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An energy crisis is any great bottleneck (or price rise) in the supply of energy resources to an economy. In popular literature though, it often refers to one of the energy sources used at a certain time and place, particularly those that supply national electricity grids or serve as fuel for vehicles. There has been an enormous increase in the global demand for energy in recent years as a result of industrial development and population growth. Supply of energy is, therefore, far less than the actual demand.
Market failure is possible when monopoly manipulation of markets occurs. A crisis can develop due to industrial actions like union organized strikes and government embargoes. The cause may be over-consumption, aging infrastructure, choke point disruption or bottlenecks at oil refineries and port facilities that restrict fuel supply. An emergency may emerge during unusually cold winters due to increased consumption of energy.
Large fluctuations and manipulations in future derivatives can have a substantial impact on price. Large investment banks control 80% of oil derivatives as of May 2012, compared to 30% only a decade ago. Kuwaiti Oil Minister Hani Hussein stated that "Under the supply and demand theory, oil prices today are not justified," in an interview with Upstream.
Pipeline failures and other accidents may cause minor interruptions to energy supplies. A crisis could possibly emerge after infrastructure damage from severe weather. Attacks by terrorists or militia on important infrastructure are a possible problem for energy consumers, with a successful strike on a Middle East facility potentially causing global shortages. Political events, for example, when governments change due to regime change, monarchy collapse, military occupation, and coup may disrupt oil and gas production and create shortages. Fuel shortage is due to the excess and useless use of the fuels.
- 1970s energy crisis - caused by the peaking of oil production in major industrial nations (Germany, United States, Canada, etc.) and embargoes from other producers
- 1990 oil price shock - caused by the Gulf War
- The 2000–2001 California electricity crisis - Caused by market manipulation by Enron and failed deregulation; resulted in multiple large-scale power outages
- Fuel protests in the United Kingdom in 2000 were caused by a rise in the price of crude oil combined with already relatively high taxation on road fuel in the UK.
- North American natural gas crisis
- 2004 Argentine energy crisis
- North Korea has had energy shortages for many years.
- Zimbabwe has experienced a shortage of energy supplies for many years due to financial mismanagement.
- Political riots occurring during the 2007 Burmese anti-government protests were sparked by rising energy prices.
- 2000s energy crisis - Since 2003, a rise in prices caused by continued global increases in petroleum demand coupled with production stagnation, the falling value of the U.S. dollar, and a myriad of other secondary causes.
- 2008 Central Asia energy crisis, caused by abnormally cold temperatures and low water levels in an area dependent on hydroelectric power. At the same time the South African President was appeasing fears of a prolonged electricity crisis in South Africa."Mbeki in pledge on energy crisis". Financial Times. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
- In February 2008 the President of Pakistan announced plans to tackle energy shortages that were reaching crisis stage, despite having significant hydrocarbon reserves,. In April 2010, the Pakistani government announced the Pakistan national energy policy, which extended the official weekend and banned neon lights in response to a growing electricity shortage.
- South African electrical crisis. The South African crisis led to large price rises for platinum in February 2008 and reduced gold production.
- China experienced severe energy shortages towards the end of 2005 and again in early 2008. During the latter crisis they suffered severe damage to power networks along with diesel and coal shortages. Supplies of electricity in Guangdong province, the manufacturing hub of China, are predicted to fall short by an estimated 10 GW. In 2011 China was forecast to have a second quarter electrical power deficit of 44.85 - 49.85 GW.
- The Economist predicted that in the years after 2009 the United Kingdom will suffer an energy crisis due to its commitments to reduce coal-fired power stations, its politicians' unwillingness to set up new nuclear power stations to replace those that will be de-commissioned, and unreliable sources and sources that are running out of oil and gas. It is therefore predicted that the UK may have regular blackouts like South Africa.
Emerging oil shortage
“Peak oil” is the period when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. It relates to a long term decline in the available supply of petroleum. This, combined with increasing demand, significantly increases the worldwide prices of petroleum derived products. Most significant is the availability and price of liquid fuel for transportation.
