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Speaker photoEnergy Security and Foreign Policy: The Case of the Caspian

October 27, 2017
ME Lecture Hall

Professor Brenda Shaffer

Center for Eurasian, Russian and Eastern European Studies (CERES), Georgetown University


The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed inland body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. It is in an endorheic basin located between Europe and Asia. It is bounded by Kazakhstan to the northeast, Russia to the northwest, Azerbaijan to the west, Iran to the south, and Turkmenistan to the southeast. The region is one of the oldest oil-producing areas in the world and is an increasingly important source of global energy production. The area has significant oil and natural gas reserves from both offshore deposits in the Caspian Sea itself and onshore fields in the region. Traditionally an oil-producing area, the Caspian area's importance as a natural gas producer is growing quickly.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that there were 48 billion barrels of oil and 292 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas in proved and probable reserves within the basins that make up the Caspian Sea and surrounding area in 2012. Offshore fields account for 41% of total Caspian crude oil and lease condensate (19.6 billion barrels) and 36% of natural gas (106 Tcf). In general, most of the offshore oil reserves are in the northern part of the Caspian Sea, while most of the offshore natural gas reserves are in the southern part of the Caspian Sea.

In addition, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates another 20 billion barrels of oil and 243 Tcf of natural gas in as yet undiscovered, technically recoverable resources. Much of this is located in the South Caspian Basin, where territorial disputes over offshore waters hinder exploration.

This lecture will address the political issues associated with exploring, extracting, and distributing natural gas throughout Europe and Asia, while focusing on the impact of the Caspian region’s natural resources. For example, Azerbaijan became an important regional natural gas producer with production in the Shah Deniz field in 2006. Natural gas production growth includes Russia's North Caucasus region, which has the bulk of the Caspian Sea region's onshore natural gas reserves, and Turkmenistan's Galkynysh field.


Professor Brenda Shaffer is a foremost specialist on global energy trends and policies, politics in the South Caucasus, ethnic politics in Iran, as well as Caspian and Eastern Mediterranean energy. She is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center in Washington, DC, and a visiting researcher and professor at Georgetown University.

Professor Shaffer is the author of several books: Energy Politics (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), Borders and Brethren: Iran and the Challenge of Azerbaijani Identity (MIT Press, 2002) and Partners in Need: The Strategic Relationship of Russia and Iran (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001).  Energy Politics serves as a textbook on the geopolitics of energy in over 200 university courses in many countries. She has also served as the editor for Beyond the Resource Curse (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012) and Limits of Culture: Islam and Foreign Policy (MIT Press, 2006).

Professor Shaffer's published articles have included "Natural gas supply stability and foreign policy" (Energy Policy, 2013), and three contributions to Foreign Affairs: "Nagorno-Karabakh after Crimea," "Pipeline Problems," and "Gas Politics after Ukraine." Her opinion columns have appeared in national and international publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, and CNBC. She has given testimony to several committees of the US Congress, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and to the European Parliament.  She frequently appears on CNBC to provide insight on developments in the global oil market and in major news outlets worldwide on events in the Caspian region and Middle East. She provides research and expert counsel to international institutions, governments, and regional security organizations, such as NATO on energy security policies.  In addition, she has been interviewed for dozens of television, print, and radio stories, including, Bloomberg, Fox Business News, CNN, NPR, BBC World Service, USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, and others.

Professor Shaffer holds a PhD degree from Tel Aviv University; she was a post-doctoral fellow at the International Security Program at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. She previously served as the research director for the Caspian studies program at Harvard University.


Dr. Daniel A. Nussbaum
Naval Postgraduate School 
Principal, Energy Academic Group
Monterey CA 93943
Phone: 831-656-2387
Mobile: 831-324-3228
Email: dnussbaum@nps.edu