop alternative sources of energy. There seems to be an element of choice involved when it comes to being “dependent on Russian gas”. None of this is meant to imply that Russia does not have geopolitical motivations in building Nord Stream 2. No doubt for Moscow Nord Stream 2 is also seen as a weapon in its conflict with Ukraine. That is what makes the issue so complex. The EU will have to decide whether it should regard Nord Stream 2 as simply an economic project, or also as a geopolitical threat. MEP Rebecca Harms, co-chair of the Group of the Greens in the European Parliament, had no doubts on this account. She said in Brussels that Ukraine is at war, and asked: “Why should we allow a further weakening of the country?” The problem with this argument is that it could be applied to any project that affects the Ukrainian economy negatively. As Lissek of the Nord Stream 2 consortium said: ”Do we have to stop every economic exchange with Russia?” He complained: “Why is so much importance attached to this project? That’s not very fair.” For Ukraine the ending of Russian gas transit would clearly be an economic blow. Yet the country also has itself to blame. For years it has allowed tremendous corruption in the gas sector, thereby putting the energy security of Western European countries at risk. The Russian decision in 2006 and 2009 to cut gas transit through Ukraine had a lot do with that. Opponents of Nord Stream 2 argue that this past is not relevant anymore: Ukraine has firmly started on a process of reform. Šefčovič said: “Ukraine continues to be a reliable gas partner and transit country….” He added that “The completion of energy sector reforms in Ukraine [is] of utmost importance and should be further implemented. There is no better reassurance for Ukraine to remain a transit country and to attract investors to its gas assets then by completing ownership unbundling of Naftogaz and setting up an independent energy regulator in line with the 3rd Energy Package. Ukraine has all our support to make these necessary game-changing steps.” The question is, does the energy market reform in Ukraine imply that Nord Stream 2 should not be built and the EU should help the country retain its dominant position in Russian gas transit to Western Europe? Wouldn’t this be an incentive for the country not to pursue its market reforms? In an article published by the Atlantic Council in April, the well-known Russia expert Anders Åslund, a fierce critic of Nord Stream 2, writes that Ukraine has made tremendous progress in its energy reforms. One effect has been an “extraordinary” decline in gas consumption: “As late as 2011, consumption amounted to 59.3 billion cubic metres. In 2015, it had fallen to merely 36 bcm, of which Ukraine itself produced 20 bcm.” The expectation is that in 2016 gas consumption will fall to a mere 29 bcm, “of which Ukraine itself will produce 20 bcm”. In 2015, Ukraine imported a mere 6.1 bcm from Russia. Åslund writes that “Energy is the linchpin of Ukraine’s independence on Russia”, and recommends that Ukraine should “stop buying gas from Russia altogether”, yet he wants Nord Stream 2 also to be stopped, as it is “instigated by Gazprom and certain German interests to weaken the EU and its energy policy to the disadvantage of Ukraine”. This does not seem consistent. Åslund has a broader perspective, though, since he also wants Gazprom to be investigated as “a criminal organization”. He may have a point, but if Gazprom really is a criminal organization, then it seems reasonable to argue that this is what the debate in Europe should be about: not about Nord Stream 2 but about Gazprom. After all, Gazprom is dealing with Europe in many ways, supplying large amounts of gas through various channels. In the end, a political process to halt Nord Stream 2 could be even more complicated than a legal process. The only way this could happen is if the European Commission and European Parliament received full support from the European Council. But that would require the agreement of Germany and other Western European member states, like The Netherlands and Austria, which stand to benefit from Nord Stream 2. So far, the European Council has been fairly critical of the project. After a meeting in December 2015, its President Donald Tusk wrote: “Talking about the Energy Union, leaders had an exchange on the Nord Stream II project, some of them were very critical, and we also discussed the conditions that need to be met by major energy infrastructure projects. We reiterated that any new infrastructure should be fully in line with the Energy Union objectives. Not to mention the obvious obligation that all projects have to comply with all EU laws, including the third Energy Package. These are clear conditions for receiving support from the EU institutions or any Member State – political, legal or financial. Now the ball is in the court of the European Commission. But the political message of the European Council is clear and goes in a similar direction as the position expressed by the European Parliament.” Didier Seeuws, Director of Transport, Telecommunications and Energy at the European Council, said in Brussels that the Council had “put forward not only legal but also political conditionality”. But Seeuws declined to speculate about what exactly a political decision from EU leaders to block Nord Stream 2 would look like. Any such move would run into one formidable problem: Russia would regard it as an extremely hostile act. Perhaps Péter Kaderják had the wisest advice to offer at the event in Brussels. He said that if Nord Stream 2 gets built, “Regulatory measures should ensure that competition is maintained in the Central and South East European region even if Gazprom transits gas along new routes. The EU and local regulators should prevent Gazprom from blocking interconnection capacities and make it release significant gas volumes in Germany.” This kind of compromise might be the most pragmatic outcome of the battle for Nord Stream 2. A similar solution is hinted at in the “analysis of the Legal Service reply” written by DG Energy, which refers to the possibility of a “case-specific regulatory framework for the project”. It is probably the maximum that the opponents of Nord Stream 2 will be able to achieve.
