bottleneck analysis

Fresh insights about energy, politics, travels, sports, music…

Tag Archives: energy

TAPpeti volanti e manganelli

Londra 

Nonostante il blog sia inattivo, mi preme scrivere un attimo di TAP, soprattutto dopo l’indegno articolo de Linkiesta: Tragicomico Sud: la protesta insensata contro il gasdotto in Puglia.

Potrei-ma-non-voglio sottolineare che Francesco Cancellato, autore del pezzo e direttore de Linkiesta, sia quanto di più distante ci sia rispetto a chi in Puglia, sulle sponde dell’Adriatico e alla foce del gasdotto ci vive. Lombardo che scrive che una protesta in Puglia è da “tragicomico sud”, autore di pezzi che ammiccano all’Azerbaigian (anche se solo tangenzialmente) e “vidimatore” di altri pezzi che ammiccano all’Azerbaigian.

Anche io sono fisicamente distante dalla Puglia e dal movimento contro il gasdotto, ma a differenza del Cancellato, qualcosina di energia e di politica internazionale ho studiato.

Qui mi limito ad elencare una lista dei problemi che ho trovato nell’articolo e un’altra lista di problemi proprio del gasdotto.

La Grammatica

Parliamone, di un corridoio lungo 878 chilometri, di cui 550 in Grecia, 215 in Albania, 105 sotto il mare Adriatico e 8 – sottolineiamolo, servirà: otto – in Italia, dalla spiaggia di San Foca sino al confine del comune di Melendugno, in Salento, dove si connetterà con la rete dei gasdotti italiani, che già oggi, con i suoi 13mila chilometri di lunghezza lineare – sottolineiamo pure questo: tredicimila.

Not a sentence. Non ha la caratteristica di una frase, direbbero i miei amici anglofoni (e i miei insegnanti di italiano).

Miracoli dei congressi di partito, oggi pare aver cambiato idea.

Idem come sopra.

Parliamo pure dei 3 milioni di euro che pioveranno nelle casse del comune di Melendugno durante tutti gli anni dei lavori, che si protrarranno per qualche anno.

Qui non è chiaro se i contributi arriveranno ogni anno o se i 3 milioni siano complessivi.

Oltre la grammatica: la supponenza

Per smettere di fare dell’Italia […] la barzelletta d’Europa. E del Mezzogiorno, la tragedia d’Italia.

La maggior parte delle opere incompiute sono (state) finanziate da fondi statali, cioè qualcuno ci mangia. Una sostanziale parte sono anche fondi europei non/mal spesi che sono ritornati a Bruxelles. TAP con questo non c’entra nulla. Se chi protesta viene ascoltato, l’opera si farà e verrà portata a termine.

Nota a margine: oggi il Mezzogiorno è la tragedia d’Italia, ma non mi pare che i giornali italiani abbiano parlato di quei fannulloni mangiapaneatradimento del nordovest quando si protestava la TAV. L’insulto gratuito al Mezzogiorno è forse l’aspetto che più di tutti de-legittima l’articolo di Cancellato.

Il NIMBY

Qualcuno ha già scritto che non si tratta di NIMBY, non è campanilismo di quarta serie, ma attenzione per l’ambiente. Molti pugliesi vogliono che TAP si faccia, solo non dentro una riserva naturale. Altri pugliesi non la vogliono per ragioni di NIMBY, altri per motivi politici, ma perché buttare tutto in un calderone “tragicomico”?

Il contributo di TAP al fabbisogno italiano/europeo

L’Italia consuma tra 65 e 75 miliardi di metri cubi di gas all’anno. Il 90% di questi è importato dall’estero. Il 51% del gas importato viene dalla Russia attraverso gasdotti di epoca sovietica che attraversano (e riforniscono) mezza Europa. L’Europa consumava oltre 500 miliardi di metri cubi di gas all’anno fino al 2013, adesso si attesta a circa 470 miliardi. Di questi l’Europa importa circa il 70%. La Russia, che non ha mai tagliato i rifornimenti (se non all’Ucraina) continua a esportare gas come sempre e si prepara a dover pagare anche qualche penale per aver imposto un prezzo troppo caro un lustro fa. Circa il 40% dei volumi di gas importati in Europa arrivano dalla Russia.

