18.104.22.168 Energy security
With international oil prices fluctuating around 70 USD per barrel (Brent Crude in the first half of 2006; EIA, 2006a) and with prices of internationally traded natural gas, coal and uranium following suit, concerns of energy supply security are back on the agenda of many public and private sector institutions. Consequently, there is renewed public interest in alternatives to fossil fuels, especially to oil, resulting in new technology initiatives to promote hydrogen, biofuels, nuclear power and renewables (Section 22.214.171.124). Higher oil prices also tend to open up larger markets for more carbon-intensive liquid fuel production systems, such as shale oil or tar sands. However, first and foremost, energy security concerns tend to invigorate a higher reliance on indigenous energy supplies and resources. Regions where coal is the dominant domestic energy resource tend to use more coal, especially for electricity generation, which increases GHG emissions. In recent years, intensified coal use has been observed for a variety of reasons in developing Asian countries, the USA and some European countries. In a number of countries, the changing relative prices of coal to natural gas have changed the dispatch order in power generation in favour of coal.
Energy security also means access to affordable energy services by those people – largely in developing countries – who currently lack such access. It is part and parcel of sustainable development and plays a non-negligible role in mitigating climate change. Striving for enhanced energy security can impact GHG emissions in opposite ways. On the one hand, GHG emissions may be reduced as the result of a further stimulation of rational energy use, efficiency improvements, innovation and the development of alternative energy technologies with inherent climate benefits. On the other hand, measures supporting energy security may lead to higher GHG emissions due to stepped-up use of indigenous coal or the development of lower quality and unconventional oil resources.