How the New Energy Abundance Upends Global Politics and Strengthens America's Power


About The Book

“A powerful argument for how America should capitalise on the 'New Energy Abundance'."—The Financial Times

“Riveting and comprehensive...a smart, deeply researched primer on the subject.”—The New York Times Book Review

Windfall is the boldest profile of the world’s energy resources since Daniel Yergin’s The Quest. Harvard professor and former Washington policymaker Meghan L. O’Sullivan reveals how fears of energy scarcity have given way to the reality of energy abundance. This abundance is transforming the geo-political order and boosting American power.

As a new administration focuses on raising American energy production, O’Sullivan’s Windfall describes how new energy realities have profoundly affected the world of international relations and security. New technologies led to oversupplied oil markets and an emerging natural gas glut. This did more than drive down prices. It changed the structure of markets and altered the way many countries wield power and influence.

America’s new energy prowess has global implications. It transforms politics in Russia, Europe, China, and the Middle East. O’Sullivan explains the consequences for each region’s domestic stability as energy abundance upends traditional partnerships, creates opportunities for cooperation.

The advantages of this new abundance are greater than its downside for the US: it strengthens American hard and soft power. This powerful book describes how new energy realities creates a strategic environment to America’s advantage.


On January 17, 2017, the leader of one of the world’s largest economies took the stage at a gathering of global elites in Davos, Switzerland. He made a forceful and compelling case in favor of globalization and free trade, evoking Abraham
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in the process. “Say no to protectionism,” the speaker implored. “It is like locking yourself in a dark room. Wind and rain are kept out, but so are light and air.” What was unusual was not the message—particularly at this meeting of 1,250 global leaders and CEOs—but the messenger.
The speaker was Xi Jinping, the first Chinese president to ever address this annual assembly of the World Economic Forum. Although China’s embrace of free trade was far from complete, Xi was clearly maneuvering to position China as the new vanguard of globalization. To further confuse those surprised by China becoming the global advocate for free trade, only three days later, a newly sworn-in President Donald Trump stood in light rain on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and delivered a fiery inaugural address extolling the virtues of guarding borders and promising the American people that “protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”
This pairing of speeches, in which the American and Chinese presidents seemed to have swapped texts, roles, and global orientations, is only one of the indications that the world in 2017 is in tumult and in the throes of historical change. A growing tide of populism, the rise of once-marginal powers, and real questions about continued American global leadership are shaping the geopolitical landscape. To make sense of the changes, we would normally look to historical, cultural, economic, or political trends. Such matters will continue to provide insights into foreign affairs. But new variables—such as technological and social change—need more of our attention, as do old drivers that have been consistently underappreciated. In a quest to better understand the world unfolding around us, understanding energy is critical.
Often overlooked as a determinant of global politics, energy has long been a driver of international affairs. The shift from wood to coal allowed for the making of steel, helping usher in the Industrial Revolution in Britain and elsewhere in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. By the mid-1900s, however, oil had overtaken coal, bringing with it a surge of game-changing innovations, including the internal combustion engine and the tank, which ended the stalemate of trench warfare in favor of Britain in World War I.
As discussed so vividly in Daniel Yergin’s Pulitzer Prize–winning book, ThePrize, for much of the twentieth century, the economics of oil and gas in particular have permeated geopolitics and vice versa. The history of grand strategy during that era was often the history of efforts to gain or deny access to energy. For instance, many pivotal moments in World War II—from Hitler’s drive to the Caucasus to Japan’s quest for Borneo to the failed drive of Germany’s Afrika Korps across North Africa—were shaped decisively by oil. Decades later, perceptions that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan could be the first step in a push to control energy resources in the Gulf informed U.S. and Saudi efforts to support the Afghan mujahideen.
More recently, oil and gas have funded the rise of separatist groups in Nigeria and played a critical role in the surprising rapprochement between Turkey and the Kurds of Iraqi Kurdistan. The need for reliable energy supplies has also underpinned unlikely partnerships, such as those between Washington and Riyadh or between Europe and Russia. And for the bulk of the last thirty years, nervousness over energy scarcity was one of the most important animators of Chinese foreign policy.