TAP, sponsorizzato in lungo e in largo quale risposta alla dipendenza dalla Russia, porterà sulle spiagge pugliesi ben 10 miliardi di metri cubi di gas. Il 2.5% del consumo annuale europeo. Trattasi di niente. Se fossimo dalla parte dell’ambiente, chiederemmo alla Russia o all’Algeria o alla Norvegia di fornire ulteriori 10 miliardi di metri cubi senza costruire altre infrastrutture. O meglio, se veramente fossimo dalla parte dell’ambiente, troveremmo il modo di consumare il 2.5% in meno di energia.

E poi, Cancellà, risparmiaci i dati sui gasdotti che non subiscono incidenti al di sopra di un certo millimetraggio. Vai a vedere i danni ambientali che incidenti (che ovviamente sballano le statistiche) che coinvolgono il gas naturale hanno causato in tutti gli angoli del pianeta.

La politica internazionale del gasdotto inutile

Il Dipartimento di Stato americano e Bruxelles hanno spinto così tanto per il famigerato Southern Gas Corridor come risposta all’egemonia energetica Russa che si sono trovati con nulla in mano. Il maestoso progetto Nabucco si è trasformato in TANAP (16 miliardi di metri cubi dall’Azerbaigian alla Turchia) + TAP (10 miliardi di metri cubi dalla Turchia all’Italia attraverso la Grecia e l’Albania). Dalle enormi ambizioni alla striminzita realtà.

Trans_Adriatic_Pipeline

Per usare un titolo che quelli in giacca e cravatta responsabili di quest’inutile infrastruttura capiranno: “Ghiaccio su pene

Ma perché si spinge così tanto? Perché conviene. TAP è un consorzio di compagnie registrato a Baar, in Svizzera, dove molte entità offshore fanno il bello e il cattivo tempo senza pubblicamente dichiarare i loro bilanci. Oltre a BP, l’altro principale shareholder è SOCAR, la compagnia di bandiera azera. E c’è pure Snam, quindi ci sono interessi italiani con i quali Cancellato avrebbe dovuto fare i conti: non è “solo un investimento straniero che stiamo rifiutando”.

Ma stiamo in Azerbaigian, lungamente criticato per l’oppressione delle libertà e dei diritti umani, dove giornalisti e attivisti vengono arrestati ogni giorno, letteralmente. Ma vabbè anche Putin è cattivo e quindi non importa la qualità del regime per scegliere i fornitori di gas. Dalla chimica alla metafora, il gas puzza ancora meno del denaro.

I problemi sono di trasparenza: l’Azerbaigian è stato di recente espulso dall’EITI, un’iniziativa transnazionale per assicurare che certi standard amministrativi, ambientali e finanziari siano rispettati dalle compagnie che si occupano dell’estrazione e della vendita di materiali del sottosuolo, tra cui ovviamente il gas. Secondo l’EITI, l’Azerbaigian non rispettava gli standard. La Banca Europea per la Ricostruzione e lo Sviluppo l’anno scorso aveva lanciato un monito: se l’Azerbaigian non migliora gli standard di trasparenza, il prestito promesso per TANAP+TAP potrebbe saltare.

I manganelli

Dopo aver visto la polizia entrare con forza in una biblioteca universitaria a Bologna e dare mazzate qua e là pensavo di aver visto abbastanza per quest’anno. E invece no. Il Comitato NO TAP ha protestato a San Foca nel sito dove TAP sta conducendo i lavori preliminari di scavo e di espianto di ulivi ed è stato caricato più volte, nonostante la protesta fosse incredibilmente pacifica. Un pacifismo quasi esagerato, visto che c’erano ulivi su camion che venivano portati via come automobili su un carroattrezzi.

Ebbene, chi sta difendendo cosa? La polizia (e il governo che ce l’ha mandata) in tenuta anti-sommossa non difende il territorio, ma una compagnia di dubbia trasparenza che vuole costruire un gasdotto di dubbia importanza nel bel mezzo di una riserva naturale.

Chi, a distanza, difende il “progresso” senza capire le ramificazioni politiche, sociali e ambientali è “tragicomico”. Oppure, ma non vorrei essere maligno, è a libro paga di un dittatore.

Kazakhstan at the Center of Eurasian Energy (an unconventional article)

Almaty, Kazakhstan

Several things have changed since I wrote this article in October 2013. It was never published and since it’s not topical anymore and it’s not deep enough to pitch it anywhere, I want to embark in an experiment: I’m going to comment it with a seven-month delay to check what has changed in the meantime. Comments are in bold. The original piece was written on October 9, 2013.

