Energy Security

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Key Concepts

  • Energy – is what the world needs to fuel everything, from transport and industry to food supply and heat our homes.
  • Energy security – is the extent to which a country can achieve an affordable, reliable and stable energy supply
  •  Energy Mix – refers to the different sources of energy that a country uses in meeting its energy needs.
  • Energy Supply - the availability of desired physical or chemical resources availalbe for use domestically or industrially.
  • Energy Demand  - the human demand for certain resources which many or may not be available 
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Types of Energy

85% of energy consumption was from fossil fuels in 2007. Before the Industrial revolution, energy came from things like, wind mills, water wheels and wood (biomass)

  • Non renewable – cannot be replaced once they have been used. produce carbon dioxide during combustion and contribute to global warming and sometimes acid rain.
  • Renewable sources are capable of regeneration on a human timescale. do not produce carbon dioxide or contribute directly to atmospheric pollution
  • Recyclable sources have a renewable stock which , with careful management can be replenished. Are potentially carbon neural, which means they produce carbon dioxide when they are used but absorb it when they are grown. 

It is a misconception that coal and gas reserves will become exhausted in the near future. The rate at which those reserves have been exploited over the last 50 years has been matched by the rate of discovery of new reserves and more efficient extraction and use of those reserves.

Non-renewable 85%:  coal 25%, Natural gas 23%, Crude oil 37%

Renewable 4% : Solar 0.5%, Wind 0.3%, HEP 3%, Geotherman 0.2% Wave power and Tidal power

Recyclable 10.2%: Biomass 4%, Nuclear 6%, Biofuels 0.2%

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Distribution of Energy

  • The sources of renewable and non renewable energy are not evenly distributed – some contrived are much better endowed than others.
  • The sources vary in terms of their ease of exploitation. 
  • The technology needed to exploit energy sources is not equally available. 
  • The demand for energy and the need to exploit energy sources varies from country to country.

The UK has large tidal ranges of up to 15m. they have Europes strongest winds and also have Glacial valleys. There are three sights for geothermal energy. Along with the opportunity to do fracking. 

  • 2005 - Four countries made up over 70% of the worlds Uranium production for nuclear power - Canada 28%, Australia 23%.
  • 2025 - Estimated that 60% of the worlds oil supply with come from the middle east.
  • 27% of all proven natural gas is in Russia.

Many countries have a surplus of energy. The middle east have 65% of oil reserves but only use 7%, Central and southern America have 10% reserves but only use 5%. Countries like the USA have 4% reserves and consume 29% and Eurasia have 7% reserves and use 25%. 

Some countries like Mali have no fossil fuel reserves but have the potential for solar power. 

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Energy Use

It is economic development and rising standards of living that lie behind in the phenomental increase in the global demand for energy. Between 2010 and 2030, global demand is expected to grow by 50%

  • The energy rich countries where there are a vast surpluses of supply over demand (Saudi Arabia)
  • The energy-poor countries where energy proverty demand far exceeds internal sources of energy (UK)
  • The energy neural countries where demand and supply are equally balanced (Brazil)

The“energy mix” is the reasons why certain sources are preferred and is a combination of factors, these are:

  • Physical; North Sea gas became accessible leading to a “dash for gas” in the early 90s
  • Public perception; Chernobyl in 86 turned public will against nuclear power
  • Politics; fear of gas being shut off by Russia due to political differences
  • Technology; solar panel efficiency grew from 5% to 40% between 1970 and 2008 making it more financially viable
  • Economics; wind power now costs $55 per MWH which is roughly the same as coal and gas making it attractive
  • Environment; concerns have led to greater use of renewables; use of wind generated energy grew 6x between 01 and 08 in the UK
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UK Energy Use

The UK’s total electricity generation has grown, but there has been a significant shift to gas since 1987 and a decline in nuclear power since 1997 (closure of old power stations and no replacements) as a result of changing public opinion and other factors discussed above.

