Tag Archives: oil


by Fiona Ferbrache

In poignant ceremonies over the weekend, the US marked the tenth anniversary of, what have come to be known as, the 9/11 attacks (see Dalby, 2011:199 for a discussion of this numerical specification, rather than spatial context, of events) (McFadden, 2011).

The current issue of Geographical Journal (2011) is a themed edition entitled Ten years after: September 11th and its aftermath.  It contains papers from an array of perspectives, designed to encourage reflection on changing geographies (geopolitics in particular) of the last decade, and contemporary reflections on the significance of the 9/11 event.  This work is focused on the legacies of September 11th, in terms of how things have changed in the world, and how we conduct scholarly investigations around these changes.

Contributions to this special issue include commentaries on oil, border security, India-US relations, immigration enforcement, as well as contemporary artistic productions that have re-imagined processes of militarization and governmentalization.  In the final paper of this set, Gregory critically discusses the geographical dimensions of wars that have played out in the shadow of September 11th.  He focuses on three (what he terms as ambiguous) “global borderlands”; (i) Afghanistan – Pakistan, (ii) US – Mexico, and (iii) cyberspace.  He suggests that together they comprise “a distinctly if not uniquely American way of war” (Gregory, 2011:240).

In a similar way to the weekend’s commemorations and media attention around the tenth anniversary, these papers offer a meaningful commentary of some of the ways in which the world that we know, has changed.

  Dalby, S. (2011) Ten years after: September 11th and

its aftermath,  Geographical Journal. Vol.177, No.3 pp.198-202

  Gregory, D. (2011) The everywhere war, Geographical Journal. Vol.177 no.3 pp.238-250

McFadden, R. (2011) On 9/11 Vows of Remembrance. The New York Times. [online]

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.

The future of the Arctic?

By Richard Gravelle

The future of the Arctic in a warming climate is a hotly debated subject.  Retreating sea ice limits and melting ice masses have the potential to change the face of the region as we know it.  Unfortunately however, we may be heading towards a time when the future of the Arctic region is decided in the boardroom, and not by the Earth’s climate.

The commercial consequences of changes to the Arctic were brought to the forefront this week as an international meeting in Moscow sought to deal with the Arctic’s mineral wealth.

It is believed that one quarter of the worlds oil and gas are located beneath the Arctic Ocean, and this has led several countries to lay claim to territory in the area.  A well known example of this took place in 2007 when a Russian submarine planted a flag on the sea floor as a symbolic gesture of Moscow’s intentions.  Since then Norway, Canada, Denmark and the United States have laid claim to the region.  Russia, for example has promised the equivalent of £40 million in pursuing its claim.

The meeting will aim to end territorial disputes and promote cooperation between countries working in the Arctic.  However, with several of the interested countries having submitted, or intending to submit claims to the United Nations, the dispute does not look likely to end soon.

Arctic summit in Moscow hears rival claims – BBC News, 22nd September 2010

Russia plants flag under North Pole – BBC News, 2nd August 2007

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)

Killing U.S. Nurseries

By Georgia Davis Conover

As oil comes ashore on the US Gulf Coast from the British Petroleum drilling accident, the mangrove forests that line the Gulf Coast are in danger of dying.  The potential loss of mangroves presents a problem on a number of levels.  The salt tolerant trees sit at the water’s edge, growing maze-like root systems.  These root systems form nurseries which are crucial for the survival of Gulf of Mexico fisheries and for wading and fish-eating birds.  And, the mangroves serve another important purpose, protecting the fragile coastline.  In the hurricane ravaged Gulf, mangroves help prevent erosion in addition to disrupting storm surge.  Approximately 2,000 kilometers of U.S. mangrove coastline are concentrated in Louisiana, Texas and Southern Florida, the three states most likely to be impacted by the oil spill.  If the regions’ mangrove forests die off, not only are the fisheries and the economy that depends on them damaged, the possibility of storm damage also increases greatly.

Ostling, Butler and Dixon study mangroves around the world, most of which, they argue, are already threatened by anthropogenic practices such as aquaculture, forestry and urban development.  Efforts are underway in some areas to replant mangrove forests but just how successful those efforts will be remains to be seen.   The authors contend that the destruction of mangroves removes both protection from natural hazards and sensitive wildlife habitat.

Read: Ostling, Butler and Dixon. 2009.  The Biogeomorphology of Mangroves and Their Role in Natural Hazards Mitigation.  Geography Compass 3(5): 1607-1624.

Read the AFP article.