At a time when the entire world is experiencing an economic downturn and a changing geopolitical situation, another crisis seems to be looming large over the horizon. The question of Energy Security has been one that has received the attention of leaders and policy makers for a long time but surely none greater than now. Spiralling oil prices, and depleting fossil fuel resources has now raised a heated debate across the world on the urgent need to look into securing the supply of energy in future.
Energy plays an important role in the security of any country as a fuel to power the economy. Thus any shortage or threat to the energy needs or supplies of a country implies an immediate breakdown of the counties industrial, economic and in every sense the national machinery. Though rising energy prices has always been a threat, as was seen during the Gulf War and the formation of OPEC, recent causes for considerations have been the apparent depletion of resources as also rapid industrialisation by developing countries like India and China. The recent cutting off of supplies of natural gas by Russia in Belarus as an alleged response to what happened in Kosovo has sparked off speculators to believe with reason that countries, cartels who enjoy monopoly power or have larger market share in energy sources will act as a potential threat to international security.
Countries like USA have always been criticized of maintaining a Strategic Petroleum Reserve even when they import more than 40% of their oil as also China of literally “fuelling” the conflict in Darfur because of its economic interests that lie there with Chinese companies holding more than 50% stakes in oil companies in Sudan which export heavily to China. The Russia-Belarus controversy and their (Russia) attempt to prevent the European Union from diversifying its natural gas import market away Russia as also the opening of the oil bourse in Iran as a petro commodity exchange market that trades in Euro posing a threat to the value of dollar in the world market is reason enough to believe that control of the energy market is going to lead to considerable international tension in the future.
Military tension for Control of strategic chokepoints in international waters like Straits of Hormuz and Malacca through which more than 65% of the world oil passes daily might arise. USA has always maintained that it would do anything to maintain and secure its oil imports and would not hesitate in revoking the Carter Doctrine. It is therefore imperative especially for developing countries to necessarily place securing energy resources as a priority in the national policies to escape the repercussions that might arise out of such a international crises of sorts.
Exploring alternative sources of Energy such as Wind, Solar and Tidal have been advocated for long but it is important to remember that only certain countries who have geographical and natural advantages with necessary infrastructural capabilities can take advantages of such technologies. The same argument goes for bio-fuels with the EU giving humongous subsidies to its farmers thus creating a barrier to trade in these especially to the already poverty stricken African countries. It is therefore necessary for the countries as well as world bodies like the WTO and the UN to look into amending the trade laws as well the TRIPS agreement that governs the patent laws so that such technology be made easily available across the world.
Moreover it is also imperative that the importance of nuclear energy be understood and that all proliferation concerns arising from such be wiped off at the earliest. It is also important for national governments to understand that efficient use of energy in itself is a potential alternative source; hence policies and campaigns regarding the same might be enacted. Usage of bi-cycles, car pools and improving the public transport infrastructure will go a long way in saving energy particularly that of oil and related products.