Today, the impact of energy on international affairs is as pronounced as ever. Yet energy’s bearing on geopolitics has arguably never been less understood. Why is this the case? One possibility is the rate of change. In the last decade alone, developments in the world of energy have unfolded at breakneck speed. Technology has brought large quantities of oil and gas once thought too expensive to produce to global markets. The declining costs of some renewable energies are making them competitive in some locations without government support. Digitization is introducing the possibility of once-unimagined efficiencies. And concerns over environment and climate change are spurring new forms of global action. All of these changes, moreover, are part of dynamic systems, which will continue to evolve, injecting new incentives and obstacles into the political domain as they do.
Another reason why energy has not figured more prominently in the analysis and making of foreign policy may be explained in the work of Robert Jervis, a professor now at Columbia University who has applied psychology to policy and decision-making. Jervis writes of the tendency of all people, when seeking to explain complex phenomena, to unconsciously discount the importance of factors they do not understand. The workings of energy markets are often complicated and technical, possibly leading many to gloss over their critical role in shaping international affairs and to focus instead on more intuitive explanations such as politics and history.
This book intends to remove that obstacle for nonexpert readers seeking to appreciate one of the most longstanding and consequential drivers of global politics: energy. It demystifies energy markets and powerfully and tangibly relates them to the most basic and fundamental drivers of foreign affairs. It demonstrates how the energy revolution that has taken the world by surprise in the last decade is creating both new opportunities and new challenges at a global level, altering the balance of power between countries, and shaping their actions and attitudes toward one another.
Understanding this interaction between energy and international politics is and will continue to be essential to appreciate the unfolding global landscape. It will arguably be more important in driving foreign policy outcomes than many of the other issues consuming the calories of policymakers and the airtime of pundits.
The twelve months of 2016 were sobering for those who believed they understood the underlying dynamics of many global trends. The frequency with which conventional wisdoms and established understandings were proven wrong should spur us to look for new lenses through which to comprehend the world. This book offers its readers just that. Many readers will be surprised at how powerful the prism of energy is in making sense of global events. While surely not determinative on its own, energy is and will continue to be a major driver of how the world works.
I sat waiting a bit self-consciously on the sofa in a large, tidy office— something of a cross between a workspace and a diwan, which in the Arab world is the section of a house that is always open to guests. I wore the customary long, loose black abaya, but I had let my headscarf fall and rest draped around my shoulders. In previous meetings in Saudi Arabia, I had opted for what I called the “Benazir Bhutto look,” where I covered my head but let more than a few wisps of red hair escape. Yet the assistant in the outer office had insisted that the senior ministry official I was waiting to see “was a modern man” and there was no need to cover my head in a private meeting. Still, I was uncertain whether I was transgressing what was considered appropriate in this highly conservative—and, to me, still mysterious—society.
I had slipped out of a large conference of analysts and diplomats I was attending in Riyadh at the invitation of the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to hold this private meeting at the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources. It was September of 2014 and the Middle East was smoldering. Earlier hopes that the removal of rulers from Tunisia to Egypt would lead to more participatory governments now seemed shockingly naive. The civil war to upend another autocratic ruler, President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, was raging. The United Nations had estimated a month earlier that 191,000 people had been killed there—with little hope for an end to the violence.
Two months previously, the Islamic State for Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) had commandeered international attention with its brutal tactics and the shocking ease with which it had wrenched control of nearly a third of Iraqi territory away from the government in Baghdad. The United States had just begun limited air strikes. Perhaps in response, ISIS had beheaded yet another American, journalist Steven Sotloff, only days before I arrived in Riyadh. Tensions within Yemen were also simmering. Several days later, they would boil over when Iranian-supported Houthi insurgents stormed the Yemeni capital of Sana’a and forced the resignation of the country’s prime minister.
In the eyes of the Saudis, one factor tied nearly all these developments together: the nefarious efforts of Iran to destabilize the Arab world and assert dominance in the region. Most Arabs I met that September believed the United States was foolishly abetting the Iranians through its pursuit of a nuclear accord and remaining aloof from the region as one fire after another lit up the Middle Eastern sky.
