Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Kurt Taylor Gaubatz

Committee Member

Larry Filer

Committee Member

Steve Yetiv


The risk of an oil supply disruption still exists. Oil reserves are increasingly concentrated in a handful of unreliable regimes, plagued by piracy and terrorism. Natural disasters and chokepoint incidents have increased in frequency. In addition, oil is expected to remain a significant part of the energy mix up until 2030. By that time Europe will be importing 90% of its oil. Thus, oil supply security will become an increasingly important feature of European politics.

One way to counter the noxious consequences of an oil disruption is to cooperate. International cooperation is a critical factor in any type of crisis, however, it is especially important when it comes to a finite, highly concentrated and critical commodity like oil. The lack of coordination might lead to scrambling and oil hoarding, which dramatically exacerbate the crisis. Yet cooperation in the oil issue-area has been the subject of only a few studies, none of which provides a systematic and comprehensive analysis. They are also limited in their scope and findings.

This dissertation aims to partially fill this lacuna. It employs a structured focused comparison to study European consumer countries' cooperation in times of oil supply shortages. There have been fifteen such crises since the Second World War, three of which with dramatic consequences for the world economy. The analysis evaluates European cooperative efforts in seven of these cases, starting with the Abadan crisis in 1951. The cases are selected on the basis of their magnitude and economic impact. In particular, I look at intergovernmental negotiations within existing international bodies prior to, during and immediately after the crisis. The findings suggest that institutions are more likely to facilitate interstate cooperation in the presence of a strong leader (a hegemon) - a role, which in the case of the oil issue-area was assumed by the US until the early 1970s.


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