Global Energy Crisis

Global Energy Crisis

English Essay


1. Introduction 
2. What is an energy crisis?
3. Share of energy resources in energy supply 
a) Non-renewable 
b) Renewable

4. World consumption distribution 
5. World production distribution 
6. Causes of crises 
a) Surge in demand 
b) Resource nationalism – tighter supply
c) Political uncertainty 
d) Lack of diversity

7. Impact of crises 
a) Economy 
b) Politics 
c) Development

8. Environmental concerns 
9. Way out: Renewable energy 
10. Conclusion


Man is dependent on energy, which has been the key to his rapid industrial growth and technological development. The pace of development after the industrial revolution is unprecedented. Just 200 years ago, the world experienced an energy revolution that launched the industrial age. The catalyst to this epochal change was ordinary black coal – an energy-rich hydrocarbon. Man still relies mainly on these fossil fuels. 

Nevertheless, many other sources of energy: hydro, solar, nuclear, wind, geothermal, biogas and wave have been taped. These sources of energy are not only renewable but clean as well. Since the hydrocarbons are exhaustible and their use also threatens human health and the environment.

Energy is not only vital for the industry but it is also the lifeblood of our daily life. The consumption of fossil fuels has increased manifolds due to the rapid industrialization of developing countries like China and India. However, the major proportion of hydrocarbon is consumed by already developed countries like the US, Japan, and Western European states. Fossil fuels are also the main source of energy for heating houses and running motor vehicles and generation of electricity. Since the demand has been increased far more than the increase in the production of fossil fuels, a disproportionate imbalance between the demand and supply has been created which has resulted in an energy crisis.

If fossil fuel production remains constant, it is estimated that the reserves will be depleted soon. The oil crisis of 2008, when petrol prices soared to $150 a barrel, was an early symptom of such a scenario. The increasing demand coupled with speculations of depletion of fossil fuels caused a skyrocketing rise in prices, which was the principal catalyst behind economic crises in the world.

The energy crises are caused due to disproportionate dependence on non-renewable energy resources fossil fuels. The hydrocarbons; coal oil and gas together constitute 85 percent of the world’s total energy supply. Their respective share is oil 37 percent; coal 25 percent and gas 23 percent (total 85 percent). 

On the other hand the renewable resources of energy; hydro, solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal, biogas and wave constitute only 15 percent of the global share of energy supply. These are also clean sources of energy. The reasons may include technological barriers, initial cost, and political compulsions. Both the least developed and developing countries mainly face technological backwardness and barriers, while the developed countries have been too slow and reluctant to transfer their technology due to the higher cost and political reasons. 

The world distribution of energy consumption reveals that the most developed countries are the highest consumers of fossil fuels. The US, which is the most advanced country technologically and richest economically, consumes 25 percent of the total world energy output while its population makes only five percent of the world. This makes America the highest per capita energy-consuming nation. Second, comes Japan, which consumes six percent. The Western European countries which are also technologically advanced consume 15 percent of the world’s energy. China, a growing economy, consumes nine percent of the world’s energy resources. However, the rest of the world consumes only 45 percent of energy production.

This consumption is in sharp contrast to the production in respect of the regional distribution. As the US has only 2.4 percent of world oil reserves and 3.5 percent of gas reserves, Japan imports 75 percent of its energy needs, China imports more than 50 percent of its energy needs. The largest fossil fuel reserves are located in the Middle East and Russia. The Arab countries possess 61 percent of the oil reserves of the world but they are not big consumers. This uneven distribution of consumption and production is the one cause of the energy crisis. Other three causes behind the crisis include a surge in demand, tighter supply, political uncertainty in oil-producing countries, and lack of diversity of resources. These factors are:

One, the demand for energy resources has surged throughout the world. In 1970, the total consumption of the world was 204 Quadrillion BTU which doubled in 2000 to 402 Quadrillion BTU and is now around 500 QBTU higher.

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As the economy of the world is mainly dependent upon fossil fuel energy, the demand for oil and gas is increasing tremendously. Let’s take the example of China has more than doubled its oil use over the past decade to 5.55 million barrels a day. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has reported that China’s oil needs could almost double to 11 million barrels a day by 2020. The same is the case with India, the largest growing economy in South Asia. The Central Asian and South American countries have also multiplied their consumption due to rapid industrialization.

Two, the supply of oil and gas is mainly dependent upon the capacity to pump from the reserves. Though the Organisation of Oil Exploring Countries (OPEC) boosted the supply during the peak crisis in 2008 that was not enough to meet the demand of the market. Another factor determining the oil supplies is the volatile price mechanism. As the speculations cause an increase in the prices, the oil-producing countries get higher profits. This trend has led to the new political concept– Resource nationalism. The international firms have found themselves faced with tougher terms and shut out of the globe’s most promising oil basins.

