As long as nations are dependent upon other nations to provide energy, their energy security will always be under threat. Only through using renewables can nations ensure their own energy security. Energy security can be defined as the association between national security, and the availability of natural resources for energy consumption. Energy security is not just the availability of an energy resource, it is a nation’s access to that resource. Much energy comes from countries whose political systems are unstable, (e.g. The Sudan and South Sudan) and could pose a threat to their customers, by not just cutting of an energy supply, but also militarily.
The 20th century was the century of fossil fuels, crude oil, coal, and gas; however, the supplies of such fuels are now exhausted. Extraction of fossil fuels is both economically and environmentally expensive. So why do we persist in the usage of such fuels? It’s obvious, a change in fuel means a change in technology and hence an initial economic loss. The most pertinent problem associated to a nations fossil fuel consumption is the politics that come with it.
Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most corrupt, suppressive, and extremist nation in the Middle East, yet the USA remains a close ally. Why? Saudi Arabia has 49% of the world’s un-extracted pure crude oil. By dominating OPEC Saudi Arabia is able to steer events in its favour. OPEC continues to sell oil at rock bottom prices to compete with Russian gas. Why? To punish Putin for his actions in the Ukraine. The truth is the Saudis know that the Russian economy is completely dominated by its export market for energy, and they don’t want to see Russia’s economy grow which would thus enable the nation to play a bigger role in the east. Putin has already gone into the Ukraine, what’s to stop him going further? The Saudis want to ensure that Russia’s economy declines which would thus remove the threat of Russian expansion. This shows the political power of energy resources, and more specifically, oil.
In addition, Putin’s actions in Ukraine and his annexation of the Crimea further the point of how energy can be used as a political weapon. Europe gets 30% of its gas from Gazprom, a Russian state dominated company, and 50% of this flows through Ukraine meaning 15% of Europe’s gas is dependent on a consistent flow through Ukraine. Ukraine is a former Soviet state, and without getting to heavily into Ukrainian politics there are a sizeable number of Ukrainians who long for the day when the they is once again part of Russia. Ukraine, however, is a sovereign state, and so regardless of the politics of its people Putin had no right to send in the troops. Putin held a referendum of questionable validity in the Crimea (a region of Ukraine) as the Crimea is (in the eyes of Russians) part of Russia. All these actions, although initially verbally challenged, have not resulted in any military action against the Russians. Instead sanctions were placed on Russia that harmed Europe more than the former. This illustrates the power of energy. Putin threatened to turn off the gas taps to Europe if his actions in Ukraine were challenged. A year has passed, and we still see Russian troops remain in Ukraine.
Above are but two examples of energy as a political weapon, there are many more. There is but one solution that’s good for both the planet and the world’s nations – renewable energy. Every country on the planet has enough natural events occurring in it, be it wind, rain, or sun, to generate enough energy for its people. Governments choose the traditional fossil fuels because they are available very cheaply and there’s plenty of technology to support them. This has to change, or else there shall be no planet left for political tension to exist in. I hope to see developing nations pick up renewable energy before their industrialisation, for in the long run the benefits outweigh the negatives.
The shift to renewables is beginning in the west, however it is hindered by the recent drop in oil prices. The G7 promised to phase out fossil fuels by the end of the century, I say we phase them out by 2050. If the governments of the G7 can afford wars and airstrikes whenever they get bored then they can certainly afford this! The main factor which prevents a more rapid shift to renewables is the lack of technology. We are unable to develop batteries that store energy for long enough, energy is instead put straight into the grid and used instantly. This means that turbines, solar, or HEP are unable to take advantage of times when they could generate lots of power as the grid may not need this power and there isn’t enough technology to store it. I believe that when batteries and energy storage solutions improve the shift to renewables will increase in magnitude. Dyson is doing some pioneering work to revolutionise batteries following their purchase of ‘solid-state’ battery company – one to watch.
To conclude, fossil fuels are outdated. Nations become dependent upon nations who have large stocks of such resources, thus allowing exporting nations to use energy as a political weapon. This must stop. Renewables save not only the planet but they also prevent the use of energy as a political weapon. Remember, nature doesn’t need people, people need nature…so don’t destroy it.