Energy Security

Book Review

Reviewer: Sabit Ibrahim Akca

Publisher: Polity, 2017 ISBN: 9780745661919
Author's page: Roland Dannreuther

Energy Security

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Increasing dependence of modern societies on energy resources has pushed energy security to the top of the international agenda, turning it into an indispensable means of preserving and advancing economic prosperity. This prosperity, however, is not divided equally among states and the role of multi-billion dollar modern energy systems in controlling energy resources is overwhelming, becoming a root cause of unjust and corrupt social, economic, and political relations.

Energy Security, as pointed out by Roland Dannreuther, is a book that focuses on the politics of energy security while also recognizing that understanding and addressing energy security issues cannot be done without taking a multidisciplinary approach. In order to understand or address the issues of energy security along with vulnerabilities, challenges and conflicts that the increasing dependence on key energy resources have brought to modern civilization, the book focuses on explaining the nature of energy security, locating it within a global, regional and national political framework.

There are significant differences in how the concept of energy security is applied relative to the particular energy source in question.  Each source has its own unique advantages and inconveniences. Coal, for example, is rarely included in international energy security concerns since it is cheap and geographically more distributed than oil and gas. At the same time, despite the alarming damage that the usage of coal is bringing to our global environment, major developing nations, such as India and China, keep using coal as their primary source of energy and the availability of coal as local resource is seen as a fundamental component of their energy security.

Gas, in comparison, raises far more concerns. This is illustrated in Energy Security by the case of Russian energy supplies to Europe. Since any disrupt in oil trade between Europe and Russia could be compensated for rapidly by other oil-producing states, European consumers are more distressed about possible disruptions in gas trade with Russia due to long-term contractual arrangements in order to make gas trade profitable, a lack of alternative providers of gas and already fixed intercontinental pipelines. For nuclear energy, the risks to security come from the danger that countries may undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and might seek to produce nuclear weapons. There is also the possibility of accidents while producing nuclear energy, which have gained attention particularly after major accidents such as Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011. In the book, each of these difficulties and advantages is evaluated by analyzing the linkages between security, power and justice relations in chronological order.

When analyzing energy security concerns, oil is observed as the major source for anxiety and vulnerability. What are the reasons for this anxiety? Is the so-called ‘resource curse’ thesis valid? How did oil manage to seize the throne from coil as the key resource for energy despite the risks it imposed? Roland Dannreuther draws attention to these questions in Energy Security through observations by a multidimensional approach. The reality that main reserves for oil are constrained to a few locations along with the political instability of these locations is a source for concern and anxiety for supplier and consumer states. Also, the economic advantage that oil brings for resource-rich states and significant higher revenues than those of other energy sources are factors contributing to energy insecurities. While production costs for a barrel of oil is low, the price that is paid on the international market is vastly greater. This economic advantage of resource-rich states instigates a sense of resentment and envy from other less resource-rich states and has contributed to the development of unequal social and political relations throughout the world, which subsequently has resulted in a rise of conflicts for energy resources.

The ‘resource curse’ thesis consists of the idea that resource abundance might be a constraint on development. Experiences of Latin America in the interwar and immediate post-World War II period have contributed to this thought. It was argued that those who develop extractive industries for energy resources are constrained to the production of raw materials, resulting in underdevelopment and domestic insecurities. However, the cases of the United States and Norway (regarding their development during the 1970s while they were energy self-sufficient states with resource abundance) discredit the ‘resource curse’ thesis. Dannreuther argues that a change from a ‘resource curse’ to a ‘resource blessing’ is dependent on the capacity of states to invest in technological innovation and scientific knowledge in order to diversify their economies in a sustainable way.

In a remarkable manner, this book explains the nature of energy security by analyzing the concept in different contexts. In order to understand energy security issues, Roland Dannreuther gives particular weight to historical legacies and developments that still continue to impact the ways in which energy security is currently conceptualized and questioned. However, on a critical note, despite the sufficient historical and contemporary coverage of energy security issues, the lack of attention paid to cyber risks in the energy sector is a shortcoming. With growing dependency on technology that has accompanied the information age, the energy sector has developed into a target for cyberattacks. Such attacks can result in infrastructure shutdown, triggering economic and financial disruptions. Therefore, including cyber security studies while analyzing issues related to energy security has the potential to become an essential part of security studies due to rapid technological advancements. Despite this shortcoming, the book is a must-read for students and professionals seeking a comprehensive overview of energy security issues.

2018 - Volume 12, Issue 3