News Article | February 16, 2017
The brewing conflict around the South China Sea, with its large oil and gas resources, could easily turn into a catastrophic war between the US and China, writes Rajan Menon, international relations specialist at City College New York and Columbia University. Menon explains what is behind the territorial claims on the South China Sea and why it will be extremely risky for the US to try to confront China there. Courtesy of TomDispatch. Forget those “bad hombres down there” in Mexico that U.S. troops might take out. Ignore the way National Security Adviser Michael Flynn put Iran “on notice” and the new president insisted, that, when it comes to that country, “nothing is off the table.” Instead, focus for a moment on something truly scary: the possibility that Donald Trump’s Washington might slide into an actual war with the planet’s rising superpower, China. No kidding. It could really happen. Let’s start with silver-maned, stately Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state. Who could deny that the former ExxonMobil CEO has a foreign minister’s bearing? Trump reportedly chose him over neocon firebrand John Bolton partly for that reason. (Among other things, Bolton was mustachioed, something the new president apparently doesn’t care for.) But an august persona can only do so much; it can’t offset a lack of professional diplomatic experience. That became all-too-apparent during Tillerson’s January 11th confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was asked for his view on the military infrastructure China has been creating on various islands in the South China Sea, the ownership of which other Asian countries, including Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei claim as well. China’s actions, he replied, were “extremely worrisome,” likening them to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, an infraction for which Russia was slapped with economic sanctions. The then-secretary-of-state-designate – he’s since been confirmed, despite many negative votes – didn’t, however, stop there. Evidently, he wanted to communicate to the Chinese leadership in Beijing that the new administration was already irked beyond measure with them. So he added, “We’re going to have to send China’s leaders a clear signal: that, first, the island building stops and, second, your access to those islands is not going to be allowed.” Functionally, that fell little short of being an announcement of a future act of war, since not allowing “access” to those islands would clearly involve military moves. In what amounted to a there’s-a-new-sheriff-in-town warning, he then doubled down yet again, insisting, slightly incoherently (in the tradition of his new boss) that “the failure of a response has allowed them to just keep pushing the envelope on this.” All right, so maybe a novice had a bad day. Maybe the secretary-of-state-to-be simply ad-libbed and misspoke… whatever. If so, you might have expected a later clarification from him or from someone on the Trump national security team anyway. That didn’t happen; instead, that team stuck to its guns. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made no effort to add nuance to, let alone walk back, Tillerson’s remarks. During his first official press briefing on January 23rd, Spicer declared that the United States “is going to make sure we defend our interests there” – in the South China Sea, that is – and that “if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yes, we are going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.” And what of Trump’s own views on the island controversy? Never one to pass up an opportunity for hyperbole, during the presidential campaign he swore that, on those tiny islands, China was building “a military fortress the likes of which the world has not seen.” As it happened, he wasn’t speaking about, say, the forces that Hitler massed for the ill-fated Operation Barbarossa, launched in June 1941 with the aim of crushing the Red Army and the Soviet Union, or those deployed for the June 1944 Normandy landing, which sealed Nazi Germany’s fate. When applied to what China has been up to in the South China Sea, his statement fell instantly into the not-yet-named category of “alternative facts.” Candidate Trump also let it be known that he wouldn’t allow Beijing to get away with such cheekiness on his watch. Why had the Chinese engaged in military construction on the islands? Trump had a simple answer (as he invariably does): China “has no respect for our president and no respect for our country.” The implication was evident. Things would be different once he settled into the White House and made America great again. Then – it was easy enough to conclude – China had better watch out. Standard campaign bombast? Well, Trump hasn’t changed his tune a bit since being elected. On December 4th, using (of course!) his Twitter account, he blasted Beijing for having built “a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea.” And it’s safe to assume that he signed off on Spicer’s combative comments as well. In short, his administration has already drawn a red line – but in the way a petulant child might with a crayon. During and after the campaign he made much of his determination to regain the respect he claims the U.S. has lost in the world, notably from adversaries like China. The danger here is that, in dealing with that country, Trump could, as is typical, make it all about himself, all about “winning,” one of his most beloved words, and disaster might follow. A military clash between Trump-led America and a China led by President Xi Jinping? Understanding how it might happen requires a brief detour to the place where it’s most likely to occur: the South China Sea. Our first task: to understand China’s position on that body of water and the islands it contains, as well as the nature of Beijing’s military projects there. So brace yourself for some necessary detail. As Marina Tsirbas, a former diplomat now at the Australian National University’s National Security College, explains, Beijing’s written and verbal statements on the South China Sea lend themselves to two different interpretations. The Chinese government’s position boils down to something like this: “We own everything – the waters, islands and reefs, marine resources, and energy and mineral deposits – within the Nine-Dash Line.” That demarcation line, which incidentally has had ten dashes, and sometimes eleven, originally appeared in 1947 maps of the Republic of China, the Nationalist government that would soon flee to the island of Taiwan leaving the Chinese Communists in charge of the mainland. When Mao Ze Dong and his associates established the People’s Republic, they retained that Nationalist map and the demarcation line that went with it, which just happened to enclose virtually all of the South China Sea, claiming sovereign rights. This stance – think of it as Beijing’s hard line on the subject – raises instant questions about other countries’ navigation and overflight rights through that much-used region. In essence, do they have any and, if so, will Beijing alone be the one to define what those are? And will those definitions start to change as China becomes ever more powerful? These are hardly trivial concerns, given that about $5 trillion worth of goods pass through the South China Sea annually. Then there’s what might be called Beijing’s softer line, based on rights accorded by the legal concepts of the territorial sea and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which took effect in 1994 and has been signed by 167 states (including China but not the United States), a country has sovereign control within 12 nautical miles of its coast as