Revision cards on energy security.

~Energy supply, demand and security

~Impacts of energy insecurity

~Energy security and the future.

  • Created by: Chloe
  • Created on: 14-01-12 15:29


Energy Security: access to reliable and affordable sources of energy. Countries with surplus energy (e.g. Russia) are energy secure whereas those with an energy deficit (e.g. USA) suffer energy insecurity.

Energy Sources

Renewable Energy - Before industrial revolution, most energy sources were renewable such as water wheels, windmills and wood (biomass). Today, they account for about 4% of the global energy supply. Energy source is sustainable and regenerates naturally over human time scale. e.g. solar, wind, wave, tidal, HEP.

  • CONCERNS/ISSUES: Distribution and availability, expensive compared with fossil fuels, low energy densities, technology is expensive. Ruin landscape
  • BENEFITS: Does not release/produce carbon dioxide - doesn't contribute to global warming. 

Non-Renewable Energy - Our dependence on fossil fuels only began a few 100 years ago. In 2007, 85% of global energy consumption was from fossil fuels. E.g. Coal, oil, gas. Energy sources are unsustainable and there is a finite stock - they will run out.

  • CONCERNS/ISSUES: Releases large amounts of carbon dioxide - global warming, pollution, expensive to extract, disposal of radioactive material, geopolitics, peaking, security, safety?
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  • BENEFITS: generates a huge amount of energy, easy to find, cost effective, easy transportation.

Recyclable Energy - reprocessed energy. Requires careful management. Today, accounts for about 10% of the global energy supply. e.g. biomass, biofuels, nuclear power, HEP.

  • CONCERNS/ISSUES: Low densities meaning limited potential for large-scale electricity generation, large scale systems are expensive, using carbon sinks means releases of stored carbon dioxide, social, politial and environmental impacts, may not be economically viable, disposal of nuclear waste
  • BENEFITS: They reabsorb the carbon dioxide that they emit - potentially close to 'carbon neutral'.

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Environmental Consequences: 

  • Coal: heavy & bulky to transport, greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Oil & natural gas: New fields in environmentally sensitive areas e.g. Arctic. Large areas of land used, oil spill dangers, gas leaks, major damage to vegetation and wildlife. 
  • Nuclear: Safety issues (explosion at Chernobyl & spread of radiation across Europe 1986). Nuclear waste difficult to process and store.
  • Hydro-electric power: Large areas of land flooded behind dams. Vegetation drowned - releases methane and carbon dioxide. Silt deposits build up. Danger of dam collapse e.g. Sichian in China
  • Geothermal energy: large scale use generally limited to volcanic areas e.g. Iceland. Risks of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes & sulfuric gases.
  • Wind power: Visually unappealing in the landscape. Affect wildlife - particularly birds - can cause noise pollution for local residents.
  • Solar Energy: large areas of land needed to be covered with panels.
  • Tidal Power: destroy wildlife habitats, both upstream and downstream.
  • Biomass: could release greenhouse gases.
  • CHP (combined heat and power): depends on type of fuel used. More efficient method of energy production.
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Energy sources are used to generate electricity

In the UK:

  • most domestic and imported supplies of coal and natural gas and all of our nuclear power is converted into electricity.
  • Electricity is largest 'consumer' of primary energies. As a secondary energy - efficient, easy to transport, clean. Downside - cannot be stored.
  • UK total electricity has grown.
  • Shift to gas since 1987 and decline in nuclear power since 1997 (due to closure of old power stations and no replacements).
  • Different energy sources used for different parts of economy. TRANSPORT - oil. DOMESTIC AND INDUSTRIAL SUPPLY - gas and electricity.
  • Global energy consumption rising.
  • 2050 - demand and consumption expected to double due to population growth, economic development (particularly industrialisation) and rising standards of living.
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The energy 'mix' of a country depends on:

  • Physical factors - e.g. North Sea natural gas contributed to a 'dash for gas' in early 1990s.
  • Public perception - e.g. 1950s & 60s - nuclear power was positive. After Chernobyl disaster in 1986, public turned against nuclear power.
  • Politics - e.g. fears over politics of gas supply from Russia meaning countries are choosing nuclear power more often.
  • Technology - e.g. solar panels energy conversion increased from 5% to 40% between 1970 and 2008 - increased viability.
  • Economics - e.g. wind power becoming competitive with fossil fuels.
  • Environment - e.g. concerns over global warming - moving towards renewables, UK generating capacity increase from under 500 MW in 2001 to over 3000 MW by 2008.
  • Availability: many parts of the world, modern energy not available or inaccessible due to lack of necessary infrastructure.
  • Affordability: Modern forms of energy may be more expensive than traditional sources & not use them.
  • Cultural Preferences: Tradition slows the adoption of modern energy sources. 
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Physical geography - coal, oil and gas beneath a country is an accident of millions of years of geological processes. Energy sources are concentrated geographically and energy availability depends on factors such as geology, physical geography, technology and costs of exploitation. Exhaustion of reserves or disruption of supply lines by natural hazards e.g. earthquakes.

Environmental - protests about environmental damage caused by exploitation of energy resources

Economic - Sudden Rises in the cost of energy, or exhaustion of domestic supplies forcing increased imports of higher-prices energy

Geopolitical - Political instability in energy0producing regions, disputes or conflict over ownership of energy resources, or disputes over energy transmission by pipelines or cables across countries.

  • UK - rich reserves of coal, gas and oil. Large tidal ranges of up to 15 metres, some of Europes strongest winds and significant renewable resource potential. HOWEVER: low solar power potential.
  • Tectonically active areas - high geothermal potential (e.g. Iceland).
  • 2005 - 4 countries had 70% of global uranium production (used for nuclear power). Led by - Canada (28%) and Australia (23%)
  • 2025 - 60% of world oil supply will come from Middle East.
  • 27% of all proven natural gas reserves are in Russia.
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USA's 'energy crisis'

  • Energy hungry country
  • Oil used in every sector of the economy therefore any changes in price threatens the economy by making everything more expensive.
  • USA obtains most oil from overseas particularly the middle east - effects energy security.
  • 2007 - consumed 21.3% of global primary energy supplies and 23.8% of the worlds oil.
  • Energy needs = electricity, transport and heating. Main sources - oil and natural gas. Between 1960 and 2003, reliance on imported oil and gas increased from 18% to 58%
  • 9/11 and links to Middle East - USA concern over dependence of imported fuels. 2006 - President Bush said "America must end its dependence on oil. When you're hooked on oil from the Middle East, it means you've got an economic security issue and a national security issue".
  • 2008 - Price a barrel $140
  • Middle East - politically unstable part of the world. Can lead to potential disruption of supplies.
  • California energy blackouts- energy crisis between June 2000 and May 2001 because of price instability and major blackouts.
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  • Major political issue.
  • 1980s & 90s gas & oil from the North Sea meant that the UK was virtually self-sufficient in energy. 
  • Decline in source & UK becoming a new importer of gas in 2004.
  • 2020 - gas imports could account for 80-90% of demand.
  • Coal - 15% of UK primary energy & most imported. 
  • Coal - widely available from reliable sources at competitive prices.
  • Do not want to use coal because increase in carbon emissions - UK committed to reduce.
  • Oil - prices, increasing demands from China & India.
  • Gas - Russia 30% of EU gas supply. Political uncertainty. Concerns with pipelines.
  • Nuclear - All but one stations now due to close by 2023 - E.ON plans to build new stations. Public unhappy. New generation of nuclear power stations - labour government 2008 - to improve UK energy security. Safety issues and environmental pressure groups e.g. Friends of the Earth. 
  • Arguments:
  • Renewable energy could meet needs. 
  • Nuclear is expensive, dangerous and leaves waste for thousands of years. 
  • New nuclear stations undermines development of more efficient-renewable energy technology.
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  • Distribution and demand means that many countries rely on imports.
  • Energy Pathways: the flows of energy from the producer to the consumer.
  • Take the form of gas and oil pipelines, sea routes of tankers carrying oil and gas and electricity power lines.
  • Middle East exports 15,000 barrels per day mainly to Japan, Europe and China. Then, substantial amounts flow from Africa, Europe, Canada, South and central America to the USA.
  • Russia mainly supplies Europe with a small amount going to China.
  • Western Europe - Increasingly dependent on Russian gas. Russia - new political power and foreign currency. Pipelines run through former Soviet republics such as Ukraine. 2006 - 2009, gas supplies to Ukraine were cut off due to payment and price disputes. Down the line, France and Germany supplies fall by 20-30%
  • Nord Stream Pipeline should increase security of supply in northern Europe.
  • South Stream and Nabucco pipelines run through politically troubled areas.
  • Europe fear - Russia will be able to 'name its price'. 
  • UK domestic gas production peaked in 2000 and now in terminal decline. Future - rely on imports.
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  • Significant gas pathway - trans-Siberian pipeline. - The main conveyor of Russian natural gas exports. Russian section of this pipeline operated by Gazprom.
  • EU & Russia involved in battle over a pipeline which would make EU much less dependent on Russian supplies. Russia's reliability as a supplier in doubt. Called the 'Nabucco pipeline' and will be supplied with gas from a range of countries. Already some problems because Iran & Syria remain politically unstable.
  • 2030 - 30% of world oil likely to pass through narrow straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf - area of conflict. Oil & gas pipelines and supertankers vulnerable to attack during war and through terrorism. Supertankers vulnerable to piracy. Somali pirates seized the supertanker MV Sirius Star in 2008.
  • Piracy hotspot - Straits of Malacca.
  • Growing concern over the volume of oil that passes through so-called narrow 'pinch points' - can be disrupted or blocked easily
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What makes importer countries e.g. UK concerned about the risks associated with energy supply?