It is highlighted in the UK that there has been:

·         Coal – decreased since 1987

·         Oil – huge decrease since 1987

·         Gas – massive increase since 1987

·         Nuclear – decrease since 1997

·         HEP – relatively same from 1977

·         Wind and other renewables – increased since 1997 

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Energy Trends

Energy demand projected to grow by 50% between 2005 and 2030. Growth is expected to be 0.7% per year in the developed nations of the world, but in the emerging economies of the BRICs and other such nations, growth is supposed to exceed 2.5%. Coal use increased by 17% per year from 2002-2005 in China as the country tried to meet the exponential demand for power.

  •  The cost of developing nuclear plants, and the longevity of their construction (up to 10 years to completionThe unreliable nature of renewable resources such as wind, is the price, public perception, etc. beneficial enough for a complete change
  • The cost and hassle of ‘up-scaling’ projects such as solar power has proven difficult in many countries due to the need for large areas of land and required support 
  • The emerging economies of China and India both have over 10% of the world’s coal reserves and they are in no rush to switch to alternatives as they demand development like the developed world did: coal power stations can be built cheaply and quickly and are a reliable source of energy for their expanding populations 

If the projected demand materialises in the future there will be huge implications: Price of fossil fuels, Major environmental consequences, Arising conflicts, Security of energy, Further economic and energy divide between rich and poor

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Energy Security

Energy security – the ability to get the energy we demand at an acceptable price

  • High security; economically recoverable reserves of fossil fuels and technology is available to process and extract fossil fuels
  • Low security; reliant on transport of fuels, routes can be disrupted by war, conflict, politics, piracy or even weather

Energy security will become, if not already, a huge issue for China and India due to a number of factors.

Many countries depend on foreign sources of fossil fuels transported along international energy pathways. The increasing demand and depleting supply of these resources is leading to a greater risk of energy insecurity for many of the dependent nations. Countries need supplies of power in order to maintain the social, political and economic stability of their nation and the security between countries varies hugely. As a result of the increasing risk of energy insecurity for both the present day and inevitably the future, some countries have invested heavily in nuclear power and other alternative resources to reduce dependency on imported fossil fuels. Examples of huge investors into nuclear power are France (86% of energy supply) and Japan (30% of energy supply). 

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Energy Pathways

The pathways, which deliver energy resources around the world, are becoming increasingly significant as the majority of countries have little access to their own reserves. The remaining fossil fuels have become concentrated in only a few countries. Key energy supply hotspots include:

  • Russia - Nord stream, Northern Lights, Brotherhood  
  • Middle East – South Stream, Nubucco, Suez Canal, Straits of Hormuz, Bab el Mandeb, Straits of Malacca
  • Supertankers in particular are vulnerable to the attack from Pirates. Somali Pirates seized the supertanker MV Sirius Star in 2008 from this region and the Straits of Malacca are increasingly becoming piracy hotspots
  • Western Europe is dependent on Russia; 06 & 09 gas supplies were cut off for Ukraine by Russia following payment disputes, this caused supplied in Germany and France to fall by 30%
  • Nord Stream should increase supply security in Northern Europe
  • Pinch points are areas of high vulnerability such as Suez canal, Straits of Hormunuz,  Bab el Mandeb, Straits of Malacca
  • Straits of Hormunuz; by 2030 30% of the World’s oil is likely to pass through, this is dangerous because the Straits are historically an area of conflict; Iraq War, Gulf War and the Invasion of Iraq
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Supply Disruption

  • 2007/2008 – high petrol prices lead to collapses in sales of huge motor cars like SUVs in the USA, and other major difficulties for car manufacturers like Ford, Chrysler and General Motors were also detrimentally affected
  • 2000 – protests and blockades over high petrol prices in the UK forced 3,000 petrol stations to close
  • 2008 – 70,000 angry lorry drivers blockaded the Franco-Spanish boarded leading to panic buying in the shops as supplies of food dwindled
  • 2012 – in the UK petrol tanker drivers strike forced people to ‘panic-buy’ petrol, and led to some garages pricing up their fuel supplies for profit, the result: many stations out of fuel

