Turkey, located at the crossroads between the former Soviet Union and the Middle East’s vast natural gas and oil reserves and the heavy energy demands of Europe, is central to the stability of the world’s energy market. Its control over the Turkish Straits gives it control over the flow of oil between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. In the context of growing international energy demand and debate over oil prices, Turkey’s stability and open market will have an even greater influence on ensuring access and mitigating price spikes in Europe and the Middle East.
A number of pipelines under construction and planned for development will soon double the volume of oil and natural gas flowing through Turkey. These changes increase the importance that Turkey’s stability provides in a volatile region and makes the country a critical ally to the U.S. and Europe. The cooperation between Turkey and the US can be seen in a new crude oil pipeline and the increasing trade relationship in regard to liquefied natural gas (LNG). As Turkey continues to expand its energy exploration, the energy sector has the potential to enhance US-Turkish bilateral relations.
With Europe, there have been growing concerns about European reliance on Russian energy given increasingly antagonistic EU-Russia relations. Turkey is significant as the biggest import and transit location for natural gas, oil, and coal from Russia. The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline will move Azeri gas through Turkey, an example of Turkey’s role in diversifying Europe’s gas. President Erdogan himself explained, “the real responsibility from now on lies with our neighbors on the other side of the border.” Additionally, Russia recently announced a plan to build a gas pipeline under the Black Sea to Turkey, which would replace a previously planned pipeline through Eastern Europe. This pipeline could also change the dynamics of energy politics in Europe by decreasing Eastern Europe’s reliance on Russian oil.
With the increasing threat of climate change, Turkey’s role in pipeline and coal plant construction complicates its efforts to reduce carbon emissions. In order to face the effects of climate change on energy and meet emissions goals, Turkey will have to work with the international community on appropriate measures moving forward. US companies and investors have already moved to assist Turkey by building renewable energy infrastructure and increasing its output, for example through wind farms and hydroelectric plants.
With so many conflicts taking place in the region, Turkey’s stability is central to ensuring the free and open flow of a significant portion of the world’s energy and to maintaining the sustainability of energy and trade routes between Western and Eastern markets. Politically, producers like Iran and Russia and consumers like the EU have agreed on very little over the past few years because of divergent political agendas. Yet all value the key role Turkey plays in ensuring the free flow of energy as well as the stability that Turkey provides. This role is expected to only grow in importance as energy demands increase and energy sources diversify worldwide.