well as of land formations in that perimeter visible at high tide. But other countries have the right of “innocent passage.” The EEZ goes further. It provides a rightful claimant control over access to fishing, as well as seabed and subsoil natural resources, within “an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea” extending 200 nautical miles, while ensuring other states’ freedom of passage by air and sea. UNCLOS also gives a state with an EEZ control over “the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations, and structures” within that zone – an important provision at our present moment. What makes all of this so much more complicated is that many of the islands and reefs in the South China Sea that provide the basis for defining China’s EEZ are also claimed by other countries under the terms of UNCLOS. That, of course, immediately raises questions about the legality of Beijing’s military construction projects in that watery expanse on islands, atolls, and strips of land it’s dredging into existence, as well as its claims to seabed energy resources, fishing rights, and land reclamation rights there – to say nothing about its willingness to seize some of them by force, rival claims be damned. Moreover, figuring out which of these two positions – hard or soft – China embraces at any moment is tricky indeed. Beijing, for instance, insists that it upholds freedom of navigation and overflight rights in the Sea, but it has also said that these rights don’t apply to warships and military aircraft. In recent years its warplanes have intercepted, and at close quarters, American military aircraft flying outside Chinese territorial waters in the same region. Similarly, in 2015, Chinese aircraft and ships followed and issued warnings to an American warship off Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands, which both China and Vietnam claim in their entirety. This past December, its Navy seized, but later returned, an underwater drone the American naval ship Bowditch had been operating near the coast of the Philippines. There were similar incidents in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2013, and 2014. In the second of these episodes, a Chinese fighter jet collided with a US Navy EP-3 reconnaissance plane, which had a crew of 24 on board, less than 70 miles off Hainan island, forcing it to make an emergency landing in China and creating a tense standoff between Beijing and Washington. The Chinese detained the crew for 11 days. They disassembled the EP-3, returning it three months later in pieces. Such muscle flexing in the South China Sea isn’t new. China has long been tough on its weaker neighbors in those waters. Back in 1974, for instance, its forces ejected South Vietnamese troops from parts of the Paracel/Xisha islands that Beijing claimed but did not yet control. China has also backed up its claim to the Spratly/Nansha islands (which Taiwan, Vietnam, and other regional countries reject) with air and naval patrols, tough talk, and more. In 1988, it forcibly occupied the Vietnamese-controlled Johnson Reef, securing control over the first of what would eventually become seven possessions in the Spratlys. Vietnam has not been the only Southeast Asian country to receive such rough treatment. China and the Philippines both claim ownership of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal/Huangyang Island, located 124 nautical miles off Luzon Island in the Philippines. In 2012, Beijing simply seized it, having already ejected Manila from Panganiban Reef (aka Mischief Reef), about 129 nautical miles from the Philippines’ Palawan Island, in 1995. In 2016, when an international arbitration tribunal upheld Manila’s position on Mischief Reef and Scarborough Shoal, the Chinese Foreign Ministry sniffed that “the decision is invalid and has no binding force.” Chinese president Xi Jinping added for good measure that China’s claims to the South China Sea stretched back to “ancient times.” Then there’s China’s military construction work in the area, which includes the building of full-scale artificial islands, as well as harbors, military airfields, storage facilities, and hangars reinforced to protect military aircraft. In addition, the Chinese have installed radar systems, anti-aircraft missiles, and anti-missile defense systems on some of these islands. These, then, are the projects that the Trump administration says it will stop. But China’s conduct in the South China Sea leaves little doubt about its determination to hold onto what it has and continue its activities. The Chinese leadership has made this clear since Donald Trump’s election, and the state-run press has struck a similarly defiant note, drawing crude red lines of its own. For example, the Global Times, a nationalist newspaper, mocked Trump’s pretensions and issued a doomsday warning: “The U.S. has no absolute power to dominate the South China Sea. Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories.” Were the administration to follow its threatening talk with military action, the Global Times added ominously, “The two sides had better prepare for a military clash.” Although the Chinese leadership hasn’t been anywhere near as bombastic, top officials have made it clear that they won’t yield an inch on the South China Sea, that disputes over territories are matters for China and its neighbors to settle, and that Washington had best butt out. True, as the acolytes of a “unipolar” world remind us, China’s military spending amounts to barely more than a quarter of Washington’s and U.S. naval and air forces are far more advanced and lethal than their Chinese equivalents. However, although there certainly is a debate about the legal validity and historical accuracy of China’s territorial claims, given the increasingly acrimonious relationship between Washington and Beijing the more strategically salient point may be that these territories, thousands of miles from the U.S. mainland, mean so much more to China than they do to the United States. By now, they are inextricably bound up with its national identity and pride, and with powerful historical and nationalistic memories – with, that is, a sense that, after nearly two centuries of humiliation at the hands of the West, China is now a rising global power that can no longer be pushed around. Behind such sentiments lies steel. By buying some $30 billion in advanced Russian armaments since the early 1990s and developing the capacity to build advanced weaponry of its own, China has methodically acquired the military means, and devised a strategy, to inflict serious losses on the American navy in any clash in the South China Sea, where geography serves as its ally. Beijing may, in the end, lose a showdown there, but rest assured that it would exact a heavy price before that. What sort of “victory” would that be? If the fighting starts, it will be tough for the presidents of either country to back down. Xi Jinping, like Trump, presents himself as a tough guy, sure to trounce his enemies at home and abroad. Retaining that image requires that he not bend when it comes to defending China’s land and honor. He faces another problem as well. Nationalism long ago sidelined Maoism in his country. As a result, were he and his colleagues to appear pusillanimous in the face of a Trumpian challenge, they would risk losing their legitimacy and potentially bringing their people onto the streets (something that can happen quickly in the age of social media). That’s a particularly forbidding thought in what is arguably the most rebellious land in the historical record. In such circumstances, the leadership’s abiding conviction that it can calibrate the public’s nationalism to serve the Communist Party’s purposes