Governments can get energy policy wrong. Energy policy is the manner in which a given entity has decided to address issues of energy development including energy production, distribution and consumption. In South Africa the people have suffered from period power blackouts, known as ‘load shedding’ by the national electricity company Eskom. The blackouts are due to Eskom not having enough generating capacity to meet the demand as a result of under-investment. In 2008:

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Looking for New sources

West of Shetland (Foinaven) oil field, UK, discovered 1992 it has Light oil (250 – 600 million barrels) but a ack of fixed production platform and pipelines increases risk of an oil spill, it costs $10 a barrel to produce.

Athabasca tar sands, Canada, covering 140,000km2 ,it is a mixture of Sand and bitumen (tar) mix, there are about 170 billion barrels. It happens by Injecting steam into the ground to liberate oil, may reduce environmental impact but it uses Opencast mined by removing boreal forest and peat bogs. 2-5m3 of water used for 1m3 of oil; natural gas used to heat tar sands and recover oil. It costs $40 per barrel to produce.

Green River Basin, USA, oil shales, Sedimentary rock containing kerogen (750 billion barrels) It is Likely to be more viable and acceptable if an in situ extraction method is perfected Surface mining has the potential to cause major environmental damage; acid runoff a likely side-effect; dirty fuel if burnt directl0. Costs $80 - $100 per barrel.


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Looking for New sources Part 2

 The search is driven by two needs, and two methods to this 

  • To meet the ever-increasing global demand for energy
  • To make countries more energy secure i.e. less independent on imported supplies
  • Looking for new reserves of non renewable energy
  • Developing new sources of energy, particularly those that are renewable.

For non-renewable energy, the most accessible reserves have already been found and exploited. The search for new resources focuses on the discovery in more technically difficult areas such as within the Arctic circle  and deep sea. Oil is being extracted from things like tar sands and oil shale’s. Fracking is being used to extract natural gas, a method that has already became a major source in the USA.

The whole area of the Arctic is subjected to many territorial claims which have yet to be settled by the UN. There have been disputes as to who owns which piece of land within the Arctic Circle and there is increased threat and risk to the Arctic being a new source of war and tension in the future over the potential reserves there. Environmentalists fear an Arctic ‘free for all’ as fossil fuel reserves elsewhere run dry, or worse, the possibility of conflict if territorial claims are not settled.

2010 BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico illustrated the dangers of exploring for oil at the technological frontier. 11 people were killed when the rig exploded and over 4 million barrels of oil were spilled, causing huge environmental consequences and resentment towards the company for spilling the ‘precious’ oil. 

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Players in Energy Security

There are six major players in the global supply of energy. The two most powerful are:

  • The very large TNC’s (Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and BP) and the state owned oil and gas companies (Saudi Aramco of Saudi Arabia, Gazprom of Russia) Exxon posted $404 billion profit in 2007
  • OPEC (Organisation of petroleum Exporting Countries) and GECF (Gas Exporting Countries Forum), whose member countries are responsible for a large percentage of global oil and gas production. They are able to control the amount that is produced at any one time, and determine the price.
  • Players are individuals, groups or organisations with a stake in a particular issue and the ability to influence an outcome. OPEC is highly important; 35% of oil supply and 60% of oil reserves.
  • Pressure groups include conservation and environmental organisations such as WWF and Greenpeace.
  • International Organisations include those that are particularly concerned with the trade in energy, such as the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation.
  • Consumers includes households, industrial activities and public utilities.
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Demand for Fossil Fuels

Economic growth – this is related to energy demand. Demand for energy was strong between 2002 and 2006 as the world enjoyed an economic boom. Eventually the oil demand outstripped supply, pushing a single barrel of oil to over US$100 by summer 2008. Oil prices then collapsed to US$35 in 2009 but again by 2011 they’re again over US$100. The IMF expects the world’s economy to double in size by 2040, and with richer more economically advantageous economies developing, the demand for a limited supply will increase, potentially raising the price further to unaffordable levels: shortages of oil may spread globally, and hit hard dependent countries. 

