The study of global energy security in the context of socio-philosophical problems is necessary because global energy security has already been transformed from a purely technical and economic system, into a socio-forming and ontological system (OCHA, 2010; The Quaker Council for European Affairs, 2010; Stoddard, 2013, etc.).
In this report I attempt to identify global energy security’s key socio-philosophical and political issues, in order to seek a new model for the efficient and stable operation of this system. As a basis for the formation of such a model, I propose the development of an important ontological system, ‘the energy security of the person’.
This development implies a revision of the relationship between humans and nature, as well as an identification of the main spiritual and ethical problems determining humans’ uncontrolled consumption of energy resources. The proposed model should include the uninterrupted self-knowledge of individual human beings and the realisation of their spiritual and intellectual potential, which will inevitably lead to a revision of the stereotypes of spontaneous consumer behaviour. Otherwise, humans may face the risk of becoming elements of the consumer cycle, or in other words, a resource for the ideological construction of the ‘consumer society’, as proposed by the philosopher Jean Baudrillard.
I attempt to determine the civilisational significance of energy and its influence on the formation of social and inter-state relations. I also study demographic aspects of global energy security, and I affirm that the growth of the world population and the global increase of energy consumption are not directly correlated.
The report has an interdisciplinary essence and it is based on the methodological apparatus of philosophy, economics, political science, and social psychology.
Energy Security as a Scientific Category
The Main Research Direction of the Report
Among the contemporary world’s constant increase of risks and threats in different areas of human activity, security is one of the most important, and at the same time one of the most controversial, categories in scientific, political, economic fields. There are many definitions of the category in scientific literature, and it has already turned into a philosophical category as an important precondition for the life of the human, the state, and society (Langlois-Bertrand, 2010).
According to the traditional classification of human needs (Maslow’s pyramid), after physiological needs, the need for security is one of the basic or civilisational ones. It expresses the desire of a human being to safeguard and defend life, and to protect oneself, relatives, and home from invasion, natural disasters, or any kind of discomfort. Security and physiological needs enable the further development of human civilisation and culture, which in turn includes social, prestige-related, and spiritual needs.
In general, security results from activity that ensures the security of the individual, society, and the state. These three components form a multilevel system of national, regional, and international security, by protecting the vital interests of individuals (citizens), society, the state, and also national values and lifestyles, from a wide range of external and internal threats that differ in nature (e.g., political, military, economic, informational, environmental).
Thus, security involves qualitatively different elements, which are commonly understood through the analysis and evaluation of various external and internal threats. In this report I focus on one of the main elements of national and international security: energy security, which has become one of the most important kernels in the current system of international relations.
Within the framework of the report, I will try to prove the following thesis:
The problem of a continuous process of human image formation ‘as a consumer’ is key to the philosophical understanding of global energy security. Being an insatiable consumer of energy (and other) resources, the individual is considered a resource for the construction of various ideological structures, which require examination and assessment in terms of social philosophy and psychology.
This means that in contemporary conditions, humanity becomes a resource for implementing the ideological construction of a society of consumption. Therefore, we need to rethink the traditional thesis – that immense consumption of natural resources leads humanity to spiritual crisis – regarding this problem. The basic problem is that the psychology of reckless consumption instilled in human beings through the media, pop culture, etc., inevitably leads to alignment of human activity with the principle of consumption, which includes energy consumption. In short, we should apply a logical chain, ‘spiritual crisis – immense consumption – spiritual crisis’, instead of ‘immense consumption – spiritual crisis’. This latter chain leads to a constant widening of energy infrastructure, especially in developed countries where energy consumption is higher than in transition countries or ‘developing’ countries. It is obvious that the average amount of energy consumed by the average resident of the US or Europe is much higher than the amount of energy consumed by the inhabitants of Africa and South Asia. But it is also important to outline the active struggle undertaken by key political actors for traditional energy resources (oil, gas, etc.) and features of energy infrastructure (pipelines, power plants, etc.). In some regions these struggles turn into long international and civil wars and even provoke mass purges of local populations, often with all the characteristics of genocide.
When investigating the problems of global energy security, we should therefore focus our efforts on building a system of ‘human security’. In the context of this report I offer the following definition of ‘human security’: human security is a system in which humanity is not susceptible to spiritual crisis, and is not considered a resource for the implementation of ideological constructions such as the post-modern design of consumer society. Although this approach is not popularly practiced today, it brings together the fixed, yet rarely compiled, principles of contemporary political, economic, spiritual, and social life: anthropocentrism, eco-centrism, and democratisation. It is therefore necessary to determine methods for constructing a ‘human security’ system that includes a ‘human energy security’ subsystem, directly related to the culture of consumption.
The Concept of Energy Security
In turn, we also need to define the concept of energy security. In accordance with the thoughts of Daniel Yergin, the current model of energy security, which was born out of the 1973 crisis, focuses primarily on how to handle any disruption of oil supply from producing countries. Today, the concept of energy security needs to be expanded to include the protection of the entire energy supply chain and infrastructure – an awesome task (Yergin, 2006). The varieties of approaches to defining energy security will be discussed in the following section.