I had sought private meetings at the ministry, not to speak about the regional political and security meltdown under way at the time, but to talk of the economic crisis I saw on the horizon. I had been hearing from oil producers from North Dakota to Texas to Pennsylvania about the remarkable transformation of the U.S. oil industry as American entrepreneurs tapped new resources. Since 2010, U.S. crude oil production had surged, consistently surpassing even the most bullish expectations— sometimes exceeding the previous year’s forecast by more than a million barrels. It was clear to me that, almost one for one, this surge in American crude was substituting for barrels coming off the global market as Middle East producers wobbled. The result was that the price of oil remained remarkably stable despite the dramatic events unfolding. It was an amazing pairing of developments, and one I suspected would not last long.
Barring some grave unanticipated event, global oil production would soon outstrip global demand. Thanks to what many were calling an “energy revolution,” American oil production was nearing all-time highs, while Russia was producing record amounts and Saudi Arabia very close to it. What’s more, oil demand growth seemed to be stalling, reflecting slowing economies and rising efficiency; global oil demand for the first half of 2014 flatlined from the end of 2013.
In my writings and speeches I had suggested that, as a result, the price of oil was in for a significant decline. And I wanted to get a sense from Saudis themselves whether the kingdom was poised to take action to stem a weakening price, as they had done so often in the past.
My view of the future was not widely held at the time. Even as the price of oil dipped just below $100 a barrel for the first time in more than two years, producers remained sanguine. Just before I had boarded the plane to Saudi Arabia, in fact, I had defended my views at a workshop in New York. Several participants, pointing to the high costs in the oil industry, adamantly disputed my assertion that the world was moving into an age of “energy abundance.” My Harvard colleague Leonardo Maugeri, who had been even earlier and bolder in his predictions of an oil glut, elicited snickering from an audience when he predicted in 2012 that oil could fall to as low as $50.
At the time, the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) was advancing the more conventional view that new American oil production, rather than undercutting global prices, would continue to contribute to global oil price stability. Indeed, it predicted that over the next couple of years, prices would remain slightly above $100. Abdalla Salem El-Badri, the secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) at the time, took the same position during a May 15, 2014, speech in Moscow. El-Badri interpreted the steady oil price over the previous several years as evidence of consumer and producer satisfaction with the price level, which clocked in at $110 a barrel on the day of his speech. El-Badri focused on steady demand growth and sufficient supply, calling the market balanced and predicting it would stay that way for the rest of the year.
By the time I had reached Riyadh, oil prices had just begun to soften, but people in positions of authority expressed confidence that prices would remain stable. Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, the then–assistant minister of petroleum and an influential and highly competent royal family member, had made a forceful case to the conference I came to Saudi Arabia to attend. He argued oil markets would remain balanced and the high costs of producing some resources “help put a floor [under] the long-term oil price.” Dismissing gyrations in the price of oil as temporary, the prince focused on expectations of a young, burgeoning global middle class driving up oil consumption and “a shrinking pool of cheap and easy oil.”
A Meeting at the Ministry
My meeting began with a handshake and quickly turned into a wideranging and fast-paced conversation covering energy trends, U.S. military power, and American allegations that Saudi Arabia was the root of Islamic terrorism. With a look that was either playful or mischievous, or both, the official told me that Saudi Arabia welcomed America’s growing oil production. “We should be happy for our friends for this good fortune,” he suggested.
The two countries, he added, were destined to become even stronger partners as their interests in oil became more closely aligned. Like his colleague at the conference, this official also seemed unfazed by the possibility of a significant drop in the price of oil. When I pressed the issue, he pointed to how the world had absorbed millions of barrels of additional oil from the Caspian and Angola in the previous decade, all without a major dip in the price of the commodity. He took a long-term view. While some in the United States saw the new energy abundance as a path to energy independence, freeing the nation from reliance on Saudi oil, he saw, instead, the basis for cooperation. Moreover, he posited that the United States would no longer be interested in lower prices, as they would undermine America’s newfound “strategic advantage.”
But what made the meeting so memorable was the official’s response to one of my questions in particular.
“Will Saudi Arabia continue to produce today’s large volumes of oil even in the face of a falling price?” I asked.
Without a moment’s pause, he replied, “You can bet on it.”
