International Relations Negotiation Role-Play:

National Energy Policy Simulation

Eric Jay Dolin, Daniel Greenberg and Lawrence Susskind
Highly complex multi-party, multi-issue negotiation among political, industry, environmental, and consumer leaders and lobbyists to develop a detailed proposal to reduce U.S. vulnerability to changes in energy prices and supply

Please note: you must order multiple copies in order to run this simulation. You should order a copy for every person participating in the simulation.

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It is February, 1993 and the United States has just experienced a serious energy emergency. High oil prices and cutbacks in international supplies of oil and gas have forced the President to tap America’s Strategic Petroleum reserves. The inflation rate has jumped sharply to nine percent and the trade deficit is sky-rocketing. Various world events have helped to create this energy emergency. Among them are the bombing of the Gwar oil fields in Saudi Arabia (decreasing Saudi oil production by 35%) and a miscalculation on the part of both American and European refiners of the consequences of limiting supplies and reducing raw product inventories.

The President has joined other world leaders in calling for concerted international action, but no consensus has emerged on what that action should be. It is within this context that the President has convened a broadly-based bipartisan Commission on America’s Energy Future. The President has asked the 16-member commission to develop detailed proposals for reducing America’s vulnerability to the kinds of pressures and events that caused the recent emergency. The President has given the Commission six months to produce a report and urged them to strive for consensus so that the US might speak with a unified voice. The Commission will meet three times during those six months.



There needs to be a room with a table for the 16 Commission members and additional seating for lobby groups and media observers. Some means of recording proposals and tracking progress should be available e.g. a flip chart or white board.

There should be a nearby room to accommodate and seat all the lobby group and media commentator participants. There should be at least 9 small tables for each of the lobby groups to meet.

A game manager(s) should be in charge of keeping time, collecting and delivering mail, and maintaining the flow of the simulation. All parties must stay on track – the simulation takes a lot of time and is divided into many parts.


Estimated Time Requirement:

This exercise takes 7 1/2 hours to run if played in one day or 6 3/4 hours if play is to be spread out over several weeks. There is a 15 minute videotape that needs to be played at the onset.



  • Consensus Rules: Agreeing upon the decision-rule(s) that will be used to determine consensus is one of the most difficult and important decisions in any negotiation.
  • Packaging: In multi-issue, multi-party negotiations, “packaging” issues, as opposed to dealing with them sequentially, improves the chances of reaching consensus.
  • Informal vs. formal: Informality and caucusing among interest groups or “opposing” parties breaks down barriers to joint problem-solving.
  • Impact of deadlines: Reaching an agreement is easier when the parties are not “under the gun.” In a crisis atmosphere it is harder to explore each others’ interests and come to a consensus.
  • Determining success: In multi-issue, multi-party negotiations it is often difficult to determine whether the negotiations were successful, especially when consensus was reached on only a subset of all the issues on the table.



A 15 minute video titled Energy Game is available to order with this simulation and should be played for the participants at the beginning of the simluation.

At least 27 players are required, 16 for the Commission, nine for the lobby groups, and two as media commentators. It is recommended for there to be at least two people in each lobby group. It is also best when there is more than one game manager to help with the logistics. Therefore an ideal number for this game is 34+ participants.



For all parties:

  • General Background and Instructions
  • Letter from the President (given to the members of the Commission only)
  • Simulation Schedule


Role Specific:

Confidential Instructions for:

Members of the Commission

Democratic Congressman, Democratic Senator, Director of National Consumer Federation, Electric Utility CEO, Governor of an Energy Consuming State, Governor of an Energy Producing State, Investment Banker, Media Commentators, President of National Caucus for People of Color, President of National Environmental Coalition, President of National Labor Union, Representative of National Security council, Republican Congressman, Republican Senator, Retired CEO of Major Oil Company, Secretary of Energy, University President and Nobel Prize Winner


Lobby Groups

  • Automakers Lobby, Coal Lobby, National Consumer Coalition, Farm Lobby, Alternative Energy Coalition, Oil and Gas Lobby, Nuclear Lobby, Environmental Coalition, Members of the Large Energy Consumers Lobby


Teacher’s Package (102 pages total):

  • All of the above
  • Teaching note, including logistics, general and specific background readings, most commonly asked questions, debriefing information, summary of lessons, suggested exam questions, and master policy/role matrix
  • Optional Videotape



Consensus building on national policy; energy policy; multi-party negotiations.



Agenda control; Anchoring; Caucusing; Coalitions; Consensus building; Constituents; Linkage; Meaning of “success”; Packaging; Systems of negotiation


National Energy Policy Simulation Attributes

Time required:
5 or more hours
Number of participants:
Teams involved:
Agent present:
Neutral third party present:
Teaching notes available:

PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.