  • Growth in energy demand across the globe - particularly China and India. The impact this might have on the price. Huge demand for oil means rising prices. - Competing consumers
  • Concern over energy supply infrastructure. Transportation under threat of terrorism, lack of capacity, wear and tear to infrastructure, piracy and political rivalries. Huge amount of private investment needed.
  • Energy markets are unpredictable.
  • Oil price has 'spiked' four times and each time its been followed by a period of economic recession.
  • 2000 - petrol prices rise - 3,000 petrol stations close.
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Search for secure oil and gas supplies has led to exploration in technically difficult areas:

  • Extreme cold environments e.g. Arctic Circle
  • Deep water offshore locations e.g. West of Shetland
  • Politically unstable areas e.g. Sudan & Puntland in northern Somalia
  • Growing interest in non-conventional oil such as tar Sands, oil shales & heavy oil.

Athabasca tar sands, Canada.

Covers 140,000km2. A mix of sand and bitumen (tar) - 170 billion barrels. Steam injected into ground to liberate oil - technical issue. Environmental issues - removal of boreal forest and bogs. Water to oil ratio 2-5m3:1m3. Price per barrel - US$40.Huge amounts of energy used to heat oil to extract.

Largest onshore oil reserves in North America in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). However, huge wilderness inhabited by 45 species of land & marine mammals. Q: Protect or exploit?

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Oil-producing outside OPEC, OPEC & number of TNC's e.g. Shell, Exxon, Mobil & BP. China is becoming a player due to industrialisation - net importer.


  • Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries. 12 members: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Quatar, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, United Arab Emirates, Libya. etc.
  • Protects interests of member countries
  • Stabilise oil prices & eliminate harmful & unnecessary price fluctuations.
  • Ensure efficient, economic & regular supply of oil to consuming nations.
  • Accused of holding back production in order to drive up oil prices.
  • Significant oil produces decided not to join e.g. Russia, Norway, Mexico & USA.
  • 2008 - 36% of oil production.

PLAYERS: Consumers, National Governments, Pressure Groups, Local Governments, OPEC, International Organisations, TNCs, Utility Companies.

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Future Uncertainties

World energy supplies could trigger economic catastrophe:

  • Rise in consumption
  • Scares that we've reached 'Peak' oil - max rate of global production reached
  • IMF expects world economy to double in size by 2040 and global population of 8.5 billion people - energy demand +
  • Oil wells being pumped dry.
  • OPEC & other producer countries (particularly Russia) unpredictable.
  • Efficiency might lower demand e.g. home insulation.
  • Renewable & Recyclable Resources may reduce demand for fossil fuels.
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1. Business As Usual - Do Nothing.