October has been a busy month for the energy sector of Kazakhstan. After a very hectic summer, with the launch of Kashagan oil production in September, Almaty and Astana hosted two very important international meetings.

In Almaty, the 21st Kazakhstan International Oil & Gas Exhibition (KIOGE) opened its doors on October 1st and saw the presence of local and international companies involved in the Kazakh energy sector, in particular in oil and gas from the upstream to the downstream. At the KIOGE Conference, on October 2nd, several influential figures took the floor and talked about the main successes and prospective challenges in the Kazakh extractive sector. Of particular interest, due to its recent developments, was the start of production in Kashagan, which had been the object of several years of investments and drillings in severe climatic conditions. At the press conference, the Deputy CEO of Geology and Projects at the national oil and gas company KazMunaiGaz (KMG), Kurmangazy Iskaziyev dismissed the rumors that regarded the stoppage of production soon after its start. “In such difficult conditions” he said, “it is business-as-usual to encounter such halts to production, it was fully accounted for by the consortium”. Now we know that the stoppage was not a short-term hiccup, but a structural problem which will delay production until the end of 2015, at the very least. Also, why do they always choose to start production with the winter season approaching?

When talking about the export options for Kashagan oil, the main option for the consortium is still the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), which goes through Russia, to the port of Novorossiisk, where oil is shipped to the world markets. The input of new oil into the market goes hand in hand with the expansion of the CPC, which plans to more than double its throughput capacity in the next few years. Without additional input from a source other than TengizChevrOil, a 56/60 mta pipeline will be hard to fill. And if Kashagan is crucial to the “Future Growth Project”, then what does the consortium hope in terms of further oil supply? 

Otherwise, short-length shipping from Atyrau to the hub in Samara, or barge shipping from Aktau to Baku are both viable options, but less palatable economically. According to Reuters’ head of Commodities in the CIS, Aleksander Yershov, the government’s preference for CPC is “logical”. Quietly present was also the Chinese option, because its viability depends on the expansion of the pipeline network that connect Western Kazakhstan to Western China (an option that is not yet being served at the pipelines table). A few key questions for Kazakh energy were brought to the fore: the maturity of the fields that are being exploited in the country, the need for an improvement of the energy transportation infrastructure, and the beginning of the era of hard oil, also called “inaccessible oil”. This last point was echoed at the VIII KazEnergy Eurasian Forum that took place last week in Astana (8-9 October). There, several experts and famous politicians reminded the energy industry that the “end of easy oil” would entail an  increased of the role of the state in the extractive industries. Only by doing so, countries can ensure that the energy mix in domestic consumption and the portfolio for export can remain balanced. Wim Thomas, Chief Energy Advisor at Shell, depicted two scenarios that varied in the state intervention in the energy sector. Only a scenario that gives more power to the market would be successful according to the head of one among the top companies in Kazakhstan. At KazEnergy, the speakers mentioned repeatedly the ‘shale gas revolution’ in the United States as a game changer, because of its indirect effects on several market nodes down the chain of energy trade. These effects have yet to be seen in Europe, as gas is not yet traded without the link to the oil indexes, which is telling of how slow developments in this sectors can be when the resource is either still in the ground or not-so-easy to transport.

The official line of the Kazakh government is that day-to-day pragmatism has to be kept in place, while new development policies are drafted. Ministers and deputies mentioned the Green Economy legislation as the first step and unveiled on October 8th the Project ‘Evraziya’, which can become a platform for transnational companies and littoral governments in the Pri-Caspian region. The main partners will be Russia and Kazakhstan. Their public officials have promised to take the necessary steps to declassify their geological data in order to allow for an informed period of monitoring through the creation of an international consortium, under the auspices of the Ministries of Energy in Moscow and Astana. KazEnergy has been the broker of this project since the meeting last year, and the signature of an agreement by the end of the year would signify the success of the Forum in its mediation efforts. Nobody has talked about it since then, hopefully they’re working on it behind closed doors, but it would be interesting to check back at the next KazEnergy Forum. 