without letting it get out of hand may prove delusional. Certainly, the Party understands the danger that runaway nationalism could pose to its authority. Its paper, the People’s Daily, condemned the “irrational patriotism” that manifested itself in social media forums and street protests after the recent international tribunal’s verdict favoring the Philippines. And that’s hardly the first time a foreign policy fracas has excited public passions. Think, for example, of the anti-Japanese demonstrations that swept the country in 2005, provoked by Japanese school textbooks that sanitized that country’s World War II-era atrocities in China. Those protests spread to many cities, and the numbers were sizeable with more than 10,000 angry demonstrators on the streets of Shanghai alone. At first, the leadership encouraged the rallies, but it got nervous as things started to spin out of control. Facing off against China, President Trump could find himself in a similar predicament, having so emphasized his toughness, his determination to regain America’s lost respect and make the country great again. The bigger problem, however, will undoubtedly be his own narcissism and his obsession with winning, not to mention his inability to resist sending incendiary messages via Twitter. Just try to imagine for a moment how a president who blows his stack during a getting-to-know-you phone call with the prime minister of Australia, a close ally, is likely to conduct himself in a confrontation with a country he’s labeled a prime adversary. In the event of a military crisis between China and the United States, neither side may want an escalation, to say nothing of a nuclear war. Yet Trump’s threats to impose 45% tariffs on Chinese exports to the U.S. and his repeated condemnation of China as a “currency manipulator” and stealer of American jobs have already produced a poisonous atmosphere between the world’s two most powerful countries. And it was made worse by his December phone conversation with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, which created doubts about his commitment to the One China policy the United States has adhered to since 1972. The Chinese authorities apparently made it clear to the White House that there couldn’t even be a first-time phone call to Xi unless the new president agreed to stick with that policy. During a conversation with the Chinese president on February 9th, Trump reportedly provided that essential assurance. Given the new American president’s volatility, however, Beijing will be playing close attention to his words and actions, even his symbolic ones, related to Taiwan. Sooner or later, if Trump doesn’t also dial down the rest of his rhetoric on China, its leaders will surely ratchet up theirs, thereby aggravating the situation further. So far, they’ve restrained themselves in order to figure Trump out – not an easy task even for Americans – and in hopes that his present way of dealing with the world might be replaced with something more conventional and recognizable. Hope, as they say, springs eternal, but as of now, in repeatedly insisting that China must do as he says, Trump and his surrogates have inserted themselves and the country into a complicated territorial dispute far from America’s shores. The hubris of Washington acting as the keeper of world order, but regularly breaking the rules as it wishes, whether by invading Iraq in 2003 or making open use of torture and a global network of secret prisons, is an aspect of American behavior long obvious to foreign powers. It looks to be the essence of Trumpism, too, even if its roots are old indeed. Don’t dismiss the importance of heated exchanges between Washington and Beijing in the wake of Trump’s election. The political atmosphere between rival powers, especially those with massive arsenals, can matter a great deal when they face off in a crisis. Pernicious stereotypes and mutual mistrust only increase the odds that crucial information will be misinterpreted in the heat of the moment because of entrenched beliefs that are immune to contrary evidence, misperceptions, worst-case calculations, and up-the-ante reactions. In academic jargon, these constitute the ingredients for a classic conflict spiral. In such a situation, events take control of leaders, producing outcomes that none of them sought. Not for nothing during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 did President John Kennedy look to Barbara Tuchman’s book, Guns of August – a gripping account of how Europe slipped and slid into a disastrous world war in 1914. There has been lots of anxiety about the malign effects that Donald Trump’s temperament and beliefs could have domestically, and for good reason. But in domestic politics, institutions and laws, civic organizations, the press, and public protests can serve, however imperfectly, as countervailing forces. In international politics, crises can erupt suddenly and unfold rapidly – and the checks on rash behavior by American presidents are much weaker. They have considerable leeway to use military force (having repeatedly circumvented the War Powers Act). They can manipulate public opinion from the Bully Pulpit and shape the flow of information. (Think back to the Iraq war.) Congress typically rallies reflexively around the flag during international crises. In such moments, citizens’ criticism or mass protest invites charges of disloyalty. This is why the brewing conflict in the South China Sea and rising animosities on both sides could produce something resembling a Cuban-Missile-Crisis-style situation – with the United States lacking the geographical advantage this time around. If you think that a war between China and the United States couldn’t possibly happen, you might have a point in ordinary times, which these distinctly aren’t. Take the latest news on Stephen Bannon, formerly the executive chairman of the alt-right publication Breitbart News and now President Trump’s chief political strategist. He has even been granted the right to sit in on every meeting of the National Security Council and its Principals Committee, the highest inter-agency forum for day-to-day national security deliberations. He will be privy to meetings that, according to a directive signed by Trump, even the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence may not join unless “issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise will be discussed.” Calling this a break with past practice would be an understatement of the first order. So Bannon’s views, once of interest only to a fringe group of Americans, now matter greatly. Here’s what he said last March about China in a radio interview: “We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years, aren’t we? There’s no doubt about that. They’re taking their sandbars and making basically stationary aircraft carriers and putting missiles on those. They come here to the United States in front of our face – and you understand how important face is – and say it’s an ancient territorial sea.” Think of this as Bannon’s version of apocalyptic prophecy. Then consider the volatility of the new president he advises. Then focus on the larger message: these are not ordinary times. Most Americans probably don’t even know that there is a South China Sea. Count on one thing, though: they will soon. Rajan Menon is the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of International Relations at the Powell School, City College of New York, and Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. He is the author, most recently, of The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention. This article was first published on TomDispatch.com and is republished here with permission. Copyright 2017 Rajan Menon.
