Energy Security Case Studies

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The UK's Energy Mix

natural gas (36%), coal (35%), nuclear (20%), renewable (4%) and other (3%)

nuclear power:- all but one of the UK's nuclear power stations are expected to close by 2023- 2008 labour govt revealed plans to build new nuclear power stations over growing concerns on oil and gas imports from Russia | however, many british people are concerned about the safety- they agree with Friends of the Earth who say: britain can meet its energy needs through renewables, nuclear power is expensive and dangerous & new nuclear power stations will steer investment away from renewables.

physical factors:- geology- UK's oil, gas and coal reserves have all peaked and it now relies on imports to meet demand- location- the UK is perfect for wind, wave and tidal power because of its position in the atlantic ocean, however there is still a debate about whether to use this e.g. the River Severn barrage 

the UK still has workable coal reserves that they could use to generate electricity, however this would increase their carbon emissions which they have promised to reduce

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East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline

  • construction started in 2006 and has been planned to take approx. 10 years- when the pipeline is finished it will be 2,600 miles long
  • originally the route involved cutting through the habitat of the endangered Amur leopards on the border of China- but the route has now been changed
  • other problems with the pipeline include: initial route ran too close to the UNESCO protected and largest freshwater lake 'Baikal' (re-routing caused the cost to increase), fluctuations in steel prices & the challenge of building on permafrost
  • this will create a new energy pathway for Russia meaning that they can export oil to countries in Asia and also North America

(geopolitical tensions )China vs. Japan:-China- need to fuel their economic growth, energy security is needed to keep the communist govt in power, main energy pathway for China at the moment is vulnerable (through the straits of malacca- pirates), China wants to widen its supply options & China and Russia have a joint interest over US military presence in Asia, and US policies relating to the promotion of democracy. -Japan- has almost no oil reserves of its own, world's third largest oil consumer, relies heavily on the Middle East and therefore importing from Russia will reduce its dependence & they want to help Russia increase its economic and political influence 

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Canadian Tar Sands

  • tar sands aka oil sands, and extra heavy in oil- naturally occuring mixtures of sand, clay or water-very dense viscous form of petroleum called bitumen
  • not easy or cheap to extract oil from tar sands but production started in 1967
  • only recently started to attract TNCs such as BP, Exxon Mobil and Shell- due to oil prices rising even more
  • in 2003 it produced a million barrels of oil per day, 2011 3.5 million and it's expected to reach 5 million by 2030

cost:- tar sands extraction is only viable when the cost of oil is over $30 per barrel (it costs $15 to extract compared to $2- conventional oil)- requires a lot of energy, one barrel of oil is required to produce 3 barrels of of crude oil from tar (conventional oil production requires a lot less energy)- leaves huge amount of waste (2 tonnes of mined tar sands required for one barrel of oil)- takes five barrels of water for one barrel & it also includes deforestation 

benefits:- provides us with an alternative source of oil when conventional reserves have run out- by 2030 tar sands could meet 16% of North America's oil demand- additional source of oil until renewable technology is improved & oil exports are vital to the canadian economy

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The Middle East

attack on Abqaiq:- 2006 terrorists attacked the biggest oil processing plant in Saudi Arabia that produces approx 6.8 million barrels of oil per day- the attack if successful could have halved the production rate causing a massive disruption to the rest of the worlds oil supply

alternatives:- attack on the WTO in the USA (9/11) encouraged many western countries to reduce their dependence on the Middle east & many non-OPEC countries such as Russia and Nigeria to increase their oil production | however, many of the largest oil producers outside of the Middle East will no longer be significant after 2025- giving the Middle East more control over oil

  • all of the oil exporting countries in the Middle East are members of OPEC 
  • the middle east and the west have a poor relationships over the past colonisation and interference e.g. the USA's invasion on Iraq in 2003
  • OPEC aims to safeguard the interests of its members by ensuring stable and fair oil prices

the dramtic rise in oil prices since 2002 was because of: rapidly increasing demand from developing countries (e.g. Chindia), declining oil reserves and many reserves becoming more costly and difficult to exploit, an improvement in the economies of some of the exporting countries which led to increase in demand in their own country and political instability in the Middle East 

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