Oil, Energy, and the Middle East

Image of burning oil fields
A Project of the Princeton Environmental Institute, the Department of Near Eastern Studies, and The Institute for Transregional Study

The decade and a half of low prices following the oil shocks of the 1970s appears to have ended. The Oil, Energy, and the Middle East project—under the direction of Professor Bernard Haykel—will explore the complex issues that surround this observation. Specifically, the project is aimed at achieving a better understanding of the causes behind the tightening of the global oil supply; the prospects for increasing supply and the future of the oil industry; the political, economic, and security outlook for the Middle East; nonconventional oil, alternative energy and fuel sources; and the interplay between all these issues and carbon emission control. 

Based in the Institute for Transregional Study of the Department of Near Eastern Studies (NES), this project is a joint collaboration between NES and the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI). As of 2007 it has been designated one of the funded projects of the PEI’s Grand Challenges Initiative, which will enable Princeton to become a leading center in the study of oil and energy in the Middle East.

In addition to sponsoring a postdoctoral program of at least two visiting fellows per year, the project’s activities include a lecture series of invited speakers, an annual conference and courses offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. We have also organized trips for students and faculty to Saudi Arabia, the major oil producing country in the Middle East, and here we met with experts and administrators as well as visited production and processing facilities. Moreover, every year a theme or topic is chosen: 2005-2006 was centered on Hubbert’s Peak; 2006-2007 was devoted to oil in Saudi Arabia and for 2007-2008 we focused on oil and energy in Iran and Iraq.  In 2009-2010, the OEME project focused on the after effects of the oil price shock and more recent decline as well as the diversification and food security policies of oil producing countries in the Gulf. In 2011-2012, OEME's focus was on the question of the future of the US dollar as a currency for the pricing of oil and against which local Gulf currencies are pegged. And since 2011 OEME has continued to pay close attention to the Arab Spring uprisings and their effects on oil production, fiscal spending and regional security.  The rising tensions with Iran is a particular area of study and research, and in this regard OEME will be holding an international conference on nuclear energy and security in October 2013 in Doha, Qatar.