  • Energy demand will rise by 53% & there will be a 55% increase in energy related carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Fossil fuels remain dominant.
  • Electricity generation will account for 44% of energy related emissions by 2030.
  • Coal will be largest supplier for power generation.
  • Over 70% of increase in global energy demand come from developing countries.

2. Multi-Energy Solution - meeting future energy demands from an energy mix of renewable, recyclable & non-renewable sources. Necessary to ensure energy security for both industry & individuals. 

3. Energy Conservation - Based on decreasing amount of energy used. Reducing consumption because of costs, emissions or to promote energy security. Has been high on EU political agenda. Countries have targets to reduce emissions.

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International Energy Authority (IEA) estimates that $22 trillion of new investment will be needed by 2030. Global challenge of climate change & need to develop cleaner sources of energy to improve, or at the very least, not worsen, the health of our environment. 2 ways:

  • by applying various 'carrot & stick' measures such as emissions controls, carbon trading & green taxation to encourage a reduction in energy consumption & an incr. in energy efficiency
  • by developing new & radical technologies that are sustainable & bring energy security

Emissions controls: The Kyoto Protocol 1997 - emissions controls at international level. Aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent human-induced climate change. It came into force in 2005, & by May 2008 it had been confirmed by 182 countries. 36 developed countries required to achieve specific reductions in their greenhouse emissions, average of 5% against 1990 levels over 2008-2012. Rapidly industrialising countries of Brazil, China & India have no obligation beyond monitoring & reporting emissions. Protocol weakened by refusal of the world's 2nd largest greenhouse gas emitter, the USA.

Emissions trading: an arrangement allowing countries that have made greater reductions in their carbon emissions than set out in the Kyoto Protocol to sell their surplus savings to countries that are over their targets - created a new commodity in the form of emission reductions/ removals. 'Carbon market'. 

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Green taxes: Introduced with the aim of cutting the use of natural resources & encouraging waste recycling. In the UK - vehicle excise duties (VED) that tax vehicles according to their level of carbon dioxide emissions. Owners of 'gas-guzzlers' pay more, as do those with older, less fuel-efficient vehicles. Also raising duty on petrol & diesel & raising air passenger duty on flights out of the UK.

Radical New Technologies
Offshore wind turbines: building these costs at least 50% more than on land, but wind speeds at sea are generally double those on land. THEREFORE offshore wind turbines can generate more electricity. Offshore turbines are less visible & audible than onshore wind farms - public arguments.

 UK plans to meet up to one-third of future energy needs with offshore wind farms HOWEVER objections from the Ministry of Defence saying that they could interfere with radar & pose a threat to national security. Horns Rev (North Sea off Denmark) is one of the world's largest offshore wind farms - 80 turbines. 160 MW

Carbon storage: whatever the future global energy mix, coal is unlikely to go away. On a world scale, it's cheaper, abundant & can often be locally sourced - an attractive commodity. China has accounted for over 60% of the global growth in coal consumption since 1997. CCS - 'capturing' carbon & burying deep underground. Concerns - Will it work? Will it stay trapped? Expensive.

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- Future may see resource nationalism - energy insecurity increases, countries turn to own energy resources.

- China agreements with Africa to ensure supply. Although helps poorest countries, arguments that Africa's oil should help African development, not Chinese development.

- Using the '5 Energy R's': Refuse (leave tar sands), Reduce (increase efficiency & decrease consumption), Research (new green technologies), Recycle (CHP & Landfill) & Replace (switch over from inefficient technology to efficient).

Long term: A switch to renewable seems inevitable.

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Lorna Kingsbury-Smith


very useful thank you!! :)

chris o'mahoney


thanks, these are really helpful!!






is this everything we need to know for the exam??

Selina Khatun


Thank You :)



Thank you sooooo much!!! ^_^

Veer Thakkar


why do energy players have such differnt perceptions on nuclear power?



Thanks ;)

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