The US Department of Energy in the Hirsch report indicates that “The problems associated with world oil production peaking will not be temporary, and past 'energy crisis' experience will provide relatively little guidance.”
To avoid the serious social and economic implications a global decline in oil production could entail, the 2005 Hirsch report emphasized the need to find alternatives, at least ten to twenty years before the peak, and to phase out the use of petroleum over that time. This was similar to a plan proposed for Sweden that same year. Such mitigation could include energy conservation, fuel substitution, and the use of unconventional oil. Because mitigation can reduce the use of traditional petroleum sources, it can also affect the timing of peak oil and the shape of the Hubbert curve.
Energy policy may be reformed leading to greater energy intensity, for example in Iran with the 2007 Gas Rationing Plan in Iran, Canada and the National Energy Program and in the USA with the Energy and Security Act of 2007. Another mitigation measure is the setup of a cache of secure fuel reserves like the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve, in case of national emergency. Chinese energy policy includes specific targets within their 5-year plans.
Andrew McKillop has been a proponent of a contract and converge model or capping scheme, to mitigate both emissions of greenhouse gases and a peak oil crisis. The imposition of a carbon tax would have mitigating effects on an oil crisis. The Oil Depletion Protocol has been developed by Richard Heinberg to implement a powerdown during a peak oil crisis. While many sustainable development and energy policy organisations have advocated reforms to energy development from the 1970s, some cater to a specific crisis in energy supply including Energy-Quest and the International Association for Energy Economics. The Oil Depletion Analysis Centre and the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas examine the timing and likely effects of peak oil.
Ecologist William Rees believes that
|“||To avoid a serious energy crisis in coming decades, citizens in the industrial countries should actually be urging their governments to come to international agreement on a persistent, orderly, predictable, and steepening series of oil and natural gas price hikes over the next two decades.||”|
Due to a lack of political viability on the issue, government mandated fuel prices hikes are unlikely and the unresolved dilemma of fossil fuel dependence is becoming a wicked problem. A global soft energy path seems improbable, due to the rebound effect. Conclusions that the world is heading towards an unprecedented large and potentially devastating global energy crisis due to a decline in the availability of cheap oil lead to calls for a decreasing dependency on fossil fuel.
Other ideas concentrate on design and development of improved, energy-efficient urban infrastructure in developing nations.Vittorio E. Pareto, Marcos P. Pareto. "The Urban Component of the Energy Crisis". Retrieved 2008-08-13. Government funding for alternative energy is more likely to increase during an energy crisis, so too are incentives for oil exploration. For example funding for research into inertial confinement fusion technology increased during 1970s.
Kirk Sorensen and others have suggested that additional nuclear power plants, particularly liquid fluoride thorium reactors have the energy density to mitigate global warming and replace the energy from peak oil, peak coal and peak gas. The reactors produce electricity and heat so much of the transportation infrastructure should move over to electric vehicles. However, the high process heat of the molten salt reactors could be used to make liquid fuels from any carbon source.
Social and economic effects
The macroeconomic implications of a supply shock-induced energy crisis are large, because energy is the resource used to exploit all other resources. When energy markets fail, an energy shortage develops. Electricity consumers may experience intentionally engineered rolling blackouts during periods of insufficient supply or unexpected power outages, regardless of the cause.
Industrialized nations are dependent on oil, and efforts to restrict the supply of oil would have an adverse effect on the economies of oil producers. For the consumer, the price of natural gas, gasoline (petrol) and diesel for cars and other vehicles rises. An early response from stakeholders is the call for reports, investigations and commissions into the price of fuels. There are also movements towards the development of more sustainable urban infrastructure.
In the market, new technology and energy efficiency measures become desirable for consumers seeking to decrease transport costs.High Oil Prices Boost Energy Efficiency. January 30, 2008 Planet Ark. Examples include:
- In 1980 Briggs & Stratton developed the first gasoline hybrid electric automobile; also are appearing plug-in hybrids.
- the growth of advanced biofuels.
