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Energy Infrastructure Management in the United States

Compare, contrast the impact of the current unrest in the North African and Middle East countries on the followings:

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  1. World politics.
  2. Energy policies
  3. Energy prices and the overall economy

The current unrest in the North African and Middle East countries has had an impact on world politics, energy policies and prices, and the overall economy. Nations are today intertwined, and a political or economic problem experienced by one nation spreads to affect the others. The events in Libya aroused interest in other states culminating in the intervention of western powers. The entry of NATO forces into Libya signifies the importance that world policymakers attach to the protection of human rights.

The Libyan revolution may have arisen through interaction with the general trend in world politics. There has been a clamor for the longest time to have people in all parts of the world elect their own leaders in transparent, democratic processes. The impact of the unrest in Libya had a global political impact. By allowing the intervention of NATO, the country may have incidentally given western powers a chance to infiltrate their sovereignty. As such, the emerging new Libya may lack military or political autonomy. The Libyan unrest may also have inspired other nations of the world experiencing leadership chaos to demand accountability from the ruling regimes (Barkawi, 2011).

On the other hand, the uprising in Syria could also have an impact on world politics. The world politics was triggered when an Al-Qaida-inspired group confirmed to having been behind twin suicide bombings in the capital, Damascus. Fears are rife that the armed insurgency could spill over to Iran and Lebanon in case the two countries gave military support to Syria. Already accusations of Iran sending weapons to Syria to quell the uprisings have been made by western powers.

The United Nations has convened several meetings to find a lasting solution to the Syrian crisis. Various member states of the United Nations Security Council had taken different sides over the matter with Russia and China showing support for the incumbent. This led to condemnation from other members, and eventually, the two nations agreed to support reconciliation efforts presided by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. This depicts the impact of the Syrian unrest in world politics (Kennedy, 2012). Similar to the Libyan case, the world has come together once again to find a lasting solution to the crisis in Syria.

Energy Policies

The recent political unrest in Libya brought with it lessons on energy policies. The political unrest led to a cut in half of Libya’s oil production. Following the crisis, the European Union member states have already contemplated developing energy policies that would overcome such challenges in the future. The European member states have resolved to stop the over-reliance on energy imports and adopt the use of renewable energy.

Another strategy, as part of the energy policy, would involve the liberalization of markets and infrastructure across the member states. This is aimed at diversifying energy supply in terms of their sources and the infrastructure they use to reach the market. The unrest in Syria has brought a new twist in world energy policy. There has been growing concern that, with the current unrest, the country may divert its attention and use nuclear energy for war purposes. Although the country is a non-nuclear-weapon state as a member of the treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, the political turmoil may affect her commitment to the nonproliferation policies.

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Nuclear energy could also fall into the wrong hand should the current regime collapse. The events in the country have aroused an interest in the use of nuclear energy, especially in countries experiencing political instability. The impact of the unrest in both the North African state of Libya and the Middle East state of Syria is divergent. The Libyan crisis borders on creating an artificial shortage and hence requiring the adoption of energy policies addressing such challenges. This would include the use of alternative sources of energy in most cases the renewable forms. On the other hand, the Syrian case would require addressing the use of energy forms that could have a deleterious impact on mankind’s welfare (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 2011).

Energy Prices and Overall Economy

Libya produces 2% of the world’s oil demand and 10% of the total European market. Following the protests that rocked the country, the production of oil suffered a major setback. The resulting shortage in oil exportation led to an increase in the price of the commodity mainly across Europe. The resultant hike in the prices of petroleum commodities directly affects the prices of entirely many other consumables. The world economy was adversely affected by this unrest since it impacted negatively on inflation.

This came at a time when the world has been crumbling with the deleterious effects of the recent global financial recession. With Libya producing about 1.6 million barrels of crude oil daily, halving the production due to the uprising and the withdrawal of experts from the country by oil exploitation multinationals, the resulting economic impact is major. With the uprising also came the shutting of many suppliers chains from Libya. This had a negative impact on the export of crude oil and natural gas leading to a sharp increase in prices (Graetz, 2012).

The impact of the Syrian unrest on energy prices is expected to be similar to that of Libya. The political turmoil in the Middle East energy-rich region has made oil exploitation almost impossible. This is especially with the protests emerging from the energy-rich district of Deir Ezzor. Although Syria does not produce a lot of oil, the little that it exports would be highly valued in a market that is facing a chronic shortage the world over.

There is fear that the protesters may target the weakly guarded petroleum infrastructure and thus disrupt the flow of exports. This would affect not only the recipient nations but also the economy of Syria. Threats of an oil embargo against the ruling regime could have a far-reaching impact on the economic status of Syria. The impact of oil shortage resulting from the two countries; Libya and Syria would be detrimental to the global economy. Oil is the most integral component of the world economy as it is the commonest source of energy. The shortage created by the unrest in the two countries has already had a negative impact on inflation in many parts of the world (Graetz, 2012).