The Role of the Philosophical Method in the Study of Global Energy Security
At the present level of development and diversification of scientific knowledge, the role of philosophy seems vague and blurred. This issue is particularly relevant today, when society has developed the need for industry-driven trends in science, such as nanotechnology, environmental trends, etc. In precisely this respect, philosophy may have methodological significance in the development of new scientific knowledge that aims to solve problems in today’s world. The very formulation of our theme – ‘global energy security as an ontological system’– suggests the need to consider problems of world energy in the philosophical context, using philosophical research methods. This is especially important because achieving global energy security is an issue that is conceptual in nature, and its consideration when limited within particular sciences is highly inefficient. Therefore, an appeal to the philosophical method determines the interdisciplinary nature of our research.
At present, due to the number of philosophical categories and principles, many distinct theories and new interdisciplinary sciences are forming. It is necessary to consider what kind of functions philosophy performs in relation to specialised sciences; this will help us identify the basic philosophical methods used in this report. Three main functions of the philosophical method can be identified: heuristic, integrative, and coordinating (Alexeev, Panin, 2005).
The essence of the heuristic function (Greek: heurisko – retrieve, open) is to study the methods used in the discovery of new knowledge. Consequently, the task of the heuristic function is to create prerequisites for the development of new scientific knowledge.
One of the most important functions performed by the philosophical method in relation to the special sciences is the integrative (from the Latin integration – restoration) function. The essence of this is to create the necessary preconditions for the interaction of individual sciences, which often leads to the creation of new scientific disciplines.
Philosophy also coordinates the methods in the process of scientific research, so the coordinating function of the philosophical method emerges here. The essence of this function is the coordination of methods in the process of scientific research. The need for the coordination of private methods arises against the background of considerably more complicated relations between the subject and the method, with the aim of having a counterbalance to the negative factors associated with the deepening specialisation of scientists.
Therefore, all three basic functions of the philosophical method should be used when studying problems of global energy security. The heuristic role within this report is to create new knowledge about global energy security; the integrative role is to create a necessary platform for the inter-penetration of different particular sciences (economics, sociology, statistics, political science, geopolitics, history, etc.), as well as to create new interdisciplinary knowledge of global energy security; the coordinating function is interesting primarily because it determines the scope of the report and the set of methods necessary for understanding the problems raised.
It should also be noted that in addition to the functions mentioned above, philosophy also plays an important role from the psychological perspective. Karl Popper, in his book The Logic of Scientific Discovery, writes that the scientist must believe in his creativity; that is why he requires a belief in the speculative philosophical construction that begins with the construction of scientific theories. Setting the principle of falsification against Wittgenstein’s principle of verification, Popper concludes that philosophical statements can increase the empirical content of scientific contexts; they can enrich the theory they belong to, and thereby increase the degree of falsifiability (Popper, 2005). Here, we can derive another – psychological –function of the philosophical method.
Directly addressing the methodological basis of the report, one should note that because the report is an attempt to comprehensively and conceptually understand global energy security, we should first of all appeal to the method of structural analysis, using functional decomposition, i.e., the decomposition of a large and complex problem into a number of sub-targets, in this case:
- Definitions of global energy security;
- Identification of ontological problems within the investigated problems;
- Economic and statistical aspects;
- Socio-philosophical problems;
- Political and geopolitical problems;
- Moral and psychological problems.
On the other hand, this decomposition may also be carried out at the subtask level. Structuring the problem in this way, we have the opportunity to penetrate deeper into its various aspects, and only then are we able to understand the whole problem at its most complex level, and able to make adequate conclusions, both in particular and in general.
The methodology is also based on a complex approach that includes analysis of the scientific and normative literature, analysis of mass media, and a study of contemporary energy security practice that involves the identification of influence from social-philosophical and political components. The report uses the system-functional method, content analysis, and factor analysis, followed by evaluation of the most rational models for ensuring global energy security.
Definitions of Energy Security
As one of the most complex components of the multilayer system of national security, energy security requires a deep and multilevel study. This applies not only within the traditionally adopted framework of economic, technical, natural, and political sciences, but also – with the appropriate methodological apparatus – in philosophy. However, the application of a multilevel study of this kind calls for access to the categorical apparatus of philosophy, and does so in a way that is not common practice within the framework of modern science, which focuses on problems of energy security. This can be justified because the use of philosophical methods and categories is primarily necessary due to the transformation of energy security from a purely technical and economic system, into a socio-forming ontological system.
For a number of economic, political, and technical reasons, energy security is currently exposed to a number of threats and risks. These threats and risks can be both internal and external: internal ones mostly boil down to technical or management problems, while external ones are primarily caused by political, and often geopolitical and geo-economic problems. In order to gain the most comprehensive understanding of such threats, and seek their further elimination or minimisation, we should turn to a few definitions of energy security.
The World Energy Council (WEC) defines energy security as “the belief that energy will be available in the quantity and quality that are required in the present economic conditions” (World Energy Council, 2013). It is evident that similar definitions in no way reflect actual energy security threats because they relate only to the economic side of the system.
