Between August 11 and 13, 2014, Paul Isbell, CAF Energy Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins University-SAIS, visited the cities of Salvador and Rio de Janeiro, where he participated in a program on The Geopolitics of Energy. The program started on Aug. 11, in Salvador, Bahia, where Prof. Isbell did a guided visit to the National Service of Industry’s Integrated Campus for Manufacturing and Technology (SENAI-CIMATEC), a school and research center that focuses on applied technology for industry. He learned about SENAI-CIMATEC’s robotics project for pre-salt drilling, and participated in a meeting with Bahia state government officials, private sector executives and researchers from SENAI-CIMATEC. After the visit, Prof. Isbell participated as guest of honor in a luncheon hosted by the Bahia State Federation of Industries (FIEB). In the afternoon, Prof. Isbell was the keynote speaker in a conference on “The Geopolitics of Energy” at FIEB. The President of FIEB, Carlos Gilberto Farias, opened the program, and the U.S. Consulate in Rio de Janeiro’s Cultural Affairs Officer Jessica Simon introduced the speaker. Bahia State Secretary for Naval and Port Industries Carlos Costa also participated in the conference.
In the morning of Aug. 12, Prof. Isbell gave an interview to the monthly magazine “Brasil Energia,” to be published in the magazine’s September edition. He then had lunch with U.S. Consul General in Rio de Janeiro John Creamer, with whom he discussed U.S. foreign policy on energy. In the afternoon, Prof. Isbell was the keynote speaker in the seminar “Energy and Geopolitics: The Impacts of Energy Security on International Relations,” organized by the Consulate in partnership with the Brazilian Center of International Relations (CEBRI) and the Rio de Janeiro Association of Commerce (ACRJ). Public Affairs Officer Mark Stroh opened the program with President of ACRJ Antenor Barros Leal and Ambassador José Botafogo Gonçalves from CEBRI. Other speakers included Helder Queiroz, Director of the Brazilian National Agency of Oil, Natural Gas and Biofuels, and Prof. Adilson Oliveira, Director of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro’s Brazilian College of Superior Studies.
On Aug. 13, Prof. Isbell spoke on a closed work meeting at CEBRI, with U.S. Consul General John Creamer and participants from the National Agency of Oil, Gas and Biofuels (ANP), Petrobras, Eletrobras, the Rio de Janeiro Association of Commerce and CEBRI. In the afternoon, Prof. Isbell delivered the keynote address of the roundtable discussion “The Geopolitics of Energy,” organized by the Group of Energy Economics of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro’s Institute of Economics (IE/UFRJ).
In his various program activities in Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, Isbell reached out to large and diversified audiences, totaling approximately 500 people. Audience members included federal and state government officials, regulators, diplomats, businesspeople, corporate executives, consultants, lawyers, energy researchers, oil & gas experts, journalists, academics, and professors, graduate and undergraduate students of economics, international relations, business and law. In addition to the interview with “Brasil Energia,” press coverage included a note on the “Energy and Geopolitics” seminar at ACRJ, published by O Globo newspaper. While in Rio de Janeiro, Prof. Isbell also discussed energy themes with the local correspondent of The Wall Street Journal.
In his various presentations and press interviews alike, Isbell discussed both the uniqueness of Brazil’s current energy matrix and the geopolitical implications of the shale revolution in the U.S. In a truly groundbreaking approach, he suggested that a new interpretation of the world map should bring about a better understanding of the current geopolitics of energy. He showed a vast number of graphs to support his view that, while the center of gravity of energy demand has shifted east, into Asia, the center of gravity of energy supply is quickly shifting from the Middle East and Russia into the Atlantic Basin. He claimed that the Atlantic Basin is not only the region where the vast majority of recent offshore fossil fuel discoveries have taken place. It is also the world’s region with the largest reservations of shale, and at the same time concentrates the most important investments on “low carbon,” renewable energy sources. In conclusion, Prof. Isbell suggested that Brazil and the United States should use the U.S.-Brazil Strategic Energy Dialogue as a platform to jointly take the lead in moving beyond the more traditional geopolitical approaches, to embrace the unique opportunities in energy cooperation and transnational governance presented by the Atlantic Basin today.