Document Type

Graduate Syllabus


Spring 2015



Course Number

DIPL 6133

Course Description

As a result of increasing global demands for energy, natural resources and a clean environment, serious conflicts of interest have amongst nations and private actors, creating the potential for deadly violence. Popular expectations of and demands for economic, human and environmental security in many cases are likely to be incompatible, presenting policy makers in governments and senior managers of global firms with difficult choices. Each type of energy produced poses its own combination of economic, political and environmental risks. Using carefully selected case studies, this course addresses these pressing security concerns.

Commonly identified resources posing security challenges include:

• Energy (particularly oil, gas, coal and other fossil fuels, but also nuclear, hydroelectric and renewables)

• Minerals, precious metals and other ‘rare earths’ required for industrial production

• Commodities, e.g. iron and timber

• Water

• Food (including agricultural produce and seafood stocks) Other resources less commonly identified as such but also critical to economic well being, growth and security include:

• Land (particularly arable and transport-accessible land)

• Labour

• Capital

• Information/data

The course begins by considering critically a survey of energy and resource security that uses a ‘nexus’ model to explain how energy and resource security concerns are interrelated. We shall then focus on three specific issue studies. The first is an in depth study of the oil and gas industry: how these fuels are prospected, drilled, distributed, marketed and traded, the different public and private actors involved in oil and gas markets and the environmental impact of oil and gas production and consumption. This background will prepare us to consider the international political and security implications of global demand for oil and gas, nuclear power and the environmental security issues surrounding climate change and renewable energy sources. Our work on oil and gas will culminate in a debate, which will simulate a US Congressional hearing, on the Keystone XL pipeline project.

The second issue to be considered is the scramble for access to ‘rare earths’, which are used in the production of familiar electronic devices such as smart phones, in Africa. Using Dambisa Moyo’s somewhat polemical work Winner Take All as a point of entry, we shall examine the political and security consequences of the leading role taken by China in the race for African resources.

If time permits, we shall examine water and its multifold importance for economic development: hydroelectric power generation, irrigation of agricultural production, flood control, safe and accessible drinking water for populations. The final portion of the course will permit students to explore resource and energy security issues and cases of particular interest. Each student will choose a particular country or resource on which to focus, study the constraints, risks and opportunities relating to it, and make reasoned policy prescriptions that follow from their analysis. Each student will write up their findings as an extended research essay, make a multimedia presentation of their findings to the seminar and lead the seminar in a discussion and debate of questions of interest arising therefrom.

Skills and capacities to be developed in the course include: critical reading and analysis, analytical and advocacy writing, multimedia (slides/video) presentations.