Experts from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) offer a more comprehensive, multi-faceted definition of energy security: “energy security is a stable system that is able to withstand energy threats by consistent implementation of the necessary measures, active surveillance and protection, renovation of old equipment, diversification of fuels and other energy sources, ensuring the availability of less vulnerable infrastructure” (Matthew, Rewey, Gagliano, 2003). Alongside aspects of infrastructure and management, the authors of this definition pragmatically point out political factors; they note that the attention of politicians is particularly focused on energy security risks in crisis periods. As an example, the authors discuss the terrorist attacks in the United States of 11 September 2001, which had a direct impact on the architecture of the global energy market, and consequently, on the international energy security system.
The European Commission defines energy security as a multifaceted system. In order to provide energy security, the following five principles should be implemented:
- Energy security, solidarity, and trust. This principle focuses on diversification of supply (especially for gas), on the improvement of member state coordination in response to crises, on a stronger European role in global energy markets, and on higher levels of transparency in the supply of gas.
- A fully integrated European energy market. This focuses on ‘hardware’ (such as pipelines) to link markets through physical interconnections, as well as on ‘software’, like enforcing energy-related legislation and removing regulatory barriers to integration. It also targets increased regional cooperation and a stronger focus on consumers and vulnerable energy customers (generally the poor and the elderly, for whom affordability is a key issue).
- Energy efficiency, contributing to a moderation of demand. This principle focuses on increasing energy efficiency, particularly in the construction and transport sectors.
- Decarbonising the economy. This focuses on integrating the 2030 Climate and Energy Package into the European Energy Union process, maintaining the EU Emissions Trading System, and retaining world leadership in renewable energy.
- The principle of research, innovation, and competitiveness focuses on developing a new strategy for research and innovation in areas such as renewables, smart grids, carbon capture and storage, and nuclear technology (European Commission, 2015).
In Russia, energy security is usually defined as saving the economy from threats to reliable fuel and energy supplies. These threats, in turn, are defined by external factors (e.g., geopolitics, macroeconomics, periodic crises), and the condition and operation of the state energy sector (Russia’s Energy Strategy 2020, 2003). It is noted that national security is one of the main objectives of energy policy, and special attention is given to the sustainability of the energy sector, as well as its ability to minimise damage from various destabilising factors. Here, risks presented by political reasons are considered: war; terrorism; and increased systemic competition in international relations. Protection from such risks is an important component of national security. It can therefore be stated that energy security is not only an important component of national security, but a key method of guaranteeing its maintenance and protection.
Attempts to generalise and systematise definitions of energy security, available both in scientific and official literature, are made by different researchers. There are currently three complementary definitions of energy security used across the breadth of literature
- Energy security – the belief that the necessary amount and quality of energy required will exist under certain economic conditions;
- Energy security – the state of protection of the vital ‘energy interests’ of citizens, society, and state from internal and external threats;
- Energy security – the degree of protection of the country (or region), its people, society, state, and economy, under normal conditions and in emergency situations, from the lack of quality, economically affordable energy resources, as well as from threats to the stability of fuel and energy supplies (Karapetyan, 2009).
In summary, energy security can be defined as a set of political, economic, legal, organisational, methodological, and other activities that provide high-quality and reliable power supply at economically reasonable prices, to satisfy the needs of the state in everyday life, as well as during emergency situations and war.
As we consider energy security using a complexity of measures, we can conclude that its integral core is the regulation of the system’s management processes: political, economic, and legal. Humans are therefore key links in the energy security system, obliging the state to regularly increase efficiency levels by training and retraining the personnel involved in the sector.
The Conceptual Understanding of Global Energy Security
Within the framework of modern science, there are three main areas we study concerning the problem of energy security, both at global and national levels. The first one is the technical field which examines issues that are related purely to engineering in nature: the design and construction of power plants; fuel processing; studying landscapes for the construction of pipelines; etc. The second is the economic field, and focuses on the economic efficiency of energy projects; logistics; supply; analysis of tariffs; etc. The third is the political field, exploring the impact of energy markets on international relations, the role of energy in geopolitical processes, and things like pipeline wars. These three are seen to completely cover the entire range of energy security issues, and demonstrate its multi-level and interdisciplinary nature. However, there is a gap in the contemporary scientific knowledge of energy security, represented by its little-studied philosophical, social, ethical, and spiritual aspects (Kimmins, 2001; Dernbach and Brown, 2009).
International security is usually studied in the framework of philosophical concepts such as: neorealism (Waltz, 1979), which views the nature of international relations as one of perpetual chaos and international anarchy, forcing different states to increase their military power; and neoliberalism (Mundell, 1965), which reduces international relations to the free flow of the world market, or in other words, to globalisation. In addition, the concept of international security has traditionally been explored within theories of social constructivism (Vygotsky, 2005), which denies the existence of natural laws in economics and politics, and comparative-historical sociology (Weber, 1946), which aims to describe and interpret differences and similarities between historical eras.