Efficiency – increased efficiency of the thinning resources may lower the demand. High-energy prices between 2006 and 2008 in the UK and Europe encouraged a switch to fuel-efficient cars, public transport and home insulation. If governments and top-down companies encourage meaningful efficiency drive, the savings could be very large.

Population growth – the uncertainty over the expansion of the population limits the inevitability over the demand of fossil fuels in the future. The UN estimates that the population will exceed 8.5 billion people in 2040 (already hit 7 billion at the end of 2011) – 2 billion more than 2005. The development of these 2 billion extra people will be largely determined by which energy sources they would use. 

Renewable and recyclable resources – the development and integration of these in use more extensively would reduce the demand for fossil fuels

The future of nuclear power is very uncertain. A single reactor produces 1,100MW of power, the equivalent to 600 large wind turbines. Of the 439 nuclear reactors operating in 2008, only 34 were constructed in the period of 1998-2008, whereas 213 are between 21 and 30 years old. Unless a huge new programme to promote the construction and dependence on nuclear power is developed, nuclear power may decline in importance

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The peak oil problem

Arguably, demand is less of a concern than the supply. Oil and gas are relatively flexible, ‘clean’ fuels in comparison with coal. However, China in particular’s increased reliance on coal is having negative consequences for the environment. Coal reserves will last for 150-200 years at the current use rates, but coal is less energy dense than oil or gas, more costly to transport and dirtier. Environmentally, coal causes:

  Acid rain – sulfur and nitrogen dioxides: 

  • Interference with water supplies – contamination, groundwater levels, etc. 
  • Life expectancy cuts – health depletion. 
  • Generation of millions of tonnes of waste products: landfill, burning, etc 
  • Global warming

Oil and gas supplies are set to ‘peak’ in the near future. The importance of knowing this ‘peak’ is higher than when the supplies will actually run out, because it is at this ‘peak’ point that supplies will shrink (particularly in foreign consumer countries) and prices will rocket.

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The Peak Oil Problem

The timing of peak oil is hotly disputed (a political hot potato):

  • 2008 – the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas put the date at 2010
  • 2007 – the Germany Energy Watch Group claimed the peak was reached in 2006
  • 2008 – UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security stated it would be reached by 2013
  • 2006 – IMF predicted peak oil production rising to nearly 120million barrels per day by 2030
  • 2004 – oil production has been ‘stuck’ and plateaued at 80-85million barrels per day, not necessarily a ‘peak’

Some argue that the huge oil prices of 2007-2008 were evidence of the peak but others countered the view that supply was being limited by a lack of oil refinery capacity due to a lack of investment. There is less concern over peak gas, most estimates suggest that this is further off (2025-2030) and the alternatives, such as shale gas (tight gas), have the potential to dramatically increase availability and longevity of gas supplies, thus its not as hot a topic. 

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Business as usual, new Atomic ace, Renewable renai

Business as usual scramble : Is when coal and gas are used: Upto 2010 there will be a scramble for Africas last reserves, along with increased pressure to develop Artic and Antartic. 2020 and beyond there will be high energy prices, increased use of non conventional oil and the widespread use of coal and goal gasification. Environmental problems is that it will increase global warming, and destroy ecosystems. Acid rain will also be on the increase.

New atomic age is the use of Nuclear power : upto 2010 there is a race to build new reactors which are costly and there is a lot of political difficulties due to public perception. 2020 And beyond will have the developing world largely excluded on the grounds of cost and technology required, and there is a long term problem of nuclear waste.Environmental problems include some impacts from minding uranium, desposal of the uranium? lower carbon emissions is a positive.

Renewable renaissance is the use of Wind, solar, wave, hydrogen and biomass. upto 2010, Biomass use is an easy option but will push up food prices, Wind power lacks public support, due to the look and the noice. 2020 and beyond - more stable supply following the initial problems, the technology makes solar power very reliable and viable. The environment has problems, but benefits such as the massive reduction in CO2 emissions, large areas of land use for this technology so is hard for small nations. Requires energy efficieny and hydrogem production to be truly feasible. 

