Natural Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Coal and Steel of the 21st Century?

June 22, 2015

By: Kevin Johnson, Alex Ross, and Endy Zemenides

Over the past decade, significant natural gas deposits have been found in the Levant Basin of the eastern Mediterranean. A 2010 US Geological Survey estimated that the Levant Basin may contain undiscovered oil resources of 1.7 billion barrels and undiscovered natural gas resources of 122 trillion cubic feet. In the short term, already commercially viable gas fields in the Exclusive Economic Zones of Israel and Cyprus will transform the economies of those states and promote their energy independence. These resources could also bolster Egypt and Jordan, where energy shortages could threaten the regimes. In the medium and long term, the energy resources of the eastern Mediterranean could help reduce Europe’s energy dependence on Russia to a degree. Perhaps the most intriguing prospect these resources present is the development of a structure for regional cooperation that promotes peace in this volatile region. Energy cooperation has already become the basis of unprecedented relations between Israel and Cyprus, and also between Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt. There are several indications that it could significantly contribute to the reunification of Cyprus, a lessening of Israeli-Arab tensions, and to better Greco-Turkish and Israeli-Turkish relations. Eastern Mediterranean natural gas can conceivably play as important a role in the region as coal and steel played in powering European integration. US strategic interests will be advanced by such regional cooperation, and the United States can play a key role in (a) advancing the commercial viability of eastern Mediterranean gas fields, (b) securing the resources, and (c) developing regional structures.

About the Authors

Kevin Johnson

Managing Director, Federal & Microgrid Business Development, Canadian Solar (USA), Inc.

Kevin Johnson is the managing director of Federal & Microgrid Business Development for Canadian Solar (USA), Inc., a global leader in solar photovoltaic manufacturing and project development. Prior to joining Canadian Solar, Kevin was the senior manager of mergers & acquisitions for Acciona Energy North America. In this capacity, Kevin led the sale of over $50 million of solar and wind assets throughout the United States. Prior to entering the private sector, Kevin served as a captain in the United States Army from 2002–2007. Kevin deployed to Iraq in 2004 with the 1st Battalion, 33rd Field Artillery Regiment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. He earned his bachelor of science degree in systems engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Cornell University, where he was a Roy H. Park Leadership Fellow. Kevin is also a Truman National Security Fellow at the Truman National Security Project and an Emerging Leader at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. In 2013 Kevin was the recipient of the White House Champions of Change award for his leadership in the renewable energy industry.

Alex Ross

Financial Adviser, Morgan Stanley

Alex Ross is a financial adviser with The Burnham Group at Morgan Stanley, managing the global assets of his clients. He started his financial advisory career at Credit Suisse in 2007. Prior to a career in finance, Ross was a strategy consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers and an equity analyst at Morningstar. He received his MBA with a concentration in finance from Duke University after living in China for four years managing a joint venture transportation company. He has a BA in economics with a concentration in international studies from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, and is conversant in Mandarin Chinese. Ross, a Winnetka native, currently resides there with his wife and two children, staying active with their sports, Cub scouts, and his philanthropic endeavors in the Producer’s Guild of Chicago’s Shakespeare Theater and the President’s Leadership Council at the Field Museum. He received a BA from DePaul University, an MA from the University of Essex (UK), and his JD from Georgetown University Law Center.

Endy Zemenides

Executive Director, Hellenic American Leadership Council

Zemenides is the executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), a national Greek-American advocacy organization dedicated to promoting human rights and the rule of law internationally and building bridges between communities here in the United States. He oversees staff and fellows in Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC, and leads the organizations advocacy efforts at the federal, state, and local levels as well as HALC’s diplomatic advocacy program.

Prior to joining HALC, Zemenides served as senior advisor to former Illinois State treasurer and Democratic nominee for the United States Senate, Alexi Giannoulias. He practiced law in Chicago for over a decade, specializing in municipal law and government relations.

Zemenides is an Emerging Leader at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and serves on the board of the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes and the Cyprus Federation of America. He has served on the editorial board and board of advisors of the National Strategy Forum and has lectured in international relations and American foreign policy in DePaul University’s political science department. He appears regularly on Greek, Cypriot, and Greek-American television and radio programs to comment on Hellenic issues and the Greek-American community and is a regular guest on WBEZ’s Worldview.

Natural Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Coal and Steel of the 21st Century?