According to François Fillon and José María Aznar, both former Prime Ministers in France and Spain respectively, the role of the government in these matters should be one of balancing domestic needs with regional and global aspirations, but also one of attracting and encouraging foreign investment. This aim can only be achieved by guaranteeing a stable and reliable legislative framework, something that was repeatedly stressed also at KIOGE by several representatives of foreign companies that work in Kazakhstan. In particular, the new tender system, the question of health and safety of the workers, and the general issue of transparency were addressed. (Although some issues created conflicts among workers in the past months.) However, this last point about transparency was addressed by the V National Conference on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in Kazakhstan, held at the end of KazEnergy on October 9th. In this occasion, the working plan for a new study of the penetration of transparency standards in Kazakhstan was laid out, which set in stone the collaboration between Astana and the Oslo-based organization. Competing interests were brought together during these two forums, with the two different understanding of energy security being spelled out by both importers and exporters. The participation of the representatives of the European Union and those of the Persian Gulf countries is telling of the efforts that Kazakhstan puts in place for the solution of one of the most complex equations of the 21st century. The placement of the Central Asian country at the center of the picture, increases the importance of Kazakhstan in bridging the interests of consumers and suppliers from Europe to Asia. No words were spent on India, which had just been sidelined after their offer for a stake in Kashagan was matched by KMG in the summer of 2013, and was later sold to CNPC by the Kazakh state company. Now, the recent developments of the new tenders in Kazakhstan, especially the successful exploration in the Abai offshore bloc, could revive the partnership.

Final note: in the past months, an increasingly depressing picture has been painted on the fate of Kashagan. This is especially true since the problem that it faced at the end of September 2013 is likely to strengthen the Consortium’s headache. Ramping costs, environmental fines, and production delays can only hurt the balance sheet of the operators of the field. Plus, the inability to enjoy the time of high oil prices can also have a negative effect, since the paradigmatic shift in Europe is ensuing and could bring down oil prices. If the “easy oil” era is expiring, the “inaccessible oil” epoch has still to come for Kazakhstan  

On Gazprom, the Kremlin and Foreign Policy Decision-Making in Russia

Almaty, Kazakhstan 

Today an article that I co-wrote with a colleague and friend of mine was published in the 25th volume of Irish Slavonic Studies (full issue in .pdf), the academic journal of the Irish Association for Russian, Central and East European Studies. In May 2012 I flew to Cork, Ireland to give a presentation of the preliminary findings of the paper Ludovico Grandi and I had written over the previous Christmas and Easter vacation (because that’s how researchers employ their free time). I am grateful to the wonderful and eclectic Irish Association, which gave us the possibility, even as young researchers, to publish on their journal, but most of all to participate in their annual conferences, that enriched my knowledge, extended my network, and helped me amend some fallacies from my work. For the 2012 edition in Cork I wrote a blog post and a report, I couldn’t do the same for this year’s conference in Dublin, which was equally outstanding.

It’s a rather descriptive piece, that lacks a deeper analysis of the meanders of Russian foreign policy and the influence that National Corporations have upon the decision-making processes, but a) the lack of space and time; and b) our overarching purpose prevented us from a more profound research. In reality, I had captured some of the technicalities of the influence of energy issues in Russian foreign policy already in 2011 with my thesis/book (which will soon be available free of charge). Moreover, our effort mainly aimed to poke academic research in the troubled grounds of complexity.

It has been far too easy for academics, as well as journalists and experts, to sweep everything under the carpet and apply a blanket judgement on “Russia” as an “energy superpower”. This raw point of departure fails to take into account the variety of actors and interests involved in the decision-making process that shapes foreign policy. With this paper we point out the dynamics between the Kremlin and the National Champions of Gazprom and Rosneft’.

Our main argument is that there are periods of concentration of interests, i.e. the interest of the two state-owned energy companies and that of their owner coincide, when Russian foreign policy is spelled with one voice, also using the much advertised “energy weapon”. However, and counter to a substantial branch of the literature, we observed that in periods of competing interests, decision-making in Russian foreign policy is contested by the various actors, as in the case with TNK-BP until the summer of 2012. Timing is important when you bring up an example: Russian actors have acted in concert since the confusion that led up to the heated summer of 2012 and now display a more cohesive stance towards the case that we analyzed. This fact, however, does not weaken much our argument, since we wished to depict precisely the periods of “concentration” and “competition” that influence the decision-making in Russian foreign policy.

So here we are. Clicking on the picture below, you can read the .pdf version of the article. And yes, the picture below shows you that the article before ours was written by Peter J. S. Duncan, one of the guiding stars in our research path.

iarcees25

gràcies per res, esplorazioni nell’Artico!