Energy assets in the United States

The Colonial Pipeline shall be discussed in this section in relation to the El Paso Natural gas pipeline explosion and the Impact of hurricanes on the natural gas industry. Colonial Pipeline is a pipeline firm with headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Energy assets in the US are predisposed to various vulnerabilities. Threats facing energy assets in the US include natural disasters; danger related to industrial and technological issues; disruptions from other infrastructure; and human activities. The energy pipeline is faced with critical security gaps. This includes explosion of the pipeline system which can result in huge losses. A case in point is the El Paso Natural gas pipeline explosion.

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This incident occurred in the year 2000 resulting into destruction of property and life. The explosion was blamed on extensive internal corrosion of the pipeline system. This went on undetected by the company’s corrosion control department. This department was set up to ensure that internal corrosion of the pipeline system is prevented, detected and controlled in time to avert a disaster. Also, the Federal pre-accident inspection associated with the company was inefficient in carrying out its mandate of preventing such accidents (“Case Study: EL Paso Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion in Carlsbad, NM” n.d).

As noted earlier, the energy assets are also predisposed to the dangers of the natural disasters. The Gulf of Mexico produces the majority of natural gas in the US. Nonetheless, the occurrence of hurricanes and tropical storms is common in this area. This is a great threat to the pipeline system in the area. During the year 2005, hurricane Katrina and Rita had devastating impacts on the gas industry in the region (“Impact of the 2005 Hurricanes on the Natural Gas Industry in the Gulf of Mexico Region” 2006).

Two concrete hardening initiatives that could be considered by the public sector or an appropriate industry association for the Colonial Pipeline include setting regulations that the firm alongside with others would have to adhere to before being allowed to operate. The regulations would govern the operations of the Colonial Pipeline to ensure guaranteed efficiency, reliability and an environmentally friendly operations network. This would be carried out by the Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL) and the American Petroleum Institute (API). The safety of the pipeline would be another necessary initiative to ensure smooth operations of the firm.

The Department of Transportation should closely regulate the safety of the pipeline through its Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The administration should formulate and enforce regulations to guarantee safety in operations of the pipelines. This includes observing all security measures to reduce the possibility of the pipeline being vandalized. Security would also include creating public awareness and adopting security emergency responses in case of a security lapse along the pipe lines (National Research Council (U.S.), 2004).

In case of Bayway Refinery, the concrete hardening initiatives that could be considered by the public sector or an industry association governing operations of oil refineries include setting up of elaborate regulations particularly concerning security. The Homeland Infrastructure Threat and Risk Analysis (HITRAC) should analyze and make necessary recommendations concerning security measures that should be observed concerning all critical infrastructures in the country.

This includes critical installations such as the Bayway Refinery. Such an installation remains a critical target for terror attacks or vandalism. Protecting the Bayway Refinery from any security threats would also involve the engagement of the homeland security department. This department whose roles have been clearly defined since the September 11 terror attacks is responsible for protecting America from terror attacks within her territory.

Some of the mandates of the department include protecting critical installations such as the oil refineries and military bases. The security measures adopted to protect the Bayway company production plant should be extended to other infrastructure connecting the firm to suppliers and consumers. Therefore, collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security and Homeland Infrastructure Threat and Risk Analysis Department would be necessary to promote maximum protection of all infrastructure owned or connected to Bayway Refinery.

Security against damage by natural disasters is also vital as events such as the hurricanes and floods are known to result in serious damage of infrastructure. As such, the company should involve the Department of Homeland Security, which also handles internal emergencies emanating from natural disasters or manmade emergencies such as fire outbreaks (Beatty & Samuelson, 2007).

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One concrete step that the Colonial Pipeline Company should take in order to remove or reduce the existing security gap for its pipe line is allocating adequate resources to address the security gap through a risk-based approach which guarantees the property is always protected from a potential attack or damage. This would also include putting measures to address any deleterious consequences emanating from such an event.

The company should also aim at cultivating a collaborative approach with the public sector to develop comprehensive security programs. This program should be reviewed from time to time in line with emerging challenges in the security arena. In this case, the most appropriate authority that the Colonial Pipeline can collaborate with on matters of security is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This is because the TSA is the mandated with ensuring security and safety of the transport sector in the U.S. (National Research Council (U.S.), 2004).

The Bayway Refinery can ensure increased security to address the existing gap in which the company remains vulnerable to terror attacks and vandalism. This can be done by installing its security systems. This would involve possible recruitment of privately trained security personnel to keep vigil over the installation. It would also be necessary to carry out internal audits and identify models of addressing the security gaps that exist in the firm. This would guarantee the safety of both the installation and the personnel working in the facility (Beatty & Samuelson, 2007).

