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Will the single horsehair snap? : comparison of Europe¿s energy vulnerability after the 1973 oil Crisis and Today

Boersma, Tim (2006) Will the single horsehair snap? : comparison of Europe¿s energy vulnerability after the 1973 oil Crisis and Today.

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Abstract:Recently renewed political interest in the energy riddle can be witnessed. In addition the number of participants in the global market for energy has grown. It is interesting to state that the debate on the importance of energy resources is not new and in fact originated from the First Oil Crisis in 1973. This study aims at comparing these two debates and concludes what this should mean in terms of a possible future European energy policy. In order to reach the research objective a theoretical framework was based on three components. First interdependence theory focussed on mutual dependence in international relations and concluded that growing interdependence would increase the chances of conflict but in fact diminish the chances of escalation of these conflicts. Second political economist Klaus Knorr found that economic relations became obstacles in international politics. He envisaged that growing interdependence would thus become the breeding ground for future conflict. Finally a relatively new angle of incidence in security studies named securitisation theory was added to the framework, because recent developments indicate that energy issues are no longer merely an economic issue. Some limitations have been identified within the scope of this thesis regarding the comparison between the two different debates on energy security. First and most fundamentally the European Economic Community expanded and developed into the current European Union, a threat to clarity which has hopefully been dealt with sufficiently. Second, the Cold War ended, instigating growth in the number of liberal democracies and markets and hence accomplishing the current growth in the demand for energy resources. Finally diversity of supply and in addition diversity of resources have been identified as newly initiated strategies after the First Oil Crisis and their achievements are likely to have influenced to content of the current debate on energy resources. Following from the analysis the first conclusion is that despite all the efforts Europe will remain structurally dependent on the currently used energy resources. From an interdependence perspective it is likely to expect that a joint solution is somewhere in the future. Whether conflict over energy resources is possible remains debatable, since interdependence comprises more than energy resources and conflicts have multiple causes. Knorr would reason that conflict is already in the air, given for instance recent incidents concerning Russia, Iran and Sudan. This angle is less rosy and argues that Europe lacks common policy and means of defence, in other words that it is rather helpless in case of conflict. Although the United States are mostly fighting the same fights as Europe is, it can be doubted whether this will remain the case. From the viewpoint of securitisation theory it can be argued that given the importance of traditional energy resources and their evanescent nature in the end energy resources could be labelled as existential threat, thus approving of any means necessary to secure them. For the past three decades however there has not been a problem. In addition, there is not much Europe can do. How then must these scenarios be assessed? For the past three decades all the fuss has not become reality. Europe has devoted itself with reasonable results to the concepts of diversity of supply (own resources, Norway, Russia and Algeria) and diversity of resources (an increase in the usage of natural gas and in particular nuclear and renewable energy). What 4 stays an obstacle is the realisation of a European Union energy policy, which in fact has been initiated even before the First Oil Crisis. This can have far-reaching consequences given the globalisation of the energy riddle. Hence an energy policy is necessary, but it should not solely deal with matters such as security of supply. Following the analysis the key question should address whether we want to be dependent on energy resources or not. If yes, then we must ask for ourselves how long we want to get exited over Iranian uranium or the entrance of Russian Gazprom on the European energy market. The Chinese are proving that its strategy of what has been labelled `weak globalisation¿ is bringing grist to its mill. If on the other hand we do not want to be dependent on energy resources in the future, European leaders must search for alternatives even more energetically than they have done during the past three decades and in addition hope that success in this matter will bring them economic advantages alongside with independence.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Scientific Council for Government Policy
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:88 social and public administration
Programme:Public Administration MSc (60020)
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