Almaty, Kazakhstan 

Come dicevo nello scorso post, tra le tante avventure che mi tengono impegnato oggi, c’è stata un’intervista con un magazine catalano sul presente e futuro dell’Artico. Il bravo giornalista Jaume Vinyas mi ha chiamato e mi ha fatto alcune, interessanti domande, per un articolo sul portale ExtraMurs.cat.

Ne è venuto fuori un articolo molto interessante e ben bilanciato, tra questioni economiche, energetiche e ambientali, con interviste condotte anche con i collaboratori di Greenpeace. Io ho fatto la “voce della Russia e delle multinazionali dell’energia”, perché va bene sperare, ma se “i capi” dicono sì, si va avanti.

“La Russia non ha la tecnologia sufficiente e per tanto ha bisogno di accordi con compagnie multinazionali” – le compagnie coinvolte “si assumeranno tutti i rischi necessari” – “L’Artico è molto importante per la Russia perché sulla terra ferma i giacimenti sono vecchi e in declino, e pertanto si esauriscono” – “La Russia è uno dei Paesi meno avanzati in termini di tecnologia per (il monitoraggio e la prevenzione dei) versamenti, “oil spills”, e dunque uno di quelli che inquina di più“.

Questi sono i virgolettati. In generale dico che con l’apertura di spiragli economici, questo assicurerà il lancio di nuovi progetti, che contribuiranno, in parallelo con le nuove rotte marine, al riscaldamento globale, eliminando progressivamente le barriere (di nuovo, economiche) che avevano impedito le esplorazioni nell’Artico in passato.

Un cane che si morde la coda, insomma. E poi muore, perché se andiamo avanti così, rompiamo l’unico frigorifero che abbiamo sulla Terra.

Alma-Аға

Almaty, Kazakhstan

It’s been 3 months since I moved to Kazakhstan and almost 4 months since my last post.
There are reasons for this. Shortly, I’ll list them below.

– I am successfully continuing my collaboration with the newspaper ‘L’Indro‘, where I publish two weekly columns on the post-Soviet region, covering mostly politics and economics, with a pinch of energy, of course. With the newspaper I also got to experience the “press pass” for the first time and talked to several fellow journalists at KIOGE in Almaty and KazEnergy Forum in Astana.

– I am also on the lookout for opportunities to publish stories in English again.

– I was interviewed twice. Once by ‘MilanoFinanza‘, the ‘Financial Times‘ of Italy. The long interview was on one of my favorite topics: the future of energy in Russia. It occupies the first 4 pages of a special issue of the weekly magazine that was distributed at the G20 in St. Petersburg in September. The last interview, was taken today, with a journalist from Barcelona working for the new information platform Extramurs, “planetary” news in Català. We discussed about the Arctic and the geopolitical challenges around it. I probably talked too much about energy, but I structured my answers around the vicious circle Global Warming – Northern Route – Oil&Gas Drilling – Global Warming… If we leave it to the Smithian invisible hand of market forces, we’ll pretty soon live an eternal summer.

– I enrolled in 6 graduate courses at KIMEP University. The most challenging of which, is Kazakh language, of course (look at the bad pun in the title, Alma-Ata, Alma-Mater…)

– I am in the process of finishing 2 academic publications. One is a comparison of the effects of EU accession in Bulgarian and Lithuanian nuclear energy policies (edited volume, published by Brill, The Netherlands). The other is a paper on my dissertation topic: bringing Gramscian concept to the study of energy and foreign policy in the case of Caspian pipeline politics (edited volume, published by ibidem, Germany).

– I will also finish up my economic research on Nord Stream as soon as I get my last interviews back.

Work, work, work… But life in Kazakhstan goes well nonetheless. Nice and warm here in Almaty. I met several beautiful people that accompany me in the everyday struggle against Soviet-era bureaucracy.

A highlight was the meeting with an Italian singer that has captured the ears and the hearts of many Kazakhs: Son Pascal. Originally, I approached him for an interview. Then, soon after we developed a fresh friendship. I’m sure our adventure at the sauna last week with the two oldest Kazakhs alive, talking about the internet (?!), open-heart operations (?!), and wives (?!), was not the last.

Oh, and most importantly, the NEW PROJECT that I’ve been working on for 2 years now will see the light before the end of the year. It’s going to be awesome and it will make me happy. I will soon share the details.

