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BIPR | Johns Hopkins SAIS Global Risk Conference - A Conversation on the Geopolitics of Energy
Johns Hopkins SAIS Global Risk Conference - A Conversation on the Geopolitics of Energy

April 22, 2021 - 18:30

Sarah Emerson - Martin Fraenkel - Marco Dell'Aquila

Event Recap

The event started with an introduction of the Global Risk Conference series and the MAGR program by Director Plummer. Professor Dell'Aquila then introduced the speakers and kickstarted a conversation asking about the Biden administration. Sarah Emerson started by emphasizing that Biden is a multilateralist, the focus will be on China as a contender, and the enormous task of restoring US' foreign policy. She also noted that Biden is promising a lot, but moving slowly. Martin Fraenkel agreed, and stated that it is too soon to tell, so the focus should be on the Biden proposals. The key sector, he argues, will be hydrocarbons, since Biden's commitment to an energy transition collides with the recently gained production and exporting power in oil and gas.

Sarah Emerson argued that oil and gas are not a priority for the Biden administration, except to the degree fossil fuels fall under climate policy. While Mr. Fraenkel agreed, he posed the question on how that priority would affect domestic politics, particularly in competitive states: Pennsylvania or Texas. So, there are real underlying tensions regarding America's leading role in climate change. Marco Dell'Aquila, asked about the implications of these tensions. For Ms. Emerson, there will be rising tensions with Russia and China, not military tension but economic escalations. These tensions will dampen the possibilities of a transnational response to the transition.

Prof. Dell'Aquila noted that the transition is a long-time process. How can people be engaged in the relevance of the transition given its lengthy timeframe? Speakers agreed that the focus should be put on the energy sector, and its relevance on the global economy. Also, noting that there is a human face behind conventional energy, so any transition needs to be equitable. Mr. Fraenkel underlined that energy development and demand are about lifting people out of poverty, not forgetting to turn-off the lights. Meaning, demand will continue to rise as we lift people out of poverty, and that should be desirable. The challenge is to accelerate the transition while securing an increasing demand. For Sarah Emerson the key is on capital costs, as the financial sector engages companies that move the climate needle, their borrowing costs will go down.

To conclude, a Q&A opened to the audience with multiple questions on the difficulties and complexities of an energy transition. Both speakers note that this is a long-term dilemma, and that we do not have all the answers to the questions yet. The work to get to the answers, however, needs to start as soon as possible. Because progress is gradual, and we need to buy as much time as we can for when we have the answers. That means, climate is now geopolitical, the core of geopolitics.

Full Audio:

Johns Hopkins SAIS Global Risk Conference - A Conversation on the Geopolitics of Energy
Johns Hopkins SAIS Global Risk Conference

The conference has been made possible with the generous support of Mr. James K. Anderson, SAIS Europe Alumnus and Advisory Council member, and Johns Hopkins University Trustee.
hosted by Professor Marco Dell'Aquila

Sarah Emerson
Energy Security Analysis, Inc. (ESAI), US
Martin Fraenkel
S&P Global Platts, UK
Marco Dell'Aquila
Moderator: Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe; inspiratia; Power Capital, UK


Sarah Emerson joined Energy Security Analysis, Inc. (ESAI) when the petroleum consulting practice was launched in 1986. She is currently President of ESAI and a principal in ESAI Energy, LLC, which conducts research and consulting on global petroleum, NGLs, alternative fuels, and natural gas markets.

Emerson has developed many of ESAI's analytical tools for assessing the oil market and forecasting oil prices. In addition, she has supervised the development of an empirical source database of monthly data that cover the period January 1978 to present, for every country in the world with particular focus on non-OECD countries. More broadly, she has conducted industry studies on a wide range of topics, such as the transfer of pollution in energy trade, the profitability of Asian refining, energy markets in the Indian Ocean, Strategic Petroleum Reserves, global automotive fuel markets, GHG emissions from gasoline and diesel production, the North American petroleum coke market, the export of U.S. processed condensate, the certification of Canadian exports via the United States, and the future of the Russian refining industry. In 1992, she published the first description ever available in the West of the Russian refining sector. She routinely helps companies assess the market value of liquids generated by new or expanded energy assets.

Emerson is an expert witness in energy sector arbitration and litigation, an adviser to national governments on energy security issues, and was a reader/commenter for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report. She has testified before the Senate Energy Committee and regularly publishes articles in the energy trade press.

Emerson is a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and has been a Senior Fellow at the Kennedy School at Harvard University. She serves on the Advisory Council of the Energy Resources and Environment Program at the Johns Hopkins University Nitze School of Advanced International Studies where she received her MA. She received her BA from Cornell University.


Martin Fraenkel is Vice Chairman of S&P Global Platts, a division of S&P Global and the leading independent provider of information and benchmark prices for the commodities and energy markets. He is also a member of the Board of Directors and Audit Committee of CRISIL Ltd, the premier Indian data and credit ratings company.

Fraenkel served as President and CEO of S&P Global Platts and as a member of the Operating Committee of S&P Global from 2016-21. As President of Platts, he led a diverse team which drove a substantial cultural, commercial and technology change programme. He oversaw the digitalisation of the business, introducing pioneering technology solutions based on Blockchain, Automation and Machine Learning, and led corporate initiatives on Innovation and Client Experience.

Fraenkel joined S&P Global Platts in June 2015 from CME Group, where he was Managing Director and Global Head of Energy. In a diverse 30-year career in the commodities markets, Martin has held senior roles across both physical and financial markets. These have included managing global sales and trading businesses for top-tier investment banks, such as Credit Agricole (2007-2011) and Dresdner Kleinwort (2005-2007) as Global Head of Commodities and for JP Morgan Chase as Global Head of Energy, Agriculture and Base Metals Trading and Head of Commodities for EMEA (1993-2001). Fraenkel has also provided consulting services to leading exchanges, hedge funds, trade houses and proprietary traders.

Fraenkel has deep regulatory experience and since 2013, has held a judicial appointment as a Member of the Financial Services Upper Tribunal, which hears appeals against decisions of the UK's Financial Conduct Authority. He has interacted with regulators and led businesses regulated in many jurisdictions, including the FCA, CFTC in the USA, and Banque de France, AFME and Bafin in the EU. He also chaired the London Gold Market, the operator of the global gold price benchmark. Fraenkel began his career in New York in 1984 as a base metals trader.

Fraenkel received an MBA from Insead in Fontainebleau, France; a Master's degree from the School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC and Bologna, Italy; and a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Balliol College, University of Oxford, UK. Based in London, Fraenkel speaks French, German and Italian. He is a member of the Council of Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs.


Marco Dell'Aquila is Senior Adjunct Professor of Energy, Resources and Environment at SAIS Europe; Co-Founder and Chairman of inspiratia, and Founder and Chairman of Power Capital.

Professor Dell'Aquila has taught at SAIS since 2011 and is a member of the SAIS Europe Advisory Council. As Chairman of inspiratia and previously IJGlobal, Dell'Aquila has spent 25 years as an author and commentator on the evolution of energy and infrastructure markets, as well as regulation and emerging technologies to combat climate change. He has also advised on numerous energy transactions around the world spanning virtually all forms of cleantech and renewables. He is currently CIO of a UK green hydrogen company.

Marco has a BSc (Tech) in Civil and Structural Engineering from the University of Manchester and an MA in International Relations and Economics from SAIS.

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