Within the context of international security, analysis from numerous researchers confirms the prevalence of the neorealist concept in the study of energy security (Luft, Korin, 2009; Shaffer, 2009; Marín-Quemada et al, 2012). Within the framework of the neorealist tradition, a key role is given to the interests of nations seeking to maximise access to energy resources and to provide the most favourable conditions for the implementation of their energy resources in world markets. According to neorealism’s proponents, conflicts are inevitable between states in a competitive environment, and this leads to military build-up. It is no coincidence that one of the most important investigations carried out within this framework is the military aspects of energy security. This seems quite logical in view of the indisputable influence of energy resource struggles on today’s global escalation of violence; this is itself caused by the spreading policy of resource nationalism in countries with essential energy resources.
Neoliberalism requires a different approach to the study of energy security, considered within the overall context of international security. As noted above, neoliberalism’s basic principle is built on the creation and smooth operation of the global market, operating on the basis of mutually beneficial international cooperation. Certain patterns of interaction between states undergird this cooperation, and unlike neorealist perspectives, particular importance is attached to the activity of international organisations. From the neoliberal perspective, the presence of a free global market involving the trade of energy resources minimises the possibility of the so-called ‘energy weapon’– the application of an embargo on the supply of energy resources, preventing market actors from fully controlling the pricing mechanism – being used. Consequently, the world energy market creates the conditions for peaceful and mutually advantageous cooperation among both energy-exporting and energy-importing states.
According to neoliberal theory, we can conclude that the world energy market, among other sectors of the global economy, is the guarantor of security and stability in contemporary international relations. In essence, this is the main difference between the neoliberal and the neorealist approaches.
However, an opposing position should also be taken into account, which points out that in spite of the engagement of numerous international institutions, international politics today witnesses applications of double standards, the increasing reality of a bipolar world, and several other factors that show the implementation of neoliberal values to be of limited value. As a stabilising factor in the global political system, the role of energy – as well as other sectors of the world economy – is thereby seen with secondary importance. This is consistent with the structural power theory of Susan Strange, who considers energy a secondary structure, affected by the military and financial markets (Strange, 2004).
As one of the most popular theories used today in studies of problems in international relations and world politics, constructivism essentially involves the nominating of ‘the world of ideas’ to the forefront of what one thinks gives definition to the material world. The ‘world of ideas’, which includes a variety of social values, as well as cultural and mental stereotypes, collective goals, and threats, affects the material world, modifying it and giving it new meanings. Moreover, according to constructivist theory, these ideas form or design global political and economic processes. Within constructivist frameworks, it is postulated that the entire system of international relations is a social construction determined by a certain set of social ideas. Politicians, national leaders, diplomats, and other key actors in international relations are carriers of social ideas typical of the social structure they are part of. Thus, a broad range of ideas, from national values to collective fears, often plays a key role in decisions made by individual actors. International relations are therefore a kind of competitive confrontation of different sets of ideas and values.
In this respect, constructivist theorists oppose neorealist theorists, who treat the nature of international relations primarily from the standpoint of national security. For neorealism, the whole system of international relations and world politics is nothing but chaos, causing states to build up their military capacities and use various types of weapons (including energy) to implement their short-term and long-term national priorities.
When considering application of constructivist methods to the study of energy security issues, it is important to appeal to one of the key concepts that have been formed within the constructivist framework. This is the securitization concept, which is one of the most relevant concepts used in assessments of security levels – including energy security – in both national and international contexts.
Developed by Barry Buzan and Ole Weaver of the Copenhagen School, the securitization concept postulates that security policy is formed as a substantiation of any phenomenon or threat that gives the actor the right to “take decisions to protect the public” (1998). For example, the government of the state securitizing a problem (i.e., presenting it in the context of national or public security), insists on a prompt solution to the problem. The main task here is not only the representation of the problem in the necessary context, but in persuading the general public and various civil institutions of the need to focus on it. It is quite natural that in an effective process of securitization, the actor has the right to require the necessary funding and other resources to solve the problem. It may seem that securitization is essentially a tool for the political and financial elite to solve corporate problems. This statement, though erroneous, cannot be completely discounted due to the increasing dominance of corporate interests over national populations worldwide. That is why Barry Buzan warns against excessive securitization and Ole Weaver proposes introducing the concept of desecuritization, i.e., the removal of the ‘securitized’ issues from the agenda of national or international security, thus giving some conceptual integrity to the concept of securitization (Weaver, 1995). In this sense, the end of the Cold War was an act of desecuritization. The Cold War was an example of how something was constructed as a threat, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, ceased to be so. Thus, securitization can work in both directions – to declare something as a threat, and then to deactualise it.
The classic names associated with the concept of securitization – Barry Buzan, Ole Weaver, and Jaap de Wilde – pick out five key sectors that are regularly exposed to securitization: the military sector; the environment; the economy; the social sector; and politics (Buzan, Weaver, de Wild, 1998). At the same time, these sectors are synthesised, often influencing each other. However, both the concept of securitization and the theory of constructivism ignore one of the most important, and at the same time, detrimental problems – the role of human beings in the process of constructing the vectors of the security establishment, including energy security. The spiritual problems of energy security should be considered precisely in this context and we will concentrate on them separately.