He then referred back to earlier times when Saudi Arabia cut its production in a failed effort to boost oil price. Revenues plunged as the price remained low, lurching the kingdom into economic crisis and political uncertainty. “We remember 1985 and 1998 and how we can’t hold people’s hands while our feet are to the fire. The price will be what it is.”
Wanting to make sure there was no misunderstanding, I then diplomatically inquired if this approach effectively made OPEC “less relevant.”
“Are you asking me if OPEC is dead?” The official quipped, “I never like to say OPEC is dead, but . . .”
Our chat ended shortly thereafter, and I left the ministry. Repositioning my headscarf before stepping out into the Saudi heat, I felt a sort of excitement, the sort of rush one feels when one has gotten the final piece of a complex intellectual puzzle. But I also felt a foreboding. If what the official told me proved to be true, the global oil market—and the world—was in for a dramatic shock if a falling price would elicit no action from Saudi Arabia or OPEC to stabilize it. There would be huge winners and losers, and the process of reshuffling would be both jarring and destabilizing for governments and people around the world.
The Price Plunge
The coming months demonstrated that my interlocutor had indeed told me exactly what would happen—or, rather, not happen. The oil price began to drop sharply, but Saudi Arabia and OPEC sat on the sidelines. The extent and duration of the resulting price plunge far exceeded my expectations or, almost certainly, those of individuals with whom I had met in Riyadh. The price of oil didn’t just dip—it took a nosedive, declining more than a fifth in the two months after I left Riyadh.
The economic effect of low prices rippled around the world— awakening it to the new energy abundance that had been building over previous years. For some oil importers, seemingly rock-bottom prices were an economic stimulus. They helped keep Europe’s growth modestly positive when the fundamentals might have pulled it in another direction. They injected a boost into the Chinese economy when the government might have not otherwise been willing to lift demand. In contrast, for some oil exporters, from Venezuela to Angola, low oil prices created immediate fiscal crises and doubts about the ability of governments to fund commitments.
For others, low oil prices were a mixed blessing. In Japan, consumers welcomed relief from high energy prices, even while such prices frustrated the government’s efforts to combat persistent deflation. In the United States, consumers did not respond by spending more as they had in other periods of low oil prices. After the deepest recession since the Great Depression and years of slow economic recovery, many Americans preferred to save their dollars rather than splurge their savings from the pump. Similarly, the boost that stock markets traditionally received from low oil prices did not materialize. Energy companies worldwide almost uniformly swooned under the pressure of low prices, with the large oil corporations turning in their worst financial performances since the 2008 financial crisis. Stock markets around the world dipped, weighed down by poorly performing energy shares.
As great as this immediate economic tumult was, the impact of the new energy abundance goes far beyond balance sheets and stock markets. In fact, changes in oil and gas markets have provoked massive global changes. As the world has lurched unexpectedly from energy scarcity to energy abundance in recent years, geopolitical mainstays have been upended. The low price of oil itself halted one of the biggest transfers of wealth in history, allowing consumers to save an estimated $3 trillion a year that they would have otherwise paid to producers.
Low prices also changed the strategic orientation and priorities of countries around the globe. The United States, for example, has moved from being the world’s thirstiest consumer of overseas oil to a position of greater self-sufficiency. Among other impacts, this dynamic has helped temper predictions and perceptions of American decline. In Asia, bountiful American natural gas inadvertently and indirectly helped Japan manage the aftermath of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, which had led to a suspension of the nuclear power generating a third of Japan’s electricity before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Plentiful oil both eased Chinese anxieties about meeting domestic needs and reduced predictions of inevitable conflicts over the pursuit of energy resources. This abundance even enabled China to broaden its foreign policy focus to embrace new priorities, such as exporting excess capacity and promoting “the Chinese dream.”
In contrast to consumers, major oil producers who depend on oil as a primary source of revenue had their geopolitical wings clipped by the persistently low prices. Venezuela can no longer readily supply neighboring countries with cheap fuel oil, diminishing its ability to wield influence over regional politics and pushing the country to the brink of collapse. Low prices exposed the unsustainability of many socialist policies in Latin America, accelerating the end of a period of leftist politics throughout the continent. Another massive producer, Russia, is also finding it more difficult to translate its vast energy reserves into geopolitical influence in a low-energy-price environment. Pronouncements of Russia as “an energy superpower”—made just a decade ago—now sound absurd.
