Saturday, November 05, 2005

Europa e China na Ásia Central: a questão energética II

Part I
1.Energy Supply Security policy: the new challenges

The definition of energy supply security is not easy to draw, because it depends on “what the threats are, on who is threatened and on the cost of reducing the threats” (Mitchell 2000), which can be internal or international. Hence, the concept has changed over the last six decades. While, in the early 1940s the allocation of the energy supply was done according to the military priorities - due to the World War II the supply security was almost exclusively physical and the prices were fixed -, bypassing the years of the Bretton Woods Agreement (1945-1970), there have been huge transformations ocurred in the world energy supply market since the early 1970s, in the light of a global business revolution (Howeling and Amineh 2003a, 360).
First, the role of the government in the economy has been changing deeply and the energy sector is not an exception. There has been a shift from the concept of energy supply as a key and strategic area that should be kept in the hands of state because it should be accesible to all the citizens (the social democrat ideology after the War) to a new regulatory framework wherein the competition among private companies is encouraged in order to provide the consumer a wider range for choice. This movement towards a liberalization and deregulation of the market is occuring not only in the OECD countries, but also in developing nations, such as Brazil, China or India. In Europe the call of the European Single Act for the completion of the Single European Market, which was extended to the energy market in 1998-1999, shrank the national energy security scope of action. Second, there has been a transformation on the oil industry. The oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 had temporarily reduced the weight of oil in the energy market. Western economies began to develop in a faster pace alternatives to the oil depedendence. One of the oil’s competitors is the natural gas. But analysts doubt about the feasibility of natural gas, although the extensive and worldwide reserves, to replace the oil hegemony. Third, the competition in the oil business is increasing within and ouside the Organization of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)[2]. Technological developent has permitted the growth of exploration, through techniques as the deep water production, in areas like the North Sea or the Gulf of Mexico. Fourth, the control of enery sources, specially Oil has becoming increasingy a geostrategic asset. As Amineh and Howeling (2003c: 396) note, “oil and gas are not just commodities traded in international markets. Control over territory and its resorces are startegic assets”.[3] This is valid mainly for the importing states that are endeavoring to achieve energy security, i.e. “the availability of energy at all times in avrious forms, in sufficient quantity and at afordable prices”(Hansen 2003) . And these countries are exremelly vulnerable to the risks of sudden disruptions because it will have a tremendous impact iomn the economy and society: higher unemployment rates or lower standarts of living. And these disruption can occur because of political reasons (the 1973 Arab Oil embargo to the United States because of its position on Israel), internal politics in a major exporter (the Iranian Revolution), a regional war (Iran-Iraq war) or an overwhelming increase in the demand from a huge market before which the refinaries and the exporters do not have the means to respond properly (Chinese oil demand). To avoid and bypass these dangers “ an energy importing state may choose to diversify its energy supllies to secure its energy security or it may try to improve extisting energy supply relations.” (Hansen 2003, 13)

[2] The OPEC Members are Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kwait, Qatar, Indonesia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Indonesia, Libya and Algeria.
[3] The War in Iraq (2003), the USA invasion, illustrates how important is the territorial control of a source of energy like Oil. In that case, the control over a country with 112,500 million of barrels of proven crude oil reserves.


Amineh, Mehdi Parvizi, Howeling, Henk (2003a) “The Geopolitics of Power Projection in US Foreign Policy: From Colonization to Globalization”, Perspectives on Global Development and Technology, 15 September 2003, vol. 2, no. 3-4, pp. 339-389(51) Brill Academic Publishers.

Amineh, Mehdi Parvizi, Howeling, Henk (2003b) “The US and the EU in CEA. Relations with Regional Powers”, Perspectives on Global Development and Technology, 15 September 2003, vol 2, nº 3-4, pp. 521-547(27), Brill Academic Publishers.

Amineh, Mehdi Parvizi, Howeling, Henk (2003c) “Caspian Energy: Oil and Gas Resources and the Global Market”, Perspectives on Global Development and Technology, 15 September 2003, vol 2, iss. 3-4, pp. 391-406(16) , Brill Academic Publishers.

Hansen, Sander (2003), Pipeline Politics: the struggle for the control of the Eurasian Energy Resorces. Retrieved on June, 2004, from the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael Web Site:

Mitchell, John V (2000) Energy Supply Security: Changes in concepts. Retrieved on June 2004 from the Royal Institute of International Affairs Web Site:

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