News Article | September 9, 2016
« Gevo to supply Lufthansa with alcohol-to-jet fuel (ATJ) | Main | GoodFuels Marine and Boskalis successfully test UPM’s sustainable wood-based biofuel for marine fleet » The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA–E) intends to issue a new Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA ) in November, 2016, for the development of advanced cultivation technologies that enable profitable and energy efficient production of macroalgal-biomass (seaweeds) in the ocean. ARPA–E held a workshop on this topic in February 2016. These technologies are expected to be deployed and support cultivation of macroalgal-biomass feedstocks at a scale relevant for the production of commodity fuels and chemicals. The primary challenge is to reduce capital and operating cost of macroalgae cultivation dramatically, while significantly increasing the range of deployment by expanding into more exposed, off-shore environments. ARPA-E is interested in new designs and approaches to macroalgae cultivation and production with integrated harvesting solutions. These systems may leverage new material and engineering solutions, autonomous and/or robotic operations, as well as advanced sensing and monitoring capabilities. In addition to field-type cultivation, ARPA-E is also interested in unconventional approaches, for example ranching where free-floating macroalgae are harvested at locations predicted/determined by satellite imaging and current/drift modeling. Given the enormous size and geographic diversity of the US marine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the agency expects that there will be different system solutions based on the intended area of deployment, macroalgal species to be cultivated, and downstream processing. To support and accelerate the development of these advanced cultivation systems, ARPA-E is also interested in hydrodynamic and ocean current models that can predict the mechanical stresses on a cultivation system as well as the flow and distribution of nutrients through a macroalgae field. Furthermore, to validate the performance of macroalgae cultivation systems, appropriate sensors to measure in situ biomass production and composition as well as nutrient concentrations will be required. Finally, to complement the new system design approaches, ARPA-E is also looking for advanced breeding tools that can help in the development of new, highly productive macroalgae cultivars. ARPA-E has determined that, at this time, biomass conversion is not a limiting factor for profitable and wide-spread production of fuels and chemicals from macroalgae, and consequently will not support work in that area at this time. However, an understanding of macroalgae conversion processes are expected to inform and guide the development of cultivation and harvest strategies, or other tools. Overall, the program will address marine system design/engineering and integration with biomass production, hydrodynamic and ocean modeling, marine spatial planning, sensor technology development, macroalgae breeding tools, and field testing of cultivation systems and sensor technologies. The program will also address emerging markets necessary as stepping stones to a thriving marine macroalgae-to-fuels and chemicals industry. ARPA–E anticipates that this program will have four areas of interest. ARPA-E is now compiling a teaming partner list to facilitate the formation of new project teams. ARPA-E intends to make the list available on ARPA–E eXCHANGE, ARPA–E’s online application portal, this month. Once posted, the Teaming Partner List will be updated periodically, until the close of the Full Application period, to reflect new Teaming Partners who have provided their information.
News Article | December 16, 2016
For ocean scientists who have worked with the U.S. military, today’s news that Chinese forces seized an oceanographic glider launched by an unarmed U.S. Navy research ship working in the South China Sea has a familiar ring. It’s not the first time that Chinese ships have confronted the USNS Bowditch or one of its five sister oceanographic ships, a little-known U.S. Navy fleet operated mostly by civilians that conducts mapping and ocean data collection cruises around the world. In 2001 and 2002, for instance, Chinese Navy frigates dogged the Bowditch as it worked in the Yellow Sea, leading to an exchange of diplomatic complaints. In general, the Chinese object to the U.S. Navy conducting research activities within China’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which stretches some 320 kilometers off its coastline. But U.S. officials have long held that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea specifically allows military ships to conduct research cruises within a nation’s EEZ (although civilian research cruises need to get permission from the host country). To learn more about the work of the Bowditch and its sister ships, Insider chatted with now-retired Rear Admiral David Titley, who oversaw the U.S. Navy’s research fleet from 2007 to 2009 as commander of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. Titley is now director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Pennsylvania State University in State College. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Q: What do ships like the Bowditch do? A: Well, these oceanographic survey ships are very rarely in the news, but they play a big part in what the Navy is doing, in a data-driven scientific way, to learn about our oceans. They do just what the name implies. The reason the Navy is interested in surveying the ocean worldwide is because it operates worldwide. So while the Navy has to play the away game, it needs and wants the home field advantage—it wants to know the terrain. And if you want to understand something you have to first measure it, and that’s what these ships are designed to do. They collect information about how deep the ocean is, the type of bottom, the currents, the temperature and salinity structure, and where the eddies are. All of that is essential to understanding the terrain and forecasting how it might change. They’ve been doing these missions in international waters for many, many decades. A: These are Military Sealift Command vessels. In the Navy, we have what we call the gray hulls—your destroyers, aircraft carriers, and submarines—that have crews that are all active-duty military. Then there is the sealift command—the white hulls—that have civilian masters and mates, and the crews are often contractors. They also have a technical surveying crew that is usually mostly civilian oceanographers, hydrographers, and other technical personnel. Q: What happens to the data these ships collect? A: When the U.S. Navy works in another nation’s EEZ, you have to be careful about how you handle data, and what you do and do not release. Under the Law of the Sea, the position taken by the U.S. and many other nations is that the military can collect data within a country’s EEZ without the permission of that country, because it is a military survey. We can ask for permission, and we do at times, but we don’t have to. But those data then cannot be released to the general public, because that would make it a more civilian-type science expedition. And you don’t want another country to say: See, it’s not a military mission. Q: China takes a different position on military research activities in the EEZ … A: Yes, China does not like it. So, historically, what we have had occasionally is that when the Bowditch or [a similar ship] has been working in China’s EEZ, they have harassed our oceanographic survey ships. Now, I don’t know where the Bowditch exactly was working—the South China Sea is a huge area—or what its mission was. Clearly something has happened. But one of the first things you learn in the Navy is that the very first report is probably wrong. So I’m sure we’ll learn more. Updated, 12/16/2016, 5:35p.m.: This story has been updated to remove a reference to the comparative sizes of the South China Sea and the contiguous United States.
