The Geographical Journal

The Dilemma of Global Energy

By Paulette Cully

A recent article in the December Geographical Journal by Michael Bradshaw entitled “Global energy dilemmas: a geographical
perspective”, examines the relationship between global energy security and climate change policy. With growing concerns about the sustainability of the future supply of hydrocarbons and the fact that they are the single largest source of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, decarbonising the way energy is produced is a key component of climate change policy. The central proposition of the paper is that as the world faces a global energy dilemma can we have a secure, reliable and affordable supply of energy and at the same time, manage the changeover to a low-carbon energy system? The paper considers the present-day challenges to global energy security, and focuses on the possibility that future oil production might not be able to meet demand. It also looks at how the dangers of climate change are forcing us to rethink the meaning of energy security such that a low-carbon energy revolution is now called for. In addition, the paper explains that while the developed world is principally responsible for the anthropogenic carbon emissions in the atmosphere, a global shift in energy demand is underway and over the next 20 years it is the developing world that will contribute an ever-increasing amount of global emissions. The article also looks at global energy relationships explaining how the processes of globalisation are the driving force behind the shift in energy demand and carbon emissions. Finally, Bradshaw explains how the global energy quandary plays itself out in different ways across the globe.

Shedding further light on the future of fossil fuels, a report published in the same month by Deloitte’s Global Energy & Resources group, “The Oil and Gas Reality Check 2011, a look at 10 of the top issues facing the oil sector” analyses the oil and gas trends and issues for the coming year. The issues range from deepwater
drilling, where the next alternative energy source will be found and the
growing influence of Asia on the industry. According to the report it is
estimated that oil and gas will continue to constitute the world’s primary
energy supply for the next 25 years. It explains how Asia’s share in the growth in
demand for hydrocarbons has risen substantially while that of the Organisation
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and the European Union has declined. This shift has been caused by high rates of economic growth and increasing populations in many Asian countries. Simultaneously, up to three billion people in developing nations will have bought cars and adopted middle class consumption patterns by 2030. This suggests that more fossil fuels will be needed despite the fact that alternative forms of energy such as wind and solar have grown rapidly. In the meantime oil and gas producers feel they are a bridge to the new energy economy.

Click here to download the Delottie report.

Click here to read Bradshaw, M., 2010, Global energy dilemmas:a Geographical Perspective, The Geographical Journal, Volume 176, Issue 4, pages 275-290.

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