Oil, Energy, and the Middle East


2007-12 GC Seed Grant

The Oil, Energy, and the Middle East (OEME) project has advanced understanding of geopolitical issues surrounding the region and transformed Princeton into a center of scholarship on oil resources, economics, and politics of the Middle East. In addition to sponsoring a postdoctoral program, OEME has produced a multi-year lecture series involving more than 20 speakers with science, engineering, international relations, policy, and industry expertise.

The Middle East, the Persian Gulf region in particular, contains the largest quantities of proven oil and gas reserves in the world. Countries such as Saudi Arabia effectively dominate the oil market and have a determining role in setting the price for this commodity. Oil represents the largest single sector of the global economy by volume and value of transactions.

These facts have resulted in particular social, political, and economic dynamics (not to say pathologies) within the countries of the Middle East, in the relations between them and finally in how they relate to the rest of the world.

The future of global energy demand and supply is inextricably dependent on what Middle Eastern nations decide to do with these reserves and how they manage them. By extension, the development of alternatives to these resources in the West and elsewhere will require a deep understanding of exploration and development taking place in the Middle East as well as the economic, political, and energy policies of the producer countries.

Energy and the Middle East are inextricably intertwined and no more so than in this current period of volatile oil prices. While the region has achieved significant momentum in its transformation to a non-hydrocarbon based and sustainable economy, in the near term the future rate of growth may be threatened by diminishing oil revenues just when the needs of a burgeoning population are the greatest.

The twin goals of economic transformation and equitable resource allocation remain the region’s top priorities. The realization of these agendas requires an informed debate of policy tradeoffs. The choices made could have profound societal and political consequences and global macroeconomic and foreign policy implications.

It is the appreciation for these advances, as well as, the nature and complexities of the ongoing regional debate for which the U.S. academic and policy leadership is seriously lacking in scholarship. It is the objective of the Oil, Energy, and Middle East Program at Princeton to advance a nuanced understanding of the issues confronting the Gulf region and to engage in informed participation in the debate.

Educational Impacts

With the support of the Grand Challenges program, the following courses were newly developed or heavily impacted:

  • Oil, Energy, and the Middle East
  • Political Economy of Arab Gulf Countries
  • Arabia in the 20th Century
  • Saudi Arabia: Security, Energy and U.S. Policy
  • Energy and U.S. Policy
  • Food Security and the Middle East

Participating Department

Collaborating Institutions

Related Media and Press Coverage


Bernard Haykel
Professor, Near Eastern Studies