News Article | September 15, 2016
President Obama declared the first fully protected area in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, designating 4,913 square miles off the New England coastline as a new marine national monument. Obama’s previous marine conservation declarations have focused on some of the most remote waters under U.S. jurisdiction, including last month’s expansion of a massive protected area in Hawaii. But the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is more accessible, lying 130 miles off the southeast coast of Cape Cod. “There are fabulous places out in the Pacific. But they’re also incredibly valuable and vulnerable places off the continental U.S.,” said Sarah Chasis, who directs the Natural Resources Defense Council’s oceans program. Obama will formally announce the designation Thursday when he addresses the Our Ocean conference, a global gathering his administration initiated two years ago. A senior administration official, who asked for anonymity in advance of the announcement, said the goal was to meet “the critical conservation needs that science establishes in this area while minimizing the impact on fisheries.” The area along the continental shelf is home to many species of deep-sea coral, sharks, sea turtles, seabirds and deep-diving marine mammals, such as beaked whales and sperm whales. It boasts massive undersea canyons, as well as seamounts, towering underwater peaks that are higher than any mountains east of the Rockies, rising as much as 7,700 feet from the ocean floor. [In grand-gesture stage of his presidency, Obama turns to the sea] America controls more of the ocean than any other nation on earth: its exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, accounts for 55 percent of total U.S. acreage if federal lands and waters are combined. Globally, only 2.3 percent of the sea is strongly protected, but Obama has increased the amount of federal waters under strong protection from 6 percent to 25.5 percent. Several regional fishing associations lobbied against the creation of a new monument, on the grounds that the federal government could reconcile environmental protections and ongoing fishing operations by regulating activities there under an existing fisheries management law. Trawlers as well as offshore lobster and crab boat operators currently catch a range of species near the underwater canyons, including squid, mackerel, butterfish, lobster and Atlantic red crab. According to industry estimates, these fisheries are worth more than $50 million in total. In an effort to lessen the economic impact, the administration will give lobster and red crab operators seven years to exit the area. Recreational fishing can continue around the three deep-sea canyons and four seamounts that are now protected, but seabed mining and any other extractive activities are banned. Administration officials estimated there were six lobster boats operating in the area that will be protected, along with 20 other fishing vessels that move in and out of the area. “The only user group that’s going to be negatively affected by this proposal is the fishing industry, period,” said David Borden, executive director of the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association, noting that the new protections will not affect oil tankers moving through the area or telecommunications cables lying on the seabed. Borden noted that one of the most affected sectors, the red crab fishery, has been certified as sustainably managed by the independent Marine Stewardship Council. “The environmentalists consistently claim these are pristine areas, despite that there’s been fishing there for 40 years,” he said, adding that industry officials had told the White House repeatedly they are open to new restrictions. “Just set the boundaries deep enough so the fishing can continue.” Eric Reid, general manager at a fish processing plant in Point Judith, R.I., said the monument’s proponents failed to recognize it would have “localized economic damage” in areas such as Montauk, N.Y., southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. But several scientists said recent research indicates the kinds of sea life living at these depths are so vulnerable — both because of their reproductive cycle and the fact that they need large, hard structures on the sea floor in order to thrive — it is essential to guard against the unintentional consequences of large-scale fishing and other possible extraction activities such as seabed mining. “Traps, trawls and dredges impact — knock down, remove, kill — structure forming animals, and these provide habitat for a diversity of animals,” said Peter Auster, a senior research scientist at Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium. “We no longer allow hunting for wolves or grizzly bears in parks because of their ecological role, and a similar construct applies here, We are looking at one place, protected in perpetuity, where we can find all of the rich suite of ecological interactions playing out in the ocean, unimpeded by direct human interventions.” Auster, who has helped conduct research expeditions in the area, said the coral canyons and seamounts provide habitat for species that scientists are just beginning to document. “We can still go to this place, right outside our back door, and still find things that don’t have names,” he said, adding that the protected area represents roughly 2 percent of federal waters off the East Coast. “That leaves 98 percent to be exploited by somebody else.” Protests by fishing groups derailed the campaign to establish another marine national monument in New England, Cashes Ledge, which would have spanned 532 square miles. The White House announced earlier this year the president would no longer consider using his executive authority after local officials as well as some congressional Democrats, including Sen. Edward J. Markey (Mass.), raised questions about it. The monument Obama will declare is based on a map drafted by Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D), but it is 20 percent smaller. Connecticut has a more modest fishing fleet than other neighboring states. Jane Lubchenco, who headed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during Obama’s first term, said in an interview the president deserves credit for dramatically expanding protections for federal waters. But she emphasized that it was important to make sure those safeguards applied to a range of environments. “There are many different kinds of species and many different kinds of habitats that deserve protection, need protection,” Lubchenco said. “It used to be most of the ocean was a marine reserve, because we couldn’t access it. But with technology, we have eliminated that natural protection.” Wind power is going to get a lot cheaper as wind turbines get even more enormous Wheat, one of the world’s most important crops, is being threatened by climate change We’ve been protecting Earth’s land for 100 years. We’re finally starting to protect its oceans For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and follow us on Twitter here.