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Rising Tensions

If energy insecurity increases, countries are likely to turn to their own energy resources because there is no risk of problems with the transportation. Biodiesel and bio-ethanol in the USA have already become popular sources of energy due to the problems faced with rising oil prices and lack of supply security. The USA has:

 Passed the Energy Policy Act 2005 with a target of 7.5 billion gallons of biofuels by 2012 and 10% of petrol must be ethanol by 2009. Passed the Energy Independence and Security Act 2007 stating that 36 billion gallons of petrol must be biofuel based by 2022

These Acts created a market for biofuels, which led to huge areas of maize and soybean being grown for biofuels. The promotion of biofuels in the USA and Europe meant that by 2007-08 large areas of land that once grew food were now growing fuel. This contributed to rising global food prices and food riots in Mexico, India, Yemen, Bangladesh and Indonesia. The energy policy of one country can thus have extremely detrimental and negative consequences for many others around the world.

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Rising Tension Part 2

An alternative approach is to get hold of someone else’s energy resources. This has been China’s approach in Africa. China has signed bilateral agreements with African countries to ensure an oil supply with its demand set to rise from 3.5 million barrels per day in 2006 to 13 million by 2030.

However, there are many concerns over China’s move into Africa: Bilateral oil trade agreements work against the idea of open oil markets  China has invested heavily in war-torn Sudan, putting its oil interests ahead of humanitarian concerns (meddling) Suggestions of links to undemocratic or despotic regimes such as in Zimbabwe

Africa’s oil should help Africa development, not Chinese. Chinese investment in oil does bring in money to the world’s poorest continent. Chinese investment has been dwarfed by the investment of supermajors in Africa, but it is growing fast. 

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The Alternatives

The worlds demands large reserves of energy, and our needs are extreme. We need to continue to feed the developed world, meet the expectations of emerging economies along with providing energy for the developing world. 

These needs may seem enough, but we also need to reduce : Urban air pollution, we need to protect the environment, and tackle global warming. To adress these we need to use the energy R's. 

‘R’ Example

(1) Refuse polluting energy sources: Strong argument for leaving tar sands and oil shales in the ground due to environmental costs of extraction, and the need to use energy (natural gas) in the processing of these oils in production

(2) Reduce overall consumption: Energy efficiency standards for vehicles and domestic appliances. Use tax systems (green taxation) and polluter pays principle; ‘carbon credit cards’ to encourage personal efficiency

(3) Research more sustainable and affordable technologies :Wind, solar photovoltaic, passive solar, biomass, micro-hydro developed as low cost, portable or micro-installation systems for the developing world or as domestic systems

(4) Recycle waste, and convert into useful energy :Landfill – methane gas can be siphoned off and used to generate electricity, and municipal waste can be converted to useful energy in Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants

(5) Replace inefficient/wasteful technologies with improved ones :Phase out incandescent lights and replace with CFL; replace petrol and diesel with hydrogen or electricity produced from renewable resources

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Radical New ideas for Energy

Off-shore wind turbines 

  • Wind turbines off-shore cost 50% more than on-land but wind speeds are double, Off-shore turbines are less visible and audible. UK plans to meet up to one-third of future energy needs with off-shore turbines

Carbon storage 

  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) involves capturing the CO2 released and burying it deep underground
  • Noone knows whether CCS will really work and whether CO2 will stay trapped underground and it is expensive

Geothermal energy 

  • In the Philippines 25% of electricity is generated from underground heat, It is free, inexhaustible and available day in and night also No need to cover large land space, Extracting the heat is difficult and expensive


  • Controversial due to food shortages. However there are 3 forms; crops, trees and algae
  • Biofuels are expensive and a range of refineries are needed to improve logistics
  • Space for food and biofuel crops needs to be addressed without deforestation
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