Security Concerns

There are four major security concerns with reference to energy. These include security of supply which is concerned with availability of an adequate supply of fuel. Security of demand involves a concern by the producer nations on the ability of importing nations to continue purchasing fuel in constant or increasing volumes year after year. The other concern entails reliability of energy supply in which buyers need assurance of continuous provision of fuel. The other security concern involves the physical security of energy installations and personnel against sabotage, harm and terrorist attacks. With reference to these four energy security concerns, the following scenarios can be analyzed as follows:

Russia stops natural gas flow to Ukraine. This creates stir in Ukraine and the entire Europe. Stopping of the gas flow would be detrimental to the economic wellbeing of Ukraine and in extension the entire Europe. Security of supply is always an important factor to consider in nations that import the product. With Ukraine relying on the natural gas from Russia in many of its industrial and domestic operations, an abrupt stop of this flow would have a major negative effect not only on the economy but the day to day operations of businesses.

Industries that rely on the natural gas would face unnecessary disruption in their operations. This would affect employees and other dependents of the firms including consumers. For Russia, the concern on security of demand would affect its performance economically. If Ukraine decides not to import the natural gas from Russia ever again, the Russian economy would be adversely affected. The infrastructure developed to deliver the natural gas to Ukraine would lose value and dent the country’s economy.

Ukraine would be affected due to the disruption in its energy supply network. Reliability of energy supply is very important to avoid disruption of economic activities in a country. The physical security of the energy installations and personnel in Russia could be exposed to acts of sabotage and other forms of harm. This is especially from aggravated citizens of Ukraine whose life and economic status would have been disrupted by the stopping of the natural gas flow from Russia.

As such, the security of energy for Ukraine could be improved by diversifying her sources of energy to avoid sudden disruptions of her economic continuity. Physical security would be vital for Russia to avoid destruction of her energy installations through acts of sabotage resulting from retaliatory attacks by the Ukrainians (Christie, 2009).

Major earthquake in Japan damages significant portion of the nuclear power plant generating capacity in Japan. Such an occurrence would affect security of supply particularly for those countries that import energy from Japan. It would require such countries to seek alternative sources of energy from other countries to avoid disrupting operations at home. Japan as a producer of energy would have the security of demand for her energy interrupted.

Countries importing energy from her would likely seek alternative sources leaving Japan with no ready market for her energy. Reliability of energy supply is a concern for many energy importing countries. This would affect their perception about Japan being a reliable source of their energy demand. Japan would require adopting major physical security measures to guarantee security of her installations from natural calamities and other forms of damage. On the other hand, nations relying on nuclear energy such as from Japan would require diversifying their sources of energy to address the problem of security of supply (Yamada et al., n. d).

Major hurricane in Gulf of Mexico damages over 50% of our oil and gas production infrastructure. Such an event would greatly affect our security of supply. Nations that rely on imported oil from the US, as well as the local consumption would be adversely affected. The occurrence would affect both the economy of the US and the importing countries. This would call for such countries to diversify their energy sources.

The security of demand as earlier provided by the US would be affected since importing nations might opt to seek new sources of energy. With the reliability of energy supply disrupted, the importing nations would be disorientated in terms of acquiring their oil products from the US and may choose to withdraw and seek alternatives to the detriment of the US economy. Physical security of energy installations and personnel would require a new approach to address. Damages from natural disasters and other man activities such as terrorism and sabotage would greatly affect all other forms of energy security.

This would affect not only the economic status of the US but also that of countries relying on energy from her. As such, security measures to be adopted would include adopting new strategies to protect the installations from both natural and man activities. The country would also require investing in other forms of energy apart from oil based to ensure that the country’s economy as well as that of those that import energy from the US is not interrupted (Stowers, 2005).

Reference List

Barkawi, T (2011). World Politics And The Revolution In Libya. Aljazeera. 

Beatty, J.F. & Samuelson, S.S. (2007). Business law and the legal environment.

Mason, Ohio: Thomson/Wes “Case Study: EL Paso Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion in Carlsbad, NM” n.d.

Christie, H. (2009). Resilience and Conflict in European Natural Gas Relations,” Journal of Energy Security.

Impact of the 2005 Hurricanes on the Natural Gas Industry in the Gulf of Mexico Region” 2006.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, (2011). Middle East & North Africa: Civil Unrest. Web.

Graetz, M.J. (2012). The End of Energy- A Commentary. Web.

Kennedy, E.A. (2012). UN chief: Syria Unrest Could Have Global Impact. Web.

National Research Council (U.S.). (2004). Transmission pipelines and land use: A risk-informed approach. Washington, D.C: Transportation Research Board.

Stowers, D. (2005). “Forecasters predict active hurricane season,” Oil & Gas Financial Journal. Web.

Yamada, T. et al. (n.d). Future of Nuclear Power in Japan– Development of Next Generation LWRs. Web.

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