New Alignments? The Geopolitics of Gas and Oil Cartels and the Changing Middle East
Jaffe, Amy Myers
We analyze the likelihood of different coalitions emerging in energy markets in light of two new transformational events: the Arab Awakening and the rise of shale gas in the United States. Our analysis considers both economic and political payouts resulting from alternative energy policies of three major petro-powers: Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Qatar. We discuss the likelihood of price wars in energy markets and identify two conditions under which price wars can occur. There can be a price war in the gas market if Russia is determined to protect its market share in Europe by knocking out other higher cost producers. We find that competitive pressures created by shale gas could make this option more appealing to Russia. Second, Saudi Arabia can generate an oil price war as a foreign policy tool in order to weaken Iran’s position as a rival to the Kingdom. Finally, we consider the recent democratization movement in the Middle East. Significant changes in geopolitical payouts may bring about new coalitions involving Russia. Nevertheless, we find that a gas cartel is unlikely to form in the perceivable future.