Theses Doctoral

On Whose Terms? Understanding the Global Expansion of National Oil Companies

Cheon, Andrew

National oil companies (NOCs) have evolved beyond vestiges of an era of resource nationalism and assumed an international presence. Given that NOCs are generally inefficient entities, why do some governments, more than others, allow their national oil companies to make expensive and often risky investments abroad? Instead of directly refuting neorealism or liberalism, I seek to shift the debate towards problems of governance in the energy sector. While agreeing that geopolitical rationales matter, I posit that they serve as political cover for NOCs pursuing their own expansion. While sharing the liberal emphasis on institutional checks, I anticipate how they may be overcome by strategic NOCs determined to secure support for their investments. I argue that the willingness of governments to restrain NOC investments depends on the presence of veto players, whereas their ability to do so depends on the organization of the energy sector. When the energy sector is governed by multiple entities with overlapping jurisdictions, NOCs can exploit coordination problems among them to escape scrutiny for their investments. This weakness is particularly acute in countries without an overarching energy ministry, where energy policy is implemented by informal bargaining among a multiplicity of ministries and agencies. I test this argument quantitatively and explore the underlying mechanisms through case studies of China, India, Russia, Brazil, and Norway.

Geographic Areas


More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Urpelainen, Johannes
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 12, 2015