Currently, there is an attempt to erase the boundary between neorealism and neoliberalism, arguing that the two theories are essentially expressing the same views, united under the common title ‘realistic liberalism’. One of the most influential researchers to combine elements of neorealism and neoliberalism in the study of global energy security is Daniel Yergin, who has identified ten principles of energy security that are crucial for all actors in world energy processes, and at the same time, typical for the supporters of neorealism and neoliberalism:
- margin of safety;
- high-quality and timely information;
- cooperation among supplier and consumer countries;
- expansion of the International Energy Agency by incorporating China and India;
- stability of infrastructure and supply chain;
- stable, functioning markets;
- energy efficiency;
- ensuring the flow of investments;
- development of new technologies (Yergin, 2007).
Separate elements from a parallel application of neorealist and neoliberal approaches can be found in papers by John. A. Stanislaw (2009), A. Mane-Estrada (2008), E. Korinand G. Luft (2009), S. Zhiznin (1999), and others.
In general, such a discrepancy between analyses of basic energy security problems results from ambiguities and contradictions across a variety of interpretations, and also from the absence of a clear demarcation between the technical, economic, and political aspects of energy security. The ambiguity of interpretations can also be explained by the following circumstances: firstly, the concept of energy security is used in both national and global contexts; secondly, the definition of energy security given with respect to a specific state contains a significant degree of subjectivity, reflecting the peculiarities of differing levels of national energy potential; and thirdly, in some cases energy is treated solely in terms of an industry that functions as the key problem of the whole national security system, directly affecting political, geopolitical, and geo-economic processes (Borovskiy, 2008).
On the Way to Global Energy Security
Over the past few years, leading world powers have repeatedly raised the issue of global energy security and many international protocols and agreements have been signed. Despite the fact these documents are rarely used in practice, they create a basis for the further development of a healthy global energy system.
At the Group of Eight (G8) summit held in St. Petersburg, Russia, in July 2006, global energy security became a key agenda point for the first time. As a result, heads of the state signed an agreement in which a number of important problems were dealt with. In particular, the leaders made a joint statement on the principles of global energy security (Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2006).
Referring to the common interests of producer and consumer countries in the promotion of global energy security, G8 leaders expressed their commitment to the following objectives and principles:
- Strong global economic growth, effective market access and investment in all stages of the energy chain;
- Open, transparent, efficient, and competitive markets for energy production, supply, use, and services in the fields of transportation and transition of energy resources, playing a key role in ensuring global energy security;
- Creation of transparent, equitable, stable, and effective legal frameworks and management systems, including the obligation to uphold contracts, in order to generate sufficient, sustainable international investment in the production, processing, and distribution of energy;
- Promotion of dialogues and exchanges between all stakeholders towards interdependence in the energy sector, and security of supply and demand;
- Diversification of energy supply and demand, energy sources, geographical and sectoral markets, transportation routes, and energy transportation assets;
- Promotion of measures to improve energy efficiency and conservation through initiatives implemented at national and international levels;
- Environmental responsibility in the development and use of energy, and deployment and transfer of clean energy technologies which help to tackle climate change;
- Provision of transparency and good governance in the energy sector in order to combat corruption;
- Joint actions to eliminate the consequences of emergency situations in the energy sector, including coordinated planning strategic stocks;
- Provision of critical energy infrastructure safety;
- Addressing the energy problems of the poorest populations in developing countries.
On the basis of these principles, objectives, and approaches, G8 leaders pledged to implement a common strategy in the field of global energy security, stating in their agreement, “We invite other states, relevant international organizations and other stakeholders to join us in these efforts” (Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2006).
The principles and approaches presented in the agreement are fundamental to the formation of global energy security. However, their practical application requires a major foundation consisting of the lack of political and geopolitical risk. It is known that at the time of signing the joint agreement, there were significant differences on a number of energy issues between G8 members. This can also be said about the confrontation between Russia and the EU, which continues to the present day and is one of the main obstacles to achieving global energy security. I will discuss some aspects of this confrontation separately.
“For the successful implementation of global energy security, the policy of any state should be focused on a rapid response to ‘external shocks’ and use instruments of coordination within the global community” (Mironov, 2003). Today, it is obvious that the international community is still far from achieving global energy security, because security in this area is a product of cooperation between states and corporations.
Despite the differing interests of states, they are all interested in maintaining stability in the main energy resource markets, and in the absence of major shocks related to energy supply disruptions and significant jumps in prices. However, states usually try to achieve energy security either unilaterally or in groups, and often ignore the fact of global interdependence. Practice shows that unilateral actions by states acting to ensure their energy security often lead to cross-border transmission of economic shocks, various other kinds of external shocks, and ultimately, to interstate military and political conflicts. In other words, one-sided national energy security is not possible.
Therefore, one important task for the international community is to ensure global energy security (GES). The following are principles for ensuring GES:
- Harmonisation of energy policy between countries providing the general principles for the development and regulation of global energy, on the basis of long-term planning and consistent energy balances, and regulatory and legal requirements to ensure global energy security and environmental security;
- Development of energy dialogue and energy diplomacy for GES;
- Promotion of measures for the transition to an energy-saving lifestyle and the energy efficiency of the economy, and the development of a new energy future based on environmental security;
- Joint efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts, and to eliminate emergency situations in the energy sector;
- Collective responsibility of world powers for ensuring the sustainable access of the world’s population to essential facilities and energy sources;
- Support from international organisations with respect to attracting investments to the energy sector, developing innovative energy, and coordinating the corporate activities of multinational energy companies.
