“OPEC and the Global Energy Order” (Conference, NYU Abu Dhabi, April 17-19, 2017)

For scholars of international energy regimes, here’s a recent call for papers for what looks like a terrific conference on the history of OPEC and energy more broadly – taking place, fittingly, in the OPEC member state of the United Arab Emirates at NYU Abu Dhabi this coming April 17-19, 2017.

Here’s a further explanation:

Crude oil was a crucial natural resource for the industrial development of the last century and contributed to the rise of a new era that is now been called the Anthropocene. The history of the largest petroleum exporters is thus deeply intertwined with the evolution of the global political economy of the 20th century, with environmental changes and with shifting ideas about the management of natural resources.

We are especially interested in the social, cultural, institutional and political connections among the oil producing states in an historical perspective, with a focus on their international cooperation in OPEC.

The main themes (and some possible specific questions) that we hope to address include:

OPEC and the Making of Oil Policy

  • OPEC members’ shared identity as oil exporters has fostered contacts between them, even though they are separated by different languages, cultures and religions. Who were the protagonists of these contacts, and what kind of practical impact, if any, did they have on the policies of individual OPEC members?
  • Associated with the emergence of OPEC, how Resource Nationalism refashioned the political culture in OPEC member countries.
  • Has OPEC been able to coordinate oil policy when its member states are at odds with each other, and if so, how?
  • Within the member states, how is authority over oil policy divided among rulers and prime ministers, ministers of Petroleum, officials in charge of economic policy, and national oil companies?
  • In writing the history of OPEC, is there any room for an approach from below? What sort of influence is exercised by actors in OPEC countries outside the realm of high politics, such as labor and environmentalist movements, religious institutions, and intellectuals?
  • How has OPEC’s strategy changed over time? What were the main decisions of OPEC and were they mainly driven by politics or by economics?
  • Who were the most influential members of OPEC at different times? How did internal alliances change overtime?

OPEC, the Consumers and the Developing World

  • What has been the relationship between OPEC and Third World institutions such as UNCTAD? Has OPEC been influenced by other Third World ideological and political projects? How has OPEC and its member states managed their relationships with oil-importing developing countries?
  • How does OPEC compare with other commodity agreements?
  • How has OPEC’s relationship with the industrialized, oil-importing countries evolved over time?
  • What can OPEC teach or learn from the management of natural resources in consuming countries?
  • What were the most important moments of conflict and cooperation between OPEC and the consumers? How has OPEC dealt with consumer’s organizations such as the IEA?
  • What was the image of OPEC in public opinion and the media, both in industrialized and oil-importing developing countries, and how did this image changed overtime?

OPEC, non-OPEC and the International Oil Companies (IOCs)

  • How has OPEC and its member states interacted with non-OPEC oil exporters such as Russia, Mexico and Norway?
  • When have IOCs clashed with OPEC and when have they tried to cooperate?
  • What influence did the IOCs exert over the governments of oil producing countries and how did this influence differ among different oil-producing countries.

OPEC and the Global Challenges of the 20th and the 21st Century

  • How did OPEC approach the global economy and the environmental question at specific turning points: in the decade of the “oil shocks” and high prices as well as in the decades of the “countershock” and low prices.
  • What did OPEC and individual OPEC countries think about consumerism, price instability, industrialization, the “limits to growth,” global warming, and what was their policy response to these different challenges?
  • How does the management of oil in OPEC countries compare to the management of other natural resources in other commodity exporting countries?
  • What were the global academic debates on the role of OPEC as a positive (stabilization factor) or negative (cartel) force in the global economy? Who were the main protagonists of these debates and how did these debates change in time?
  • Has OPEC really played a role in the main economic crisis of the 20th and 21st century and what was its role in “global warming”? How has OPEC reacted to the various UN conferences on climate change? 

As for the time frame while we encourage contributions that explore thematically the entire history of the organization, a possible periodization for more specific contributions is the following:

  • WWII to 1960: the origins of OPEC
  • 1960 to 1973: OPEC as a trade union for the producing countries
  • 1973 to 1986: the period of OPEC’s dominance
  • 1986 to present: the ascendency of the market

If this sounds of interest, please send a proposal (500 words maximum) and a short CV by 15 September 2016 to Giuliano Garavini (gg82@nyu.edu). Submissions will be evaluated by a selection committee composed of Majid Al Moneef; Touraj Atabaki (Leiden University); Gopalan Balachandran (Graduate Institute, Geneva); Duccio Basosi (Unversity Ca’ Foscari, Venice); Juan Carlos Boué (Oxford Institute for Energy Studies); Dag Harald Claes (University of Oslo); Giuliano Garavini (NYUAD); Sophia Kalantzakos (NYUAD); Einar Lie (University of Oslo); Victor McFarland (University of Missouri); and Robin Mills (Qamar Energy).

All expenses for the presenters will be covered by the organizers, plus a small number of travel grants will be available for applicants coming from less advantaged countries.

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