Week 4: Assignment
This week you will be submitting your Proposal for the course project. This is described
Introduction to the case study
The integrated project is designed to tie your newly acquired knowledge of energy
economics to the analysis of major global issues you will likely face in your career. What
must be explicit in your project is a demonstration of your ability to use your understanding of
energy economics to create a cogent and economically sound synthesis of concepts and
ideas to produce a convincing evaluation of one or more of these major issues.
In this project, you will assume a role and describe how you will execute this role. There is
significant latitude in the role you choose to assume, but your role must in some manner
address one or more of the following issues:
The prospect of oil and gas production declining while energy needs continue to grow;
The increasingly urgent need to reduce global carbon emissions;
The political difficulties faced by all countries in restraining emissions if it means reduced economic welfare for their people;
The possibility of increasing control of OPEC, and in particular Persian Gulf countries, over oil
prices and oil supply;
The possibility of significant oil shocks/interruptions due to war or political design;
Political difficulties associated with different parties’ claims to oil production rights and the
consequences for negotiating production agreements;
The increasing need for R&D to create new, economic supplies of energy;
The relative roles of private industry versus governments in assuring efficiency/fairness in the
global energy market.
Your project can be a case analysis of an actual decision faced by an energy company.
Alternately, the project may be a research project that states a hypothesis, provides
evidence, and draws conclusions.
In all cases you will assume a role and describe your decision-making process. You are free
to choose your role, and creativity is encouraged; the following are suggestions:
You are the senior vice president (SVP) of refining for a major international oil company. You
are charged with developing the company’s refining investment strategy for the next decade.
You must consider the uncertainty in the “shape” of the demand barrel owing to new sources
of transportation fuels that may arise and the global need (or not) for new refining capacity.
You are the “energy efficiency guru” of a large country and you must develop a recommendation for the team negotiating an international climate change agreement regarding how much
can be promised by way of carbon emissions reductions due to the implementation of energy
efficiency measures country-wide over the next 15 years.
You live in a country that is rich in oil but whose political system has been fraught with regional partisanship. You have been recently appointed to a key role in a commission that will recommend a new constitutional arrangement for defining oil ownership rights and a new design
for a management structure that maximises social welfare for the country and ensures social
You are the regional VP of a mid-size oil company. Your company has just discovered what
may be a major new field (the reserves are highly uncertain). Your job is to recommend an
exploration programme that maximises shareholder value while minimising risk. You must
consider the uncertainties associated with the size of the reserves, future oil price, cost of development, and the risk that some exploration wells needed to define the reserves will be dry
You are the director of an international governmental organisation charged with planning for
the possibility of a major oil supply interruption. You must develop a recommendation for approval by member countries that details the actions that must be taken to prepare for such an
interruption and actions to coordinate a response in the event it occurs.
You are the supply manager for an international oil company, responsible for acquiring crude
and products for distribution. Your company has refining capacity, and some crude supply.
But the crude supply is not sufficient to supply your own refining system. Further, your refining
capacity is not sufficient enough to supply all the product needed for your gasoline, diesel and
jet fuel customers. Describe the process you will go through to deliver next month’s supply in
the most economic way possible.
You are the “King/Queen of the World.” You have assembled the leaders of all countries to
present their arguments regarding their rights/obligations/entitlement related to reducing their
country’s carbon emissions. You have the authority to require specific commitments from
each country and to enforce them. You are focused on the next 20 years. The commitments
can involve quantitative emissions limitations and you can require the transfer of funds from
one country to the other. You must decide both the overall level of emissions to be met over
the next 20-year horizon and the specific commitments from each country. Your goal is to be
fair in allocating the economic burden. You must also decide the appropriate roles for private
industry versus government.
You are in charge of allocating all funding for energy R&D for your country, a large user of
fossil fuels (could be China, India, the EU, USA, etc.) You must decide how to allocate these
funds to maximise the economic benefit to your country while maximising the likelihood of
meeting aggressive carbon emissions targets.
You are the public relations officer of a large nuclear power consortium. Your job is to argue
the benefits of nuclear power. Prepare a keynote address to a world energy congress, with
slides that support your arguments in favor of increased emphasis on nuclear as an energy
source. Include responses to possible objections to your position.
You are an advisor to OPEC. You have been asked to prepare an analysis of future demand
for OPEC oil, including the range of uncertainty.
You are an advisor to the petroleum minister of Saudi Arabia. You have been asked to prepare a recommendation on whether or not to significantly expand Saudi oil production capacity.
You are a skeptic. You do not believe in the Hubbert “peak oil” model, rather believing that
there are vast as-yet undiscovered oil deposits that await only the advent of new technology
to find and produce them and sufficiently high oil prices. Neither do you believe in the alarm
raised by those who think significant climate change is around the corner unless remedies are
quickly enacted. You think any evidence of recent warming is the product of random changes
in global temperature that have occurred for countless eons. You do not believe any part of
this is anthropogenic—produced by human activity. State the best case you can make for
your position. Now reverse roles and develop a rebuttal to this case. Conclude with your actual personal assessment of the reality, or not, of both “peak oil” and anthropogenic climate
Further guidance and direction
Depending on the role you have assumed, your target audience will differ. Develop a clear
picture of this audience before launching out. The steps to follow are below:
1. Identify your audience (even if you have chosen something like the “King/Queen of
the World,” role, you will have to explain your decisions to keep your “subjects”
2. Develop a preliminary set of arguments you will present (these can change as you
3. Anticipate the counter-arguments yo
u can expect to encounter; make a list;
4. Determine the degree to which your arguments will likely involve quantitative analysis; assure yourself you can handle this;
5. Determine the sources you will need; make a list;
6. Write your proposal with your audience in mind.
A two page typed Proposal (1,000-word maximum) of your Final Project (week 8) must be
turned in to your Instructor. This proposal will include the following and follow the Harvard
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