Energy dependency on the Middle East as a geopolitical extravaganzaDate: 18.07.2012
‘All power corrupts, but we need the electricity.’ Since the birth of first civilisations, it is taken for granted that humanity for its existence requires some kind of energy source to maintain the activities distinguishing man from the rest of the animal world. Nowadays, as the Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency puts it: “We are ending up with 95 percent of the world relying for its economic well being on decisions made by five or six countries in the Middle East,” namely Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE and Libya. The Middle East and North Africa, emerging since 1930s as the world’s major key to energy supplies and economic stability, cover up to 40% of global oil and 20% of gas demand as it is “home to 65 percent of global oil proven reserves and 45 percent of its natural gas,“ while the Middle East originated fossil fuels‘ exports were estimated to cover 22% of United States‘, 40% of China’s, 45% of Canada’s, 60% of India’s and 80% of Japan’s and South Korea’s energy demand. (Yetiv and Lu 2007) Saudi Arabia’s production equals 492 million tuns of oil a year, Iran’s extraction of 203 million tuns of oil per year stands for 85% of the country’s GDP revenues. At the same time the reliance of the states on the Middle East territory is likely to intensify as the demand for electricity is predicted to continue to grow worldwide by 5% a year. In such scenario¸ even with heavy investments in all energy sources ranging from oil and natural gas to biofuels, nuclear power, solar and wind, it will be extremely tough for the world to keep pace with the rising energy demand.
International Energy Agency in its reports publishes that renewable energy sources in 2010 maintain 13% of the global energy mix and suggests that it could increase up to 18% in 2035 while sustaining the same grow rate. On the contrary, United Nations Energy Program in its emission gap message highlights the necessity to rise the percentage of RES in global energy mix at minimum to 24% till 2020 in order to sustain global climate goals which are firstly the universal access to electricity for everyone, secondly 100% increase in efficiency of energy usage plus the elimination of emissions, and thirdly the increased percentage of green sources in the energy mix in order to eliminate the states’ dependency on imported oil. In fact, increasing nations’ call for energy security and self-sufficiency can be seen at many different levels suggesting several changes to be adopted for a ‘greener’ planet. Firstly, it is the supply pressure mounting on natural gas. Secondly, even though transportation already today accounts for 20% of global energy use which makes about 16 millions barrels a day out of 80 millions barrels a day of total consumption, the number of vehicles will double to 2 billion by 2050. (Broza 2011) Biofuels hence become the only low-carbon transport fuels that could be scaled up in short period to effectively solve the CO2 emissions leak from the global transport sector. Thirdly, carbon capture and storage are progressive technologies that capture CO2 emissions from coal, oil and gas fire power stations to avoid the fatal level of global warming predicted by the environmentalists to be in less than 30 years.
On the contrary, it is assumed that despite of the increasing alternative sources’ usage, their share in the energy mix by 2050 will not exceed 35% whereas the IEA studies predict the world oil consumption to rise by 60% by 2030. (Brinded 2010) Several challenges remain to confront the global transition towards renewables and therefore undermine the energetic dependency on the Middle East’s fossil fuels imports: 1) It is the lack of clear, objective governmental policy implementation. Even though the (developing countries’) governments are committed in terms of policy making, the main problem is the collective adoption of mutual goals and their transmission into the local projects. 2) Aggression by the first world in so called “land grabs” across the continents has been emphasized, accusing multinational companies of abusing the weak and uncoordinated legal basis, creating room for corrupt deals on land transfer. 3) Furthermore, waste management needs to be improved in the states to rely on alternative resources, for example in case of recycling the solar batteries after their expiration. 4) Lack of biomass energy resources mapping, 5) unattractive incentives for investors, 6) and accelerating deforestation must be improved for renewable energy sources to compete with established oil exploitation and dependency. 7) The costs of wind and solar power plants also enter the discussion as the actual capital cost of new onshore wind power station is about five times, offshore or solar ones 10 times more costly than gas fire power station. (Birden 2010) 8) The often adopted mentality of biomass being “poor man dirty energy source” plays its crucial role in ecologists’ struggle. 9) Limited engagement of local people, lack of know-how and capacities and no technology input as the crude oil tend to be processed elsewhere need to be taken into a consideration as well.
As suggested above, full and honest transition towards renewable sources in order to put the global energy system onto a sustainable and secure path is likely to take decades of technological effort and investment. Naturally, much of it counts with an active involvement of the public for example through banal shifts in transportation fuels including biofuels, hydrogen and electricity. However, as it is in majority the mutual disconnection of ideas between policymakers, investors, and the public that slows down the adoption of the alternative energy solicitation, propulsions for ecologically friendly planet fully (energy) independent states remain global society’s long-distance and long-time run.
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