June 6, 2013 - March 31, 2023
Event Program (PDF)
Center Overview Document (PDF)
Event Transcript (PDF)
Jason Bordoff, Professor of Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs, SIPA; Director, Center on Global Energy Policy
On behalf of Columbia University, the School of International and Public Affairs, and the Center on Global Energy Policy, Center Director Jason Bordoff welcomed guests and presented a vision for the Center: a rigorous, objective, global research center to help policymakers navigate the increasingly complex world of energy – a world that is currently experiencing simultaneous revolutions in unconventional and clean energy development, and where climate change impacts are being felt ever more frequently and severely.
Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP, Minister of State for Energy, UK Department of Energy and Climate Change
Followed by a Conversation with Jason Bordoff
Minister Fallon gave a keynote address in which he highlighted the necessity for a research center like the Center on Global Energy Policy in the coming years. Over the next two decades, the global energy landscape will shift dramatically in order to accommodate expanding economies and growing energy demand while necessarily addressing climate change and its impacts. This important speech laid out key actions the UK must proactively take to thrive in the future: promote low-carbon technology and energy efficiency, encourage safe and responsible oil and gas production, strengthen trade linkages to support reliable energy markets, and incentivize both domestic and foreign investment in energy infrastructure. In his discussion with Center Director Jason Bordoff, Minister Fallon noted that the UK government has taken positive steps in the right direction already through its Electricity Market Reform initiative and by establishing a robust shale gas regulatory framework while actively encouraging development and exploration.
Christof Rühl, Group Chief Economist, BP
Mr. Rühl, Group Chief Economist at BP, spoke about the current global supply and demand picture, various national production profiles, and the strategic implications of the shale gas revolution. Citing BP’s latest projections that global energy demand will grow 36 percent from last year to 2030, he suggested that the world will still be highly dependent on fossil fuels moving forward and that most of the demand increase is driven by non-OECD countries. However, most of these countries are also contributing near-equivalent production growth.
Mr. Rühl also highlighted how the net increase in global oil production over the last five years has largely come from two countries producing unconventional fuels, the U.S. and Canada. Although Rühl claimed Venezuela has more oil sands than Canada, and China at least as much shale gas as the U.S., the free, open, and accessible systems in the U.S. and Canada have generated the competition that has led to new technologies that have enabled the development of shale resources. The result of unconventional production growth is that BP predicts OPEC will gradually cut its production until 2020, generating large spare capacity. It also highlights the enormous importance of policy and politics, not just below-ground resources, in determining how quickly countries come online with their respective resources.
Nick Butler, Visiting Fellow and Chair of King’s Policy Institute, King’s College London
Michael Liebreich, Chief Executive, Bloomberg New Energy Finance
Moderator: Javier Blas, Commodities Editor, Financial Times
Mr. Rühl opened the discussion by commenting on how the supply disruptions of recent years in the oil sector have caused oil prices to remain high despite the dramatic growth in unconventional production. Later, he spoke about the difficulties European shale development faces due to lack of infrastructure, geological challenges, and regulatory bottlenecks.
Mr. Butler spoke about the danger of defining the energy sector in terms of “scarcity, dependence, and ever-rising cost.” He noted that with the increasing effectiveness of smart grids, more hydropower, the potential for shale gas and tight oil, and greater energy efficient technologies, “the reality is of a much more diverse production system, much more efficient use of energy right across the world, people leapfrogging technology rather than waiting to catch up with it…an age of plenty, rather than an age of scarcity.” He noted, for example, that as recently as 2007 the BP Annual Energy Outlook did not mention shale gas, and six years later we are in the midst of a shale revolution.
Mr. Liebreich also shared his four predictions for the most important aspects of the energy sector moving forward: continued unconventional oil and gas production, increasingly energy efficient technologies, falling costs of renewable energy and grid integration, and finally, that the “future of the energy system can’t be predicted…and is therefore going to be an extremely volatile place to place capital and make financial bets.”
David Hobbs, Head of Research, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center
David Sandalow, former Under Secretary of Energy (Acting) and Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs at the US Department of Energy; Inaugural Fellow, Center on Global Energy Policy
Nobuo Tanaka, former Executive Director of the International Energy Agency; Non-Resident Fellow, Center on Global Energy Policy
Moderator: Jason Bordoff
Mr. Hobbs started the panel by arguing that even if the U.S. continues reducing its oil imports it will remain linked to global markets in many ways, including via its trading partners who will not be insulated from any potential shocks. As a result, “an oil shock for the rest of the world is a shock for the U.S. economy” regardless of the U.S. crude import profile.
Mr. Tanaka provided insights on the ever-growing importance of the pivot to Asia, including the flow of Middle Eastern oil east, and the need for a strategic rethinking of global energy governance and strategic stocks. Specifically, he stated his belief that the future relevance of the IEA depends on the inclusion of emerging market countries such as China.
Mr. Sandalow noted how the U.S. will have continued interests in the Middle East beyond oil, including non-proliferation and fighting terrorism. He then continued the theme that energy markets are truly global, and not just in terms of trade, citing how the Fukushima disaster put a worldwide chill on nuclear power development. The panel discussed whether the same result would apply to shale gas if a major water contamination event occurred, or if deepwater oil production after the Macondo disaster provided a more relevant example. Mr. Sandalow then discussed various potentially disruptive energy technologies, confident that high-performance computing will have a transformational impact on the energy sector. He also discussed the role of methane hydrates, driverless cars, and distributed solar.
Finally, the group talked about how Russia will remain a key geopolitical energy player even as there is a global pivot to the Pacific Rim.