Third, the supply of hydrocarbons is also affected by the political condition in the resource countries. Unfortunately, the political conditions in all the oil-producing regions are volatile. Even today the conditions in this region are not stable. The US forces are occupying Iraq in order to secure oil supplies. Iran is facing sanctions due to nuclear imbroglio with the West. Russia is also at odds with Europe on the gas supplies. Hugo Chavez is busy consolidating power in Venezuela where he is facing the US-backed political opposition. The Central Asian states have their own internal political turmoil. 

Fourth, nature has bestowed man with infinite resources of energy but man has made himself dependent on finite resources. The lack of diversity of resources is the chief cause of energy crises. Instead of harnessing new technology, the industrial growth in developing countries is increasingly dependent on fossil fuels.

Such importance of energy has made it an important element in the foreign policies of the independent states. The 20th century and dawn of the 21st century have seen wars fought for oil. In 1977, the CIA prepared a plan “Go to war to get oil” and subsequently, the US went to war with Iraq in the 1991Gulf war. America is again there for the same purpose. 

Similarly China’s foreign policy towards many regions of the world particularly Africa, the Middle East, and the Caspian Sea region, oil holds a critical status. This is also true for the South Asian region. Pakistan is engaged with Iran for the gas pipeline project and is equally interested in the Caspian Sea region – Central Asian States.

Besides these conflicts, fossil fuels cause havoc to our environment. Hydrocarbons are the chief source of greenhouse house gases-carbon dioxide, Methane, fluorine, which cause global warming. Burning coal accounts for 43 percent of carbon emissions. Oil and gas account for another 40 percent of emissions of CO2.

Fears of global warming aside, burning fossil fuel release chemicals and particulates that cause cancer, brain and nerve damage, birth defects, lung injury, and breathing problems. The toxins released by combusting hydrocarbons pollute the air and water and cause acid rain and smog. These negative implications of burning fossil fuels on the human environment and life make it incumbent upon man to diversify energy resources.

Henry Kissinger had said, “The amount of energy is finite . And competition for access to energy can become life and death for many societies”.

First; solar energy, the basic source of energy, can be converted and converted into different ways, such as simple water heating for domestic use or by the direct conversion of sunlight to electrical energy using mirrors, boilers, or photovoltaic cells.

Second; humans have been harnessing the wind for thousands of years and have succeeded in producing electricity from it. At present, wind energy constitutes 0.3 percent of the world’s energy supply but it has great potential. Germany is producing 23000 MW from wind, which is more than Pakistan’s total installed electricity generation capacity. Like solar energy, it is also a clean source of energy. According to the US Department of Energy, the world’s winds could supply more than 15 times its current energy demand. 

Third; hydroelectric power is another source of renewable energy in the natural water cycle. The flow of streams can be manipulated by the construction of dams at higher altitudes and the kinetic energy of the waterfall is used to rotate the turbines to make electricity. This is the very cheaper source and clean form of energy.

Fourth; atomic energy is hailed as a panacea to pollution problems generated by fossil fuels, and is destined to be the cheapest source of energy. But given the potential of energy and the capacity of technology to safeguard the nuclear plants, it is the quickest option to solve the energy crises in the world as one nuclear pellet (finger) produces energy equivalent to 17000 cubic feet of natural gas. 

Fifth; biomass is also a potential source of energy. Humans have been burning biomass materials since the dawn of time. It has been recently discovered to produce clean combustible gas from waste products such as sewerage and crop residue. Many countries have also invested in biofuels.

Sixth; another alternate source of oil is methanol – a clear colorless liquid made from natural gas, coal industrial garbage. 

Seventh; geothermal energy can be used with heat pumps to warm buildings or swimming pools in winter. This can lessen the need for other power to maintain comfortable temperatures in buildings, particularly in countries having very cold winters. 

The media and industry claim that renewable energies are not yet economically competitive fossil fuels. Perhaps not; but given the health and environmental costs, and limits of fossil fuels, the price of renewable energy is the only viable option. However, no renewable energy form will single-handedly replace oil, but together they will become a very important part of the energy mix of the future.

As the demand for energy is set to grow rapidly during the next 20 years the supply of energy is going to decline, which could give rise to competition and conflict coupled with economic instability. Meanwhile, human environmental and health hazards could become irrecoverable. And the first choice of sustainable energy is clean and renewable energy.

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