Gassy Friends

Tallinn, Estonia

There should be more “energy” in this blog. Here we look at how energy builds feeble friendships and goes against what in International Relations and everyday media seems to be non-controversial.

Iran has very few friends in the international community. US embargo and sanctions have accomplished the slowdown of foreign economic activity in the country. The Seattle Times summarized it all in early 2010:

German industrial conglomerate Siemens AG said last week that it will stop doing business in Iran by the middle of 2010. European banks such as Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, UBS AG and Credit Suisse Group have also pulled out of Iran.

In 2010 the Italian ENI was going to be the last big business to leave Iran, only to come back later and announce that their contracts are not covered by the embargo – something that the US has not confirmed. Recently, ENI confirmed the phasing-out of business in Iran once the costs of the current ones are recovered. Given that Iran was one of the gems that ENI was proud of having found during the years of Enrico Mattei, it will be a pretty big loss for the Italian company in general.

This background is just for perspective. Meanwhile, however, non-Western energy is playing a big role in the region, overcoming the obstacles of international sanctions, embargoes and tense relations. With great pride, Armenia and Iran are linked by a gas pipeline since 2008. At the same time, a few kilometers to the East, another gas pipeline feeds the Azeri enclave of Nakhchivan, through swaps between Teheran and Baku. Azerbaijan is not able to send gas via pipeline across Armenia to its citizens in Nakhchivan, so it gets Iranian gas and is paid back with Azeri gas going into the northern and populous regions of Iran. This web of relations could seem silly in a market-driven environment, where the path of pipelines would look more straight and there would be no need to circumvent sensitive regions. But in the heart of the Middle East, reality is more complicated. Turkmenistan swaps its gas as well with Southern Iran, but quantities are not disclosed.

But then you look at Turkey and you scratch your head. Ankara, now under increasing pressures from the population, is the biggest client of Iranian gas (10 bcm). But wait, isn’t Turkey part of NATO? Isn’t NATO… yes, all those consequential questions are legitimate and justified. And just as we care nothing about human rights in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Turkmenistan (just to mention the countries cited here, with which we constantly entertain fruitful relations), the regional gas balance cares little about Western concerns about the Iranian economy. Sanctions and embargoes are precisely intended to weaken the economic stability of an oil and gas potential exporter (although the internal problem in the energy mix are still huge). Therefore, energy trade, or the lack of it, should be the first political tool to use against Iran. By now, the entirety of the West does it. In the region, however, the need for natural gas and of lucrative contracts trumps the political pressures from Washington (and Brussels).

Political friends or enemies, when it comes to business, let’s put a brown bag on our faces and do it. The Western pull out from Iran will certainly contribute to our ignorance of the entire region and foster an antagonistic discourse based on what we think, we hope, we wish was going on “over there”. It’s lucky that there’s people around that write good stuff and open our eyes – in this case on natural gas issues.

Which Side Are You On?

Tallinn, Estonia

DISCLAIMER-THAT-I-DON’T-NEED: I may or may not have made references to past, current, or future employers/schools/publications/friends. The internet is not a real place anyways.

Throughout my mature life, I was/am/will be torn in between controversial issues for my own beliefs. Working for a company/organization which has interests in furthering what I hate the most (wars, economic blockades, antagonistic discourses, racism, supremacism, machism…). Writing articles that make people working in these places/publications twitch and edit it all out or refuse it. Working for a government that despises its own Constitution, which says that “Italy repudiates war” and still our army kills and gets killed in armed conflicts abroad, among other horrible things. Studying and getting a bursary to link and justify a regime with limited freedom to the eyes of armchair bureaucrats and intellectuals in Europe. Keeping my friendship (or even Facebook friendship) with people whose beliefs are so distant from mine that I can’t believe our relationship even started. Possibly applying to work for energy companies that pollute, exploit, and corrupt (all of them?). Arguing in academic circles about the relevance of the use of a confrontational and biased attitude from our Western (or sometimes Semi-Western) perspective built by newspaper articles and rhetoric from various pundits (isn’t the purpose to understand and analyze? Aren’t we just judging and misrepresenting instead?).

Coping and sucking it up has become a true skill of mine. I should put it in my CV: “I will be able to withstand all the bullshit that goes on at your workplace”.

But isn’t that what most of us does every day? What am I complaining about? I am sick of this fake “courage” of mine that pushes me into dead ends where I can only realize how awful the world can be on this side. While I try to gain the necessary courage to successfully make the move to a side that is more in line with my thinking, I will keep learning to the tiniest details what is bad and needs to be eradicated.

