2015 Symposium Panel I

Panel 1: ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC CHALLENGES I

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February 12, 2015

Event Summary by Madison Ashley 

Chaired by Dr. Marwa Daoudy of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Panel 1 addressed the difficulties of developing the unconventional oil industry and its implications on water and food security, particularly in the MENA region.

Dr. Jeremy Boak of the Colorado School of Mines began the panel with a discussion of unconventional hydrocarbon resources, delineating the differences among key words such as shale oil and tight oil, the latter of which refers to rock that does not possess oil but rather solid hydrocarbons which can be “cooked” into making oil. According to Boak, “Shale has been used to cover a multitude of sins these days,” meaning that the rock type has been used as a catch-all term, but typically refers to those rocks with high fractions of clay minerals which are beneficial for capturing organic matter- essential in the creation of oil and gas. As the most common rock type in the world, shale deposits are also highly concentrated in the world’s largest countries including the United States, Russia, and China, the latter of which has experienced significant troubles in developing its shale industry thus far. Boak concluded by presenting three significant challenges for the development of the shale oil industry: water shortages and the ability to reuse water, methane emissions, and cost.

Dr. Boak was followed by Ms. Zahra Babar of Georgetown University-Qatar, who discussed the effects that energy has on food security within the Middle East. Babar, who has done extensive research in the areas of rural development, Gulf migration and labor policies, began with an overview of the recent history of food security in the Middle East. According to Babar, statistics on food security in the Middle East bely sub-national variations and the vulnerabilities that come from a lack of self-sufficiency. She also highlighted efforts at the national and regional levels, by Qatar and the Gulf Cooperation Council respectively, to combat food insecurity. After suggesting that the relationship between hydrocarbons and food security has been understudied, Babar used Qatar and its total dependence on desalinated water and the energy required in the desalination process as an example. Babar concluded by theorizing that the new energy environment developing due to the discovery of unconventional hydrocarbon resources has the potential to significantly shape the food resource landscape in years to come, saying “Is shale going to be the next great leap forward to food security?”

Dr. Ziad Mimi of Birzeit University concluded the panel with a discussion of the environmental and socioeconomic challenges of shale oil, particularly in his home country of Palestine. Because 80 percent of traditional oil resources will be depleted in the next 80 years, Mimi agrees that it is necessary to begin searching for alternative sources of energy. He is, however, skeptical about the use of unconventional extraction in the MENA region due to the physical water scarcity, resource degradation, and climate change which are already plaguing the region. Mimi went on to trace how the development of extractive industries in the West Bank region is inherently political due to the Israeli occupation and conflict between the two states over access to oil wells. “We are controlling only 11 percent of our water resources!” Mimi said, implying that the other 89 percent is in the control of the Israeli state. Mimi concluded by saying that bringing an end to occupation is the most important step in changing the existing extractive industries landscape.

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Panelist Bios

Dr. Marwa Daoudy

Dr. Marwa Daoudy is Assistant Professor in International Relations at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  She is currently a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, on sabbatical leave from Georgetown. Her research and teaching focus on international and regional security, international relations, the environment, and Middle East politics. Her research has been published in International Negotiation, Journal of International Affairs, Journal of Peace and Security, The World Today, and Water Policy among others. She is currently working on two major research projects. One is a new book project on the environmental and social roots of the Syrian Uprising, and the other examines identity politics in the Middle East.  

Dr. Jeremy Boak

Dr. Jeremy Boak is the Director of the Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research (COSTAR) at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM), Co-Chair of the Oil Shale Symposium (2006-2014), and a member of the Board of San Leon Energy.  Before CSM, he was a project manager in environmental and nuclear materials management at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and project manager for the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) for performance assessment of Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Boak also served as the DOE’s representative to the Performance Assessment Advisory Group of the Radioactive Waste Management Committee of the OECD’s International Energy Agency. Prior to working for DOE, Boak was an exploration geologist at ARCO Oil and Gas, Inc. in Anchorage, Denver, and Bakersfield. Boak received his doctorate in Geological Sciences from Harvard University in 1983 for work on some of the oldest shale on earth, the 3.8 billion year old Isua supracrustal suite, West Greenland. He received MS degrees from Harvard and the University of Washington, as well as his undergraduate degree from Harvard, all in Geological Sciences.

Ms. Zahra Babar

Ms. Zahra Babar is Associate Director for Research at the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University. Previously, she has served with the International Labor Organization and the United Nations Development Program. Her current research interests include rural development, Gulf migration and labor policies, citizenship in the Persian Gulf states, food security, and GCC regional integration. Ms. Babar’s recent publications include “The Cost of Belonging: Citizenship Construction in the State of Qatar” (Middle East Journal, 2014). She has edited, with Suzi Mirgani, Food Security in the Middle East (Oxford University Press, 2014) and, with Mehran Kamrava, Migrant Labor in the Persian Gulf (Hurst/Columbia University, 2012).

Dr. Ziad Mimi 

Dr. Ziad Mimi is an Associate Professor of water resources at the Department of Civil Engineering, Birzeit University. Dr. Mimi is a technical advisor to governmental agencies, research institutions, and a technical consultant to local and international firms in Palestine and abroad in the area of water resources and hydrology. His work covers areas of water resources management, surface hydrology, flood and drought studies, design of water networks and conveyance system, design of hydraulic structures, water harvesting projects and water negotiations and conflict resolution in the Middle East. Dr. Mimi has participated in more than 50 international technical meetings in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Dr. Mimi holds a PhD in Civil Engineering, Water Resources Management from Loughborough University in the UK.