Тhe Centre for Sustainable Energy Development’s group of experts concludes:
- GES can be ensured only by joint efforts by leading countries, and by the entire international community taking into account compromises of national, inter-regional, and international interests; i.e., security through cooperation;
- Recognising that at least up to the middle of the twenty-first century, fossil fuel-based energy resources will be in a dominant position within the energy supply system, the objectives of business – supported by governments of all countries – are the preservation and reproduction of the planet’s energy potential and its effective use in the interests of every country;
- The global nature of world energy, under conditions of sharp unevenness in the geographical allocation of fuel production and processing, determines the need to establish and maintain the security of transcontinental energy transport communications. An important element of this is to create a sustainable system of strategic reserves and stocks of energy resources, as well as asystem of management and reactive emergency response (Centre for Sustainable Energy Development, 2006).
Thus, the main goal of global energy security is to create a single energy space in line with principles of socially acceptable energy, with three basic criteria: high levels of energy, socio-economic efficiency, and ecological efficiency. In this report, I will also identify the need to establish a fourth criterion, relating to the minimisation of spiritual risks and the threats of energy consumption. In turn, the philosophy of a unified energy space is built on the thesis that it is practically impossible to ensure the energy security of a single state in today’s world. Alongside this, it is obvious that the increasing disintegration of energy communication is a key factor hindering the economic development of individual states. Consequently, the goal of a single energy space should necessitate the development of mutually agreed policy, and collective interaction that creates the conditions for effective energy consumption, and accounts for national interests, and especially for regional geopolitical architecture, as well as ensuring national energy security. According to Lee Hamilton, the President of the Woodrow Wilson International Scientific Centre, energy security is the second most important component of state policy in the sphere of security, after national defence. Moreover, every state in the world needs to develop energy security (Kalicki, Goldwyn, 2005).
Ontological Meanings of Global Energy Security
Pragmatic Ontological Knowledge as a Backbone of Security
Ontology is a branch of philosophy that studies fundamental problems of existence, its structure, and its logic. In general, ontology is an attempt to understand the universe as a single system, without reducing this understanding to particular sciences, and to create common conceptual knowledge about basic forms of being: ideas, matter, space, time, and transcendence. The main task postulated in the framework of classical ontology is to find the fundamental principles of existence. The term ontology first appeared in The Philosophical Lexicon by R. Goclenius (1613), and was assigned to the philosophical system of H. Wolf. In the twentieth century, the term ontology was significantly rethought; it began to be used in particular sciences, for example in the field of information technologies. Moreover, ontology was also used in economics as an analytical method. In particular, ontology enquires into the meaning of a set of objects and the links between them. For instance, within the framework of the ontology of economy, the foundations of “economic man” are also being investigated.
Different types or manifestations of life are categorised in modern ontology: the existence of the objective world around us; the human existence; the conscious existence; the social existence; and existence as transcendence (as something otherworldly that lies outside of our cognitive capacities). It is noteworthy that the American philosopher Milton Munitz compares the awareness of existence with spiritual health, believing that this awareness is an “unspeakable accompaniment” to any activity or experience (Munitz, 1981). Within this framework, we will try to understand the ontological foundations of global energy security, identifying the need to form pragmatic human knowledge about it.
Turning to the ontological meaning of a system, first of all, we should understand the presence of specifics within a system that directly affect existence as it is, in other words – they affect the material and ideological components of human life. Global energy security is no exception. In the twentieth century, energy security became a kind of ‘backbone’ factor that had great influence on the world economic and political system, as well as on the formation of a number of socio-cultural trends and patterns, as shown by consumer behaviour markers. On the other hand, it is important to understand that energy consumption is one of the main criteria for the development of modern civilisation, as well as an indicator of quality of life. It is obvious that in a purely materialistic context, such an approach may be justified, because energy consumption is the main mechanism for stimulating the growth of economic activity. However, there is still the problem of identifying the risks that global energy consumption has. When speaking of the ontological foundations of energy consumption, it is necessary to determine not only the economic and environmental risks, but also spiritual and moral risks. These will be discussed separately.
The table below (Rudenko, 1993) shows that in the period from 1890 to 1990, global energy consumption increased almost 12-fold, and in the final decade of the last century, it reached an astronomical figure of 12 billion tons of fuel equivalent.
Global energy consumption (million fuel equivalent)
|Years||Biomass||Solid fuel||Liquid fuel||Gas||Renewable energy||Nuclear energy||Total|
Comparing the indices presented in the table with the demographic picture of the world during this period, it is not difficult to identify the main ontological significance of energy security. For the last one hundred years, the number of people in the world has increased, and that has directly affected the increasing demand for energy. According to UN demographic forecasts, in the early twentieth century the number of people in the world was about 1.6 billion; it was six billion at the end of the century, and by 2040 it will have increased to 8.9 billion people. This issue is traditionally considered in the context of the global challenges to humanity in the twenty-first century, and is directly associated with the increasing consumption of natural resources. However, this issue should be considered at a system-wide level and not in the narrow context of a logical-causal relationship such as: ‘increase in the number of population – growth of consumption’. Of course historically, as has been shown already, an increase in population has a general effect on the level of energy consumption, but significant trends in the contemporary world show that energy consumption is in fact growing mainly in countries with relatively high levels of socio-economic development. Although this is quite natural, the problem is that economic activity is not always associated with the creation of new material and spiritual values.