 

 

I’m on that side. The other one.

Recent Past and Near Future

Glasgow, UK 

The fact that I’ve let this blog go even under one post per month can be a huge disappointment – or a great relief – for my few followers. I have now a few related announcements to make in order to explain my past and future absence from this platform. The absence will be interrupted by wordy posts, however. Because I can’t keep my promises.

– Collaboration with The Hidden Transcript (student-run online magazine)

For forthcoming articles, refer to the page http://thehiddentranscript.com/author/paolo/

– Conferences, roundtables, workshops in the next 2 months

  • Dublin, DCU – Irish Association for Russian, Central and East European Studies (IARCEES) Conference

    • presentation of a paper on Pipelines and Hegemony in the Caspian Region (a neo-Gramscian appraisal)
  • London, UCL – School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) and Centre for East European Language-Based Area Studies (CEELBAS) Roundtable on “Energy and Institutions”
    • presentation on Pipeline politics and Energy Security in the Caspian (the case of Kurmangazy)
  • Cambridge, UK – British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES) and International Council for Central and East European Studies (ICCEES) Congress
    • panelist and discussant for panel 3.4 “EU Energy Security since 2004: Import Dependency and Russian Gas Supplies for an Expanding Union”

A couple of book reviews will also be coming along.

Marketing Academic Achievements

Oakland, CA

Roughly one year after the publication of my MA thesis as a book, I received in the mail a special package, containing the first peer-reviewed and fully-recognized publication of academic relevance I have ever written. This one sounds more like the first real step into the academic world.

The book, although cherished by parents, relatives, and friends, was crafted by me, with the dear help of my mentor and my partner. The paper published by European Perspectives weeks ago was the outcome of my first international conference as a protagonist and the first peer-review process. One question keeps me confused: what should authors do to emerge from the crowd and make their voices heard in the midst of a world where publishing (and self-publishing) has become easier and easier?

My youngest cousin was born on 11/11/2011. The doctors planned the date for the cesarean section for that unique day. However, I was already set to go to London for my first international conference as a speaker, the presentation ready and a first draft of the paper completed. I was disappointed to miss such a happy family event, but everybody had a full understanding as I was going to set a milestone as well. Small, lively, and intense, the One-Day Energy Workshop organized by Diana Bozhilova and Tom Hashimoto was a great success and featured young scholars from all over the world. Two emerging experts in energy politics, Diana and Tom arranged everything to be smooth and effective at the Bulgarian Embassy where the meeting was held. From the final applause onwards, we knew we had to work hard to finish our work, include the suggestions received, and send it to an academic journal. The plural used for the following part relates to the fact that this publication was co-authored with colleague, friend, and dreamer Elvira Oliva. November passed and the January deadline approached. Rushing through our many occupations (Elvira actually has a structured, real one!), we send in the paper, get a very thorough peer-review, and edit it accordingly. Finally, the paper is ready, shifted to another journal, and published. Granted, we could have done a better job with the graphs and with some of the content, but this effort, which lasted almost one year, generated our best achievement so far.

The process of academic publication is fairly long. You have to make sure your writing is impeccable, clear, and inequivocal. You have to take care of style, subdivision, quoting and referencing, and spelling rules. Once this process is complete – and of course, the content must be outstanding, original, and intriguing – you get slashed on something you had not previously taken into consideration. Ah, the beauty of many eyes and brains! Collectively, the whole work is perfected and solidified. Freshly out of the printer and freshly linked online, this paper conveyed the sensation of being a delicious cookie.

Back and Front of the European Perspectives journal

On another note, I just received the yearly statement for my book which has sold eleven copies. Not enough for generating royalty payments (I would have needed at least double the amount), but enough for boosting my morale even further about the recognition of my efforts. Eleven brave individuals have emptied their Amazon cart with my – rather expensive, unfortunately – book in it. Soon, after I complete my editing and I add a section on China, Russia, and Central Asian energy, I will be able to publish it for free on the website of the research center I am working with (PECOB). Free means more access and more opportunities for intellectual dialogue. As I complete my first year of relationship with my publisher, I would not repeat the experience if I were to publish another book. Mainly because the book was placed at a very high cost on the market and, although not asking for anything in return, the publisher gave me back less than I had dreamt of. [Incidentally, I think the book would have sold way more copies were it put at 1/4 of its current cost. Probably more than 4 times as much copies would have been sold. Making still zero returns for me, probably higher profits for the publisher, but chiefly, making the book available to more readers! – Here I am teaching marketing…]

