Author focuses on Iraq oil problems

Rex Zedalis doesn’t expect any of his books to become bestsellers.
Nor does he expect them to be often quoted in law classes.
But he does think the information on oil and gas issues in the Middle East will gain some attention as energy issues continued to change throughout the world.
Zedalis recently was named as a recipient of the Phyllis Hurley Frey Professors of Law at the University of Tulsa College of Law.
He will fill that chair through the 2011-12 academic year, following Professor William G. Hollingsworth who was named to the post for the 2009-10 academic year.
The professorship was established in September by Martin A. Frey, Professor Emeritus at the university in memory of his wife. Under the terms of the professorship, it is awarded at the discretion of the dean to one faculty member or visiting faculty whose accomplishments promote excellence in instruction for the benefit of the TU College of Law and its students.
‘‘I was fortunate to be selected,’’ Zedalis said, ‘‘because there are a number of faculty members who have held various positions at the law school over the years. I have been lucky enough to be able to devote research time on a variety of factors that led to the Frey Professorship appointment.’’
However, he feels that one thing that might have been instrumental in getting the professorship.
The book, “The Legal Dimensions of Oil and Gas Law in Iraq” published by Cambridge University Press, will be released during the summer of 2010.
The book focuses on the current realities in Iraq and the future prospects in 2010. Discussions center on claims against the Iraqi oil and gas industry, the legal complications and any lessons that might have been learned. The first book about oil and gas law. The second is about the debts Iraq owes creditors.
Iraq owed between $350 billion to $400 billion at the end of the Gulf War, Zedaris said. That number was negotiated down to between $50 billion to $70 billion.
To put that into context, the 2008 Iraq national budget was $42 billion and high oil prices brought in $62 billion, he said. Oil prices have since collapsed and were at $35 per barrel in December 2008. Even though they since have risen and now are at $75 per barrel, the country faces a big debt because of the earlier shortfall.
A substantial amount of the debt is owed to other middle east countries — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and United Arab Emerates — who happen to be Sunni, Zedaris said.
Iraq is Shite and because of religious differences, is not that anxious to pay on the debt. To further complicate the issue, Iraq is insisting the money was given in the form of grants, not loans.
Since the Iraq budget is built around oil prices, the economy is fragile, he said. For every $10, plus or minus per barrel, the country’s budget gains or loses $10 billion annually.
Another projected book will be on the dispute on oil rights between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish government in Erbil.
The TU professor said Cambridge University specializes in international law books on energy and jumped on this as a timely topic on energy.
Zedalis also has written papers that have been published in the European Energy and Environmental Law Review (EEELR) on geo engineering and climate change.
‘‘I have been teaching at the university nearly 30 years and been involved in the international law field close to 35 years,’’ he said.
He also has worked with the U.S. International Trade Commission and the International Legal Office with the USDA and had a fellowship at Columbia before coming to TU in 1981.
Zedalis has earned three law degrees, the basic degree from Pepperdine, then an LLM from George Washington University and a JSD from Columbia.
A native of southern California, Zedalis developed his interest in energy law while growing up during the 1960s.
‘‘I thought law was the way societal problems could be solved,’’ he said. ‘‘But the older I get, the more I realize that politicians are more effective than lawyers.’’
Zedalis was drawn to law as a history major at the time the Vietnam War was raging and the realization that he also was living history.
He did international studies at California State University.
Energy law involvement came after joining the TU faculty.
He worked with the National Energy Law Policy Institute (NELPI) for about five years, a program that had a heavy focus on domestic issues.
Because of the NELPI experience, Zedalis decided to look at the international dimensions of energy law.
During his first few years at TU, he was the NELPI associate director, working with Kent Frizzell, who originated the program.
During the 1990, he continued his work with NELPI and utilized his interest in international law, blending the dual disciplines together.
The first book on international energy was published by the Ashgate Dartmouth Press.
A lot of the early work on International Law focused on the use of force by the state.
He also has written about anti satellite weapons in outer space.
‘‘I have dabbled in three areas, the use of force, international trade law and international energy,’’ he said.
He laughed when asked about the popularity of his books.
For academics, it is unlikely that it every will make the best selling list, he said. ‘‘I’m not one of those who thinks he will be influential in the classroom. Every once in awhile I get a call from other academics who have read my book.
‘‘Part of what drives me in doing research is a natural curiosity about people and issues,’’ he said. The spin off is that it is beneficial in the classroom.

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