More changes are undoubtedly to come. For one, Russia’s economic troubles could eventually deepen to a point where Moscow loses effective control of its autonomous republics, particularly those in the crisis-prone Caucasus, with consequences for Russia’s internal stability and security. Abundant energy is also complicating the seemingly historic rapprochement between Russia and China. More positively—if not derailed by politics—energy abundance could drive further integration between the U.S., Canadian, and Mexican economies, leading to the most competitive manufacturing zone in the world.
The internal politics of countries are also being transformed. Continued low oil prices are straining, and could perhaps ultimately break, the social contract between the Saudi people and their rulers that has for so long underpinned Saudi stability and prosperity. This would only further stoke current Middle Eastern fires. At a minimum, these low prices are providing the leadership in Riyadh with a real impetus for serious economic reform. In Africa, countries from Mozambique to Uganda to Sierra Leone will be far harder pressed to capitalize on recent natural resource finds as sagging prices dash hopes of propelling their populations out of poverty. Iraq’s prospects are also even more sobering in the face of low oil prices. Petroleum revenue is necessary not only to keep ISIS at bay, but also to rebuild destroyed cities and help Baghdad keep provinces bound to the center.
The likelihood that some of these geopolitical developments—and perhaps many more—will come to fruition increases the longer energy prices stay well below the level needed to keep producer budgets afloat. Yet, as important as price is, it is not the only way in which today’s new energy abundance is shaping geopolitics. We are seeing big changes in the structure of energy markets that will have their own geopolitical ramifications. For instance, the gradual but distinct movement away from regional natural gas markets toward a global one will make trade in natural gas harder to utilize as a geopolitical tool. Patterns of trade are shifting as the United States, the largest consumer of both oil and natural gas, becomes more self-sufficient in the first and nearly independent in the second, affecting the national conversation about U.S. global engagement. Old institutions, such as OPEC, have lost their vigor. As more countries discover and develop energy sources of their own, diminished dependencies will transform bilateral relations. In short, the new energy abundance shifts the world from a seller’s market to a buyer’s one, empowering consumers and wrenching geopolitical influence from producers.
The new energy abundance is erasing the long-held vulnerabilities of some countries, creating leverage for weak states over strong, and offering new opportunities to address persistent challenges to the international order. It is both advancing and deterring efforts to combat climate change around the world. On the whole, the new energy abundance is a boon to American power—and a bane to Russian brawn. On balance, China is already a winner from this energy revolution, both from the lower energy prices it has brought and through the geopolitical opportunities that it now offers to Beijing. These new energy realities have presented unforeseen avenues of cooperation between the United States and China, while creating strains on long-standing partnerships between Washington and the capitals of the Gulf in the Middle East.
The impact that energy has on geopolitics is no game at the margins. It will, in fact, be a major determinant of the international order or, rather, how the world works. It will alternatively hasten and help arrest the major trends now discernible to any global strategist: the corrosion of the rules and norms that have shaped the liberal international order since World War II, the shift of power and wealth from West to East, the push by Russia and China to establish spheres of influence, the rise of nonstate actors at the expense of sovereign governments, and the retrenchment of the United States and Europe from the global stage.
Energy—its abundance, scarcity, price, method of production, et cetera—will not be the only factor shaping geopolitics in the years ahead. The future always has many engines. The pace of technological progress, the balance of power between countries, the durability of political alliances, the robustness of the global economy and its institutions, the vulnerability of fragile regimes, the distribution of natural endowments, the military strength of great powers, and the decisions of certain individuals will all play a role in charting the course of the next decade and beyond.
But the vicissitudes of energy can and will influence each of these factors. And, in turn, energy will shape the conduct of foreign policy and national security and the contours of global affairs. While this interaction itself is not novel, the energy dynamics at work have changed dramatically in the past decade. They are therefore sending new and different signals throughout the international system. How this new energy abundance unfolds will have a greater—if more diffuse—bearing on international affairs than many of the current issues that dominate headline news.
This book concentrates primarily—although not exclusively—on the impact of energy changes in the oil and gas sector on global politics. This focus is not to imply that renewable sources of energy lack importance. To the contrary. We have begun to see renewables make real inroads into the world’s energy mix, particularly in the power sector where they are the fastest-growing source of electricity generation, albeit from a low base.