News Article | November 3, 2016
Sweden, Finland and Denmark are unlikely to block or slow down the procedures of issuing national approvals for the construction of Nord Stream 2, write Justyna Gotkowska and Piotr Szymaṅski of OSW, the Centre for Eastern Studies, in Poland. But according to the authors the Nordic countries do expect the European Commission to assess the compliance of Nord Stream 2 with the EU’s Third Energy Package. In addition, Stockholm and Copenhagen in particular want the EU to take a common political stance on the project. This is an abbreviated version of their article for OSW. Sweden, Finland and Denmark have seen a revival of the debate on the Nord Stream 2 project in recent months. As the planned gas pipeline will run through these countries’ exclusive economic zones and/or territorial waters, the governments in Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen will have to take a decision on NS2 construction soon. They find themselves in a difficult situation. On the one hand, the Russian-Ukrainian war and the deteriorating security situation in the Baltic Sea region have resulted in more distance towards Russian economic projects in these countries. All of them have also come under increasing pressure from the United States, the Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, and domestic opposition parties, which have been demanding the project’s suspension. On the other hand, neither Stockholm, Helsinki nor Copenhagen wants to use their national laws or the Law of the Sea to block Nord Stream 2, which enjoys support from Germany. According to the plans, Nord Stream 2 (NS2) would run in parallel to two existing lines of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline (NS1) via the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of Finland (375 km) and Sweden (500 km), and the EEZ and territorial waters of Denmark (a total of 140 km; see Map). In the case of the first two lines of NS1, the Nord Stream company successfully applied for building permits in all three countries. This was granted in 2009, and at that time all the procedures took around three years to complete. In the case of NS2, the Nord Stream 2 company submitted its first application in Sweden for a permit to lay the underwater pipeline in the Swedish EEZ on 16 September 2016, and announced that it would submit the corresponding applications in Finland and Denmark at the beginning of 2017. On the basis of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, Denmark can refuse consent for the NS2 gas pipeline to be constructed in its territorial waters to the southeast of the island of Bornholm, where it has the complete freedom to authorise the laying of pipelines. It would become necessary to move the NS2’s route to the EEZs of Denmark or Sweden which would complicate the implementation of the project. To the north of Bornholm, a heavily-used shipping route runs through the Danish and Swedish EEZs, which would impede the laying of the gas pipeline. To the south of Bornholm, the Polish and Danish EEZs are not delimited; constructing the gas pipeline in this area would thus be associated with legal controversies, which would extend the entire process. Finland and Sweden, on the basis of the Law of the Sea, have practically no freedom to block the construction of the NS2 pipeline in their exclusive economic zones, where the freedom to lay pipelines exists. However, laying out the routes of such pipelines in the EEZs requires the consent of the coastal state. It is granted on the basis of an assessment of the project’s impact on the environment; and so both countries could prolong this process. The debate on the NS2 project in Sweden accelerated at the end of August 2016 due to the visit of US Vice-President Joe Biden, who urged the Swedish government to adopt a negative stance towards the project. Before the visit, representatives of the left-wing government of PM Stefan Löfven (who heads a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens) were reluctant and cautious in speaking out on this issue. The debate was shaped by the conservative opposition – the Moderates, the Centre Party, Christian Democrats and Liberals – who took advantage of the subject to criticise the government and call for the Swedish Foreign Ministry to take strong action to block the project. Biden’s visit led to the Swedish government adopting a more sceptical position. This changed attitude was clearly visible in the statements by Foreign Minister Margot Wallström during discussions in the Swedish parliament on 6 September this year. The Swedish government’s overall sceptical position towards the project is also reinforced by the fact that demand for natural gas in Sweden is very low (around 4% of domestic consumption); 20% of this demand is covered by domestic production, with the remaining 80% being covered by imports from Denmark. Sweden has no business ties with Gazprom. The Swedish debate on NS2 gives reason to conclude that the government will permit the gas pipeline route to run through the Swedish EEZ and will not use environmental procedures to delay the construction. Ensuring that relations between states are based on international law is in the vital interest of Sweden, which is a relatively small country with considerable regional and global ties, and moreover remains outside military alliances. Sweden’s reasoning is that, since Stockholm urges Russia to comply with international law, Sweden itself should do the same. However, the Swedish government is sceptical about the construction of the NS2 gas pipeline, which it perceives as a geopolitical project, intended to increase the EU’s dependence on gas from Russia, and thus on political pressure from the Kremlin. Sweden is also afraid that Russia could use the pipeline as an excuse to intensify its military operations in the Baltic Sea to protect the gas infrastructure. As it sees no legal possibility of blocking the pipeline’s construction on the national level, Sweden favours stopping the project in the EU. Stockholm expects the European Commission to assess NS2’s compliance with the Third Energy Package. It also wants a political discussion and decision on NS2 to be taken at the level of the Council of the EU or the European Council, based on the assessment of the project’s conformity with the objectives of EU energy and climate policy, as well as the EU’s security interests. Swedish Foreign Minister has thus declared Swedish readiness to cooperate with the Baltic Sea states