The Civilisational Function of Energy Security
Since the middle of the twentieth century, the US, Europe, and the USSR/post-Soviet countries have been the world’s main consumers of energy resources, and since the beginning of the 2000s up to now, China has also demonstrated a high level of energy consumption.
It is typical that the largest consumers of energy resources today are megacities whose economies are largely built on the service sector. The first place among these cities is taken by New York. For example, in the use of water, New York’s 10.9 million megaliters is ahead of Guangzhou and Shanghai (both at nearly 9.8 million megaliters) and Los Angeles (6.6 million megaliters). Water consumption in Jakarta, Indonesia, is lowest among global megacities at only 0.48 million megaliters. It is estimated that the average citizen of New York uses 24 times more energy than the average resident of Jakarta, and produces 15 times more waste. It is no coincidence that cities like Calcutta (India), Lagos (Nigeria), and New Delhi (India) take the last positions in the list of total energy consumers. It is appropriate to consider this trend in the context of the impact of energy consumption on civilisational processes. Studying civilisation, we can identify common features of all civilisations: 1) genesis; 2) transition from the gathering economy to the productive economy, i.e., to a class society; 3) the appearance of cities; 4) the formation of public wealth; 5) writing; 6) continuity. Some special attention here should be focused on the third point – the appearance of cities as one of the main features of civilisation. Cities, as centres of economic life, turned out to be engines of civilisational development. It is obvious that any kind of economic activity fundamentally involves the presence an energy component, in the broadest sense of the concept. The consumption of human energy (slave, farmer, craftsman, employee, etc.), animal energy, and natural forces (e.g., wind for sailing or the sun to heat water) is ultimately the basis of economic activity for humans, societies, and states. Cities are also the key actors in the development of modern civilisation. As the main carriers of economic activity, they consume more energy than the provinces. The higher the level of civilisational development, the greater the amount of energy consumption. It is no coincidence that during the twentieth century, and currently, the countries of so-called Western civilisation have continued to be the main consumers of energy resources.
In order to systematise the logical chain, ‘civilisation – economy – consumption’, we should turn to Arnold Toynbee, who delineated five major living civilisations and two residual ones. In the list of the living civilisations, Toynbee included: 1) Orthodox-Christianity or Byzantine society, located in south-eastern Europe and Russia; 2) Islamic society, concentrated in the arid zone extending diagonally across North Africa and the Middle East, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Wall of China; 3) Hindu society in the tropical Indian subcontinent, to the south-east of the arid zone; 4) Far Eastern society, in the subtropical and temperate regions between the arid zone and the Pacific Ocean; 5) Western Christian society, including Western Europe, America, and Australia, where Catholicism and Protestantism are widely spread. Toynbee considered residual civilisations to include a group of countries and groups including Armenia, the Monophysite Christians of Mesopotamia, Abyssinia, and Egypt, and also groups of Buddhists in Tibet and Mongolia, and Hinayana Buddhists of Ceylon, Burma, and Thailand (Toynbee, 1985).
Considering the civilisational division of the world in an economic context, one can say that the first (living) group includes mostly post-industrial and some industrial countries. These are countries with about 15 percent of the world population, which provide almost three fifths of the world economy’s industrial output, including two thirds of its engineering products. They possess huge financial resources and make about 90 percent of international investments, i.e., long-term capital investments in companies involved in agriculture, trade, and other sectors. These economically developed countries are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Paris Club, which controls the world financial market. The basic pattern that unites these countries is the existence of highly developed economies where the activities of the state, and of powerful financial groups, are combined. The countries of the ‘Big Seven’ are especially notable: the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Canada. They account for almost half of the world’s GDP and industrial production, and most of the world’s foreign trade turnover. These countries are characterised by the following features: they are all post-industrial; their corporations control the bulk of the world economy’s productive forces; the governments and the capital of these countries exercise control over the world’s political and economic processes.
On the other hand, countries and regions included by Toynbee in the list of residual civilisations are a part of the so-called ‘developing world’. During the Cold War, the world developed unevenly: competing forces tried to maximise their levels of military-technical and economic development, whereas many developing countries were engrossed in armed conflicts as the platforms of indirect clashes between the US and the USSR.
In such circumstances, the developing world was in a very unfavourable economic situation and some countries were in a state of extreme poverty. After the collapse of the USSR, the world moved to the stage of a ‘transition’, when uniform socio-economic development of all regions was postulated by developed states. The term ‘third world’ was replaced by the entry of the term ‘developing countries’ into circulation – a concept that is ambiguous and flexible for different uses. However, analysis of the current situation shows that the main trends established during the Cold War continue to be relevant today. Many internal armed conflicts remain unresolved; new, and bloody, conflicts are erupting in the same historical space. Consequently, the economic picture of the developing world continues virtually unchanged.