Every major change in the global energy mix or in the energy system brings with it its own geopolitical ramifications. We should therefore expect the widespread deployment of renewable energy eventually to have major repercussions for global politics. These changes may take familiar forms, such as the formation of cartels not around oil, but around lithium and other critical resources. Or they could spur the need to manage state collapse among some oil producers, if renewable energy penetrates the transportation sector on a large scale. The energy poverty that currently keeps so many people from enjoying the fruits of growth could also be addressed more quickly than imagined. Yet at the same time, countries powered primarily by renewable energy may find themselves subject to new vulnerabilities as economies become heavily electrified. And to those who have battled the politics of pipelines, the politics of supergrids may become familiar. While renewable energy itself is unlikely to cross borders too often, the electricity it generates might, as will the technologies and know-how that give a country a competitive edge.
These intriguing possibilities notwithstanding, for the time being, global politics are shaped far more by fossil fuels than by any other energy source. There are several reasons for this dominance. To begin with, fossil fuels still account for more than four-fifths of all the world’s energy, and will continue to be the main source for the foreseeable future. Even many scenarios that envision the world as successful in making the changes required to avert “catastrophic” climate change still posit that the majority of energy used globally will come from fossil fuels. Moreover, virtually all cross-border trade in energy is in fossil fuels; renewables are generally consumed in the country in which they are generated. As a result, a pipeline snaking across the Caspian Sea has many more geopolitical implications than a field of solar panels in Nevada’s desert. While the potential is large, cross-border electricity trade generated from renewable energy is still limited.
Moreover, the exact geopolitical contours that this energy transition will take remain essentially unknown; they will depend in large part on which technologies and energy sources replace fossil fuels. In a 2014 book, GameChangers:EnergyontheMove, Stanford and MIT faculty explore energy innovations in natural gas, solar photovoltaics, gridscale storage, electric cars, and LED lighting. The big takeaways from that book are the sheer number of energy innovations bearing fruit or holding promise, and the wide variety of outcomes that could emerge over the coming years and decades. Given this, efforts to attribute broad geopolitical shifts to more sustainable energies in a systematic way necessitate some speculation, whereas the impact of oil and gas on geopolitics is clear and in the present.
This book is divided into three parts that, collectively, explain the new energy landscape and its impact on the world of foreign affairs and international security. The first section is devoted to illuminating the new energy abundance. Chapter One explains the forces of technology and politics that were behind the big price plunge beginning in 2014. Chapters Two and Three delve deeper into oil and gas, respectively, revealing how the new energy abundance shapes not just price, but also the structure of markets in ways that will be lasting and have geopolitical consequences.
The second section of the book pertains to the new energy landscape and America, the genesis of many of the energy developments transforming global markets and geopolitics. Chapter Four looks at America’s misguided pursuit of energy independence, while the following two chapters examine how the new energy dynamics are reinforcing American sources of strength. Chapter Five looks at how energy is bolstering American hard power; Chapter Six focuses on the energy boom’s impact on American soft power. Chapter Seven examines the U.S. experience when it comes to the complex relationship between the energy boom and the environment and climate.
The third section of the book focuses on the international arena beyond the Americas. Even though the boom in oil and gas production has been thus far largely limited to the United States, its geopolitical impacts are much broader. Because energy markets are global or regional in nature, and because of the huge footprint of the United States as a consumer and producer, the new oil and gas coming from North America reverberates beyond its borders. It is felt on every continent, in every country, to some degree. While Africa and Latin America are also affected by this new energy landscape, this book concentrates on the regions most likely to be the main drivers of global politics in the years ahead. Chapters Eight, Nine, Ten, and Eleven examine how the new energy abundance is transforming politics and international affairs in the important power centers of Europe, Russia, China, and the Middle East.
Finally, the Conclusion takes a step back and considers the entirety of this complex landscape and offers thoughts for policymakers who are looking to do what great powers have done for centuries: use energy as either a means or an end to their grand strategies. In particular, it urges the United States to seize the good fortune of the energy boom not only by focusing on the economic benefits it brings at home, but also on the strategic advantages that can accrue to it in many parts of the world as a result of the new energy realities.