in order to counteract the project on a political level within the EU. However, Sweden will not actively engage in blocking NS2, if it considers the likelihood of success to be too small. In Finland, a wider discussion on the NS2 project may be expected after the Nord Stream 2 company submits its application for a construction permit (probably by February 2017). As yet, the NS2 project has not sparked a political debate in Finland. Representatives of the centre-right government of PM Juha Sipilä (made up of the Centre Party, the Finns Party and the National Coalition Party) have hardly said a word on the subject, until the government was forced to take an official position in response to a parliamentary question in September 2016. The public discussion about NS2 was also revived by the echoes of Joe Biden’s visit to Sweden, as well as a report on Russia published by the Finnish think-tank FIIA (30 August; the report was commissioned by the government). The FIIA report refers to the NS2 gas pipeline as a geo-economic project, which will marginalise the importance of Ukraine as a gas transit country; create a gas dependency with Germany that will increase Russia’s ability to exert political and economic pressure on Berlin; and undermine the EU’s energy policy. It recommends that Finnish decision-makers engage in efforts to develop a joint EU position on the political level, while at the same time discouraging them from raising environmental issues in the Finnish EEZ in order to block the project. However, the report is unlikely to affect the government’s neutral position on the NS2. The Finnish government will not use the environmental impact assessment procedure in order to delay implementation of the project, and will allow the gas pipeline to be laid in the Finnish exclusive economic zone. Helsinki is treating the planned gas pipeline as a business initiative, as it did in the case of NS1, and has adopted a neutral stance towards the project, not seeing any interest in either promoting or blocking it. At the same time, Finland is waiting for the European Commission’s assessment on whether NS2 complies with the Third Energy Package. In contrast to Stockholm, Helsinki is against using political arguments to block the planned gas pipeline in the EU. Finland does not want to politicise the project for two reasons. Like Sweden, it attaches great importance to compliance with international law. Furthermore, it does not want to politicise environmental issues in relations with Russia since protection of the Baltic Sea basin is an important objective of Finland’s regional policy, with Russia being largely responsible for the pollution of the waters of the Gulf of Finland. At the same time, Finland is committed to economic cooperation with Russia, and is seeking to develop it in those areas not covered by sanctions. Finland does not see any risks in energy cooperation with Russia. It imports 100% of its gas from Russia and considers Gazprom a reliable partner, because – in contrast to the CEE countries – it has not experienced any politically motivated interruptions in the supply of Russian gas. Until recently, Gazprom also held a 25% stake in Gasum, the operator of the Finnish gas transmission network, until the Third Energy Package came into force, when the Finnish government bought its shares. In addition, natural gas is of little importance in domestic energy consumption, amounting to no more than around 7% in 2015. Finland does not have a well-developed transmission network (it is only found in the south of the country), and recognises the problem of being dependent on a single gas connection with Russia (Imatra-Tampere), and so it is investing in the construction of small LNG terminals and a pipeline connection with Estonia. The real debate on the project in Denmark will begin only when the Nord Stream 2 company applies for a permit to construct the gas pipeline in the Danish EEZ and territorial waters at the beginning of 2017. So far, discussions on the matter have been sporadic and superficial, and the statements by representatives of the minority government of PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen (who heads the liberal Venstre party) have been very restrained. The debate was briefly revived in July thanks to an appeal by the Polish, Lithuanian and Estonian foreign ministers to the Danish government to block the pipeline’s construction. The construction of the NS2 is backed by the nationalist Danish People’s Party, which supports the Venstre party’s government; meanwhile some opposition leftist politicians, mainly from the Social Liberals (a small party) and the Social Democrats (the largest party in Parliament), oppose the construction of NS2. Denmark will not block or delay the project on the basis of national law or the Law of the Sea. Copenhagen may be expected to agree to the delineation of the NS2’s route in their EEZ and territorial waters. Currently, however, the Danish government has adopted a wait-and-see attitude, announcing that it will not undertake any analyses, and will not adopt a position before the Nord Stream company’s application for a building permit has been submitted. The Danish government has adopted this attitude for several reasons. Denmark wants to avoid a situation in which it would have to unambiguously back either the supporters of the pipeline project (mainly Germany, its most important economic partner) or its opponents (primarily the US, its key ally in security policy, as well as the CEE countries). The Danes are aware of the geopolitical dimension of the NS2 project. However, they attach great importance to compliance with the Law of the Sea, and the Danish interpretation of it obliges the state to agree to the construction of the pipelines in its territorial waters. In addition, the Convention on the Law of the Sea plays a key role in Danish policy in the Arctic, as it provides the basis for resolving the issue of overlapping Danish and Russian claims to the continental shelf. Denmark is therefore counting on the EU to take the responsibility for the fate of the project. Copenhagen’s hope is that the European Commission will adopt a formal position on the project’s compatibility with the Third Energy Package, and that the political discussions on the project will be held in the European Council. This is a shortened version of an article that was published by OSW/Centre for Eastern Studies on 12 October 2016. See here for the full annotated article. Republished with permission.