Tag Archives: BP

A Special Relationship?

By Alexander Leo Phillips

Originally coined by Winston Churchill in 1946, the ‘Special Relationship’ between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America has been tested in recent months. With splits in Middle East policy, the BP oil spill and anti-UK rhetoric by the US administration; it appears to some that maintaining the closest of ties to the US is no longer in the UK’s national interest.  So much so that a committee of MPs have even suggested that the term be officially dropped in all UK documentation.  They concluded that “the overuse of the phrase by some politicians and many in the media serves simultaneously to de-value its meaning and to raise unrealistic expectations about the benefits the relationship can deliver to the UK.”

It’s been clear for many years now that the balance of global power has shifted away from the once dominate United States to the emerging BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies, who look set to dictate the course of the 21st Century.  The UK has embraced this transition with unrivaled vigor and sort closer links with these nations. India in particular has been the target of Britain’s new coalition government; exemplified by Prime Minister Cameron’s visit there last week where he stated his intent to “take the relationship between India and Britain to the next level. [He] want[s] to make it stronger, wider and deeper.”

Britain’s ever evolving relationship with the USA has long been of interest to Human Geographers, focusing in particular on how the UK has situated itself as a bridge between America and European states such as France and Germany.  This relationship has been charted by Simon Tate in Area, who suggests that the diplomatic failures of the former Labour government where the result of an outdated geopolitical strategy.

Tate, S. 2009. ‘The high wire act: a comparison of British transatlantic foreign policies in the Second World War and the war in Iraq, 2001-2003’, Area, 41 (2). pp. 207 – 218.


Energy security

I-Hsien Porter

Our dependence on energy is increasingly fragile. In the US, oil companies are drilling deeper and taking more risks in response to the demand for cheap oil. In April, a Transocean/BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and sank, resulting in a massive oil spill. Regardless of how the situation has been managed, it was the demand for oil that meant that the oil rig, with all its associated risks, was there in the first place. Energy supplied by fossil fuel is becoming more risky to obtain.

Meanwhile, on the Isle of Eigg, off the west coast of Scotland, residents have been urged to use household appliances less as a lack of rain has reduced the amount of electricity generated through hydro-power schemes. Energy supplies are becoming more difficult to sustain.

In Belarus recently, piped gas supplies from Russia were reduced in response to a disagreement over payment for gas and the use of transit pipelines. Energy security is therefore not just a case of the geographical distribution of supply and demand, but is also dependant on complex social processes and international relations.

Michael Bradshaw deals with these themes in an article in Geography Compass, published in 2009. Bradshaw illustrates the multidimensional nature of energy security. For example, climate change policy is driving a reduction in reliance on carbon-based fossil fuels. At the same time, China and India’s rapidly developing economies are increasing their demand for energy, reshaping the challenges of energy security as they add their voices to the debate.

Geographers are well placed to understand the interface of the physical and political drivers of changing energy supply and demand. A key challenge remains in translating this into an understanding of energy security and the policies needed to sustain affordable and sufficient energy supplies.

Bradshaw, M. J. (2009) “The Geopolitics of Global Energy Security.” Geography Compass 3 (5): 1920-1937

US Oil Spill coverage (BBC News, 30th June)

No rain puts Eigg on toast watch (BBC News, 29th June)

Russia ‘to restart’ full gas supplies after Belarus row (BBC News, 24th June)

Geopolitics

By Caitlin Douglas

April’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a sobering reminder of the environmental and social implications of the USA’s dependence on oil. In 2009, Michael Bradshaw wrote an excellent and enlightening article in Geography Compass on the ‘Geopolitics of Global Energy Security’. The USA accounts for only 5% of the world’s population but consumes 25% of its oil. It is the third largest producer of oil (8%) but still imports nearly 60% of its petroleum needs. America’s domestic supply of oil peaked in the 1970s and has been declining ever since, making it ever more reliant on imported oil.

Interestingly the five major suppliers of crude oil and petroleum products to the USA are: Canada (18%), Mexico (11%), Saudi Arabia (11%), Venezuela (10%) and Nigeria (8%).  Only a relatively small proportion of oil is sourced from the Persian Gulf. This balance may not, however, always be an option as the top five countries with proved oil reserves are in the Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE).

Securing and maintaining a reliable oil supply has been a key element of American foreign policy for several decades. President George W. Bush recognized America’s addiction to oil, but saw the key issue as the USA’s dependence on ‘unstable parts of the world’ rather than its consumption of oil. In his inaugural address, President Obama also recognised the country’s dependence on these volatile areas but called for the use of renewable energy to ease the reliance on imported oil.

The question now is whether the devastation and resulting public outcry over the recent BP oil spill will provide the support and impetus to develop renewable forms of energy or will it merely lead to the exploration and exploitation of the untapped oil reserves in US friendly areas such as the Gulf of Guinea.

IP address shortage to limit internet access Read Michael Bradshaw’s ‘Geopolitics of Global Energy Security‘ in Geography Compass

IP address shortage to limit internet access Look at BBC’s pictures on the Gulf of Mexico Oil Leak,  the Oil Spill Clean-up, and the Continuing Clean-Up