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Throughout history, the phrase "In the name of the King" justified actions that trumped the rights of citizens in order to safeguard the interests of the Crown. Today, in the name of energy sovereignty, states deploy the government apparatus to access oil and gas in other parts of the world, build pipelines on private lands, subsidize renewable energy, and nationalize their oil and power industries. States justify each of these actions by noting that they create a sense of energy independence, ensure security, or achieve other social and economic goals. Energy, however, cannot be trapped in one "realm." Its nature is to move across human-created jurisdictions and to settle, at least in the cases of oil and gas, in specific geological formations where extraction is not always economically feasible. Additionally, energy evolves with technological advancements and its production must adapt to new challenges, like those posed by the global climate crisis. Thus, an efficient and reliable energy sector that "secures" the state requires engagement with other foreign powers to regulate the trade and investment of energy and its sources. States, however, have created a web of often inconsistent treaties, reflecting competing and frequently contradictory energy policy goals. When disputes inevitably arise, arbitrators or committees must balance the parties' competing energy goals. This Article introduces the concept of energy sovereignty as a novel analytical framework to explain the fragmentation and inconsistencies in international energy governance. By introducing archetypical energy sovereignties, this Article provides a framework through which interpreters of trade and investment agreements can balance the competing energy goals that are attached to the agreements. In doing so, this Article demonstrates how ignoring the complexities in the way states exercise their energy sovereignties can undermine integrated regional efforts to deal effectively with energy challenges like reducing carbon emissions or building a cost-effective and resilient energy matrix. This Article uses the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the latest North American international trade and investment agreement, to show how the archetypical energy sovereignties conflict with each other and how the USMCA's dispute resolution mechanisms may balance them.


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29 Nov 2022
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  • Subject
    • Dispute Resolution and Arbitration

    • Energy and Utilities Law

    • International Law

    • State and Local Government Law

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Law Review

  • Volume
    • 63

  • Issue
    • 8

  • Pagination
    • 2475-2538

  • Date submitted

    29 November 2022