- innovations like the Dahon, a folding bicycle
- modernized and electrifying passenger transport
- Railway electrification systems and new engines such as the Ganz-Mavag locomotive
- variable compression ratio for vehicles
Other responses include the development of unconventional oil sources such as synthetic fuel from places like the Athabasca Oil Sands, more renewable energy commercialization and use of alternative propulsion. There may be a Relocation trend towards local foods and possibly microgeneration, solar thermal collectors and other green energy sources.
Tourism trends and gas-guzzler ownership varies with fuel costs. Energy shortages can influence public opinion on subjects from nuclear power plants to electric blankets. Building construction techniques—improved insulation, reflective roofs, thermally efficient windows, etc.—change to reduce heating costs.
If an energy shortage is prolonged a crisis management phase is enforced by authorities. Energy audits may be conducted to monitor usage. Various curfews with the intention of increasing energy conservation may be initiated to reduce consumption. To conserve power during the Central Asia energy crisis, authorities in Tajikistan ordered bars and cafes to operate by candlelight."Crisis Looms as Bitter Cold, Blackouts Hit Tajikistan". NPR. Retrieved 2008-02-10. Warnings issued that peak demand power supply might not be sustained.
In the worst kind of energy crisis energy rationing and fuel rationing may be incurred. Panic buying may beset outlets as awareness of shortages spread. Facilities close down to save on heating oil; and factories cut production and lay off workers. The risk of stagflation increases.
Fictional scenarios have been explored in:
- Frontlines: Fuel of War, a first-person shooter game that depicts a global energy crisis in 2024 leading to war between Western Coalition (EU and USA) against Red Star Alliance (Russia and China) over the last remaining natural resources
- Ice, online comic
- Mad Max, depicts an energy starved post-apocalypse world
- Oil Storm, a 2005 television docudrama that portrays a future oil-shortage crisis in the United States
- Soylent Green, a film about a dystopian future in which overpopulation leads to depleted resources
- The Man Who Broke Britain, a BBC docudrama
- The Windup Girl, a 2009 award-winning biopunk science fiction novel by Paolo Bacigalupi.
- F. William Engdahl (Mar 18, 2012). "Behind Oil Price Rise: Peak Oil or Wall Street Speculation?". Axis of Logic. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
- Associated Press (12 March 2012). "Kuwait says high oil price not justified". UpStreamOnline. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
- "Musharraf for emergency measures to overcome energy crisis". Associated Press of Pakistan. Retrieved 2008-02-10.[dead link]
- "Pakistan's PM announces energy policy to tackle crisis". BBC. April 22, 2010. Retrieved 22 April 2010.
- "Energy crisis upsets platinum market". Nature. Retrieved 2008-02-21.
- "Coal shortage has China living on the edge". Retrieved 2008-03-08.
- "China's Guangdong faces severe power shortage". Reuters. 2008-03-06. Retrieved 2008-03-08.
- "TABLE-China power shortage forecasts by region". Reuters. 2011-06-02. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
- "How long till the lights go out?". The Economist. 6 August 2009. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
- Therramus, Tom (January 20, 2010). "Oil Caused Recession, Not Wall Street". Oil-Price.net. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
- DOE Hirsch Report
- "Super Fuel: Thorium, The Green Energy Source For The Future", Macmillan, (c) 2012.
- Bloomberg New Energy Finance, UNEP SEFI, Frankfurt School, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011
- Ammann, Daniel (2009). The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-57074-0.
- The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil - examines the effect of cold war oil shortages during the Special Period.
- Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict by Michael Klare
- Half Gone: Oil, Gas, Hot Air and the Global Energy Crisis by Jeremy Leggett
- The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler, explores a psychology of previous investment
- Eating Fossil Fuels by Dale Allen Pfeiffer
- The Coming Oil Crisis by Colin Campbell
- Energy and American Society - disputes an energy crisis exists in 2007
- The Final Energy Crisis (2nd edition) ed by Sheila Newman (Pluto Press, London, 2008); a study of energy trends, prospects, assets and liabilities in different political systems and regions
- The End of Oil by Paul Roberts
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