About The Author

© M. Stewart

Meghan L. O’Sullivan is the Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. She is also the Director of the Geopolitics of Energy Project, which explores the complex interaction between energy markets and international politics. Between 2004 and 2007, she was special assistant to President George W. Bush and Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan for the last two years of her tenure. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Windfall: The New Energy Abundance Upends Global Politics is her third book.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 12, 2017)
  • Length: 496 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501107931

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Raves and Reviews

“Riveting and comprehensive. . . . a smart, deeply researched primer on the subject.”

– The New York Times Book Review

"A powerful argument for how America should capitalise on the 'New Energy Abundance'"

– Financial Times

“A trusty guide to all the ways in which energy (especially oil and natural gas) impacts international relations, for good and for bad. . . . Windfall is a refreshing and illuminating examination of one thing that’s going right.” 

– Foreign Policy

“O’Sullivan describes and analyzes the economic and political impact of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The boom in oil and gas produced by fracking—the “windfall” of this informative book’s title—has placed a severe strain on Russia and the oil producing countries of the Middle East but has benefited China, European states, and especially the United States. O’Sullivan explores the possibility that the new abundance in energy might replace the risk of a U.S.-Chinese rivalry for scarce resources with the opportunity to establish a cooperative arrangement between the two countries that could produce stability in energy markets around the world.”

– Foreign Affairs

“Excellent . . . O’Sullivan makes a persuasive case that the geopolitical benefits of high levels of energy production are enormous.” 

– Inside Higher Ed

“A wide-ranging and comprehensive view of what O’Sullivan calls America’s new ‘strategic boon’—the energy revolution. She shows how it is strengthening America’s economy and its position in the world, giving the U.S. new flexibility, and is also—no doubt to the surprise of some—helping improve America’s environment."

– Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Prize and The Quest

“Brilliant. A must read to understand America’s new energy fortunes.  Access to massive oil and gas reserves at home provides the United States with added power and leverage, presenting new possibilities for cooperation and competition.  Windfall unpacks these complexities with great clarity and insight.”

– Michèle Flournoy, CEO of the Center of New American Security and former Under Secretary of Defense

“A lucid and provocative look at the geopolitics of energy and the shifts and dislocations it is likely to produce.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“Meghan O’Sullivan brings her extraordinary insight to explain how the American innovation and ingenuity behind the oil and gas boom has delivered strategic benefits to the United States – and changed the world in the process. For leaders in government and business affected by global trends, Windfall is a must-read.”

– Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet, Inc.

“In less than a decade, the energy world has turned upside down, from scarcity to abundance. Drawing on her practical experience and analytic acuity, Meghan O’Sullivan provides a convincing account of how the new energy world is transforming geopolitics and helping the United States. Windfall is a wonderfully readable book.”

– Joseph Nye, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, Emeritus

“O’Sullivan takes the significance of energy beyond the price of gas at the pump to explain how energy, technology, the environment, and politics drive foreign policy.  She demystifies and shows a new map of power, molecular and political.”

– Robert B. Zoellick, Former President of the World Bank, US Trade Representative, and Deputy Secretary of State

“As a former policy maker and a scholar, Meghan O'Sullivan is well placed to issue this urgent and timely call to policymakers to embrace a new mindset. She offers a rich and sophisticated assessment of the consequences of today’s new energy realities not only for North America, but also for Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and China.”

– Nicholas Burns, Professor, Harvard University and former Under Secretary of State

"Windfall is a big idea book that offers a bold take on how energy markets shape politics and foreign policy.  In this sophisticated but highly readable narrative, she challenges much of the conventional wisdom about the benefits of America’s energy boom to the United States.”

– Diana Farrell, CEO and President JP Morgan Institute and former Deputy Director of the National Economic Council

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