The question, the main puzzle keeps standing. How should academic publications be advertised, promoted? I go around on Facebook, Google, Academia.edu, Twitter, and other social media, I published several articles online which linked to my work. I started a blog also with the purpose of promoting my writings. I received a few rewarding reviews that allowed me to improve my understanding of my own work and my mistakes in it. However, I feel that the work of this young researcher has been left out from some circles in which I was eager to participate. What sould I have done? What should I do in the future? Carpet-bomb academics, libraries, and journalists with emails about the new cookie? Have promotional events (although I hate “events” and that would accrue a significant cost and therefore push me towards the need of sales)? Circulate free copies of the manuscript? I did a mix of all of the above, minus the event, and I would like my eclectic audience to suggest what marketing strategies should I have undertaken and how much “poking around” is enough.

Education in Motion

on BART, between SFO and Oakland.

During the past year and a half I’ve been looking for something to do with my life – and not only mine – after graduating from my Master degree in Italy. Willing to keep studying and having enjoyed the US research environment, I decided to try applying – again – for a PhD program here. However, my previous and recent experience with the standard way of assessing applications, left me with a sour taste, again.

During my NEET (not in education, employment, or training) period, I kept enjoying the beauty of studying through libraries, where I entered thanks to my old IDs. It sure feels good to be involved in reading academic texts without the pressure of the exam. I had a project in my sleeve, so I just explored more and more the world of energy and tried to gain knowledge in fields where I lacked one. Freedom to read also gave me the possibility of reading novels and more political texts. Meanwhile, I struggled to earn a minimum for my subsistence, which I barely managed in such a bureaucratized world.

I concentrated my interest in a few projects that allowed me to be eclectic in my future path: the issue of hydrocarbons in the Arctic, the Bulgarian nuclear energy sector, the struggle for power and gas between the Kremlin and Gazprom, and the relevance of energy in diplomatic cooperation in the Caspian region. These might sound boring to many, but to me they spark interest and excitement. They are also deeply rooted in recent history, but they keep their impact in contemporary daily news. As I sit through conferences more and more frequently, I realize that what’s intriguing to some could be irrelevant to others.

Without much illusion of succeeding, thanks to the last drop of self-esteem that was left in me, I found the energy to apply for a very interesting Erasmus Mundus program. Erasmus Mundus was recently set up to link “Erasmus” countries – that have their university systems already interconnected through student, staff, and faculty exchanges – and third countries in the extended neighborhood of Europe, such as the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia, etc. The program to which I submitted my application was a new one, coordinated by the University of Glasgow: the International Master in Russian and Central and Eastern European Studies (IMRCEES). The program had already existed for a few years, but this was the first year that the consortium obtained EU funds for it. Glasgow is in fact teamed up with a few other institutions from Poland, Estonia, Hungary, Finland, and Kazakhstan. As soon as I read Kazakhstan I became interested. I laid out my plan and submitted the many documents needed for the contextual application to the program and to the scholarship. A couple of months later, when my expectations for further education had vanished, I received a letter that confirmed my admission to the program. I shook my head: I had to change plans again, but this time it would have been more fun!

So I packed my luggage and tried my best to give and get a Glasgow impression by participating in the annual conference of my future department. I went there during my crazy May, just before my trip back to the US, on which I embarked with a very different motivation compared to the previous ones. This is my last stay in this beautiful and strange country for a while and I am going to use it as a trampoline for my next English-language adventure.

My first stop will be Scotland in September. There I will spend one academic year, trying to learn Russian one more time, carefully engaging with my professors on matters that my experience has told me a lot about, and enjoying the Tropical weather. One of the previous resolutions is clearly false, I’ll let you guess which one while I go to the store to buy a raincoat.

The next summer is going to be full of travels and surprises, as my plan is to go to Azerbaijan for research, but I might have to stop in Estonia first, for additional academic reasons. Anyway it goes, the 2013 summer term will be short, as I will continue my eastbound ride to Kazakhstan, to the former and prospective capital city of Almaty, which is supposed to re-gain its status in 2017. I will spend another academic year there before completing yet another thesis, in order to gain yet another Master degree. What will this lead to? There’s no use in asking, as my future keeps changing weekly.