The gap between rich and the poor continues to extend; scientific and technological progress, along with its main products, is only available for a small group of countries that make up a ‘golden billion’. Additionally, it is important to divide developing countries into two groups: the least developed countries and countries with a medium level of development. For the first group – including for example, Ethiopia, Chad, Tanzania, Somalia, Laos, Cambodia, Tahiti, and Guatemala – low and often negative economic growth is typical. In the structure of their economy, the agricultural sector dominates, although it is not able to satisfy domestic food demand and raw material needs. The second group includes countries like Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Algeria, the Philippines, and Peru. They have relatively high rates of economic growth and, at least relative to the previous group, the problem of poverty is less of an issue. The main problem in these countries is a significant economic and technological gap with developed countries, as well as their continuously increasing external debts. It is important to note that both groups experience weak urban development, which fits into the civilisational concept of economic development presented above.
We can affirm that the economically developed ‘living civilizations’ continue to demonstrate steady growth in energy consumption and, in accordance with existing scenarios, this trend will continue. Now let us refer to the specific indicators of world energy consumption by region (British Petroleum, 2016).
Fuel consumption by region 2015 (percent)
The Problems of the Resource Base
Regarding the sharp growth in world energy consumption over the past century, we should pay special attention to the fact that the competition between energy sources is a characteristic feature of the energy resource base. Historical analysis of global energy consumption shows that wood was replaced by coal, and coal was replaced by oil and gas. In parallel, nuclear energy was developing during the Cold War. And by the end of the twentieth century, liquid and gaseous fuels turned out to be the leading sources of energy. This has been dictated by countries with developed economies, which have demonstrated a constant increase in energy consumption, affecting access to these resources, which are mainly concentrated in developing countries. This process has eventually formed the basis of so-called ‘energy geopolitics’. Of course, the search for this access is not always carried out by means of peaceful, purely economic methods; furthermore, it often turns into conflicts of differing levels and scales. The political aspects of energy security will be considered separately. For now, I will simply point out that the problem requires a conceptual understanding within the framework of democratic peace theory, built on the idea of uniform development and the peaceful coexistence of democratic countries. According to Lipson, Babst, Doyle, and other supporters of this theory, democracies never fight with each other (Lipson, 2003). There can be some quite serious disagreements between democracies, but democracies only have armed clashes with autocratic regimes. Within this theory, the transformation of countries with autocratic regimes for inclusion into the resource base can be considered a crucial aim for democracies.
In general, taking into account world population growth trends, some researchers predict that by 2050 the world will need to double the current level of energy production. Although it is usually stated that there is a risk of depletion of hydrocarbon reserves, the total reserves of fossil fuels are not cause for concern in the long term. To confirm this thesis, I will turn to the key indicators of the global energy balance.
The world reserves of already-discovered fossil fuels, in particular oil, gas, and coal, at present make up about 1,450 billion tonne of carbon equivalent (tce). The total of undiscovered global resources of these kinds of fuels is estimated at 11.99 trillion tce. These figures show that traditional fuels will long remain dominant in the global energy sector. In this regard, we should note that the former Soviet Union has almost 43 percent of the world’s proven natural gas reserves, more than 13 percent of world oil, and 23 percent of world coal reserves. Western Europe, which consumes about 20 percent of the world’s resources, has only 1-4 percent of its oil and gas reserves. The US, as a consumer of almost a quarter of the world’s energy resources, has 30 percent of world coal reserves and about 3-4 percent of world reserves of oil and natural gas. The Middle East, along with Russia, demonstrates a high level of resource provision. Japan also shows a steady increase in energy consumption but is deprived of energy resources (Margulov, 2014). Let us consider the total global energy balance at a more detailed level.
The leading eight countries in proven reserves of fuel resources (US Energy Information Administration, 2013)
|Country||Coal (billion t)||Country||Oil (billion. barrel)||Country||Natural gas (trillionm3)|
With such disparity in the distribution of energy resources in the world, it is quite obvious that countries with less fossil fuel reserves will continue to take various measures, including those of a political nature, to ensure their energy security.
According to the prominent energy scientist, R. Margulov, territorial factors and the large material and financial costs of developing intercontinental energy systems become expensive problems with socio-economic and political consequences. In this regard, the role and responsibility of the leading countries in ensuring the continued progress of human civilisation is becoming ever more enhanced. According to Margulov, the average proficiency in estimations of prospected deposits now stands at over 60 percent for oil and 40 percent for traditional gas. At the same time, there is a decline in the efficiency of prospecting and exploration activities all over the world. This is largely due to the fact that the main reserves of oil and gas have moved into remote and Arctic regions and marine areas with extra depth. In turn, this causes a sharp increase in the investment costs of exploration (Margulov, 2014). Here we should also note that as recently as 2015, global investments in the energy sector amounted about $1.8 trillion (8 percent less compared with 2014) (World Energy Investment, 2016). More than half of this amount was spent on oil and gas exploration work.
Alongside this, it should be emphasised that total reserves of fossil fuels do not cause real concern for the the period towards the middle of the twenty-first century. Considering the global energy problem for the long-term civilisational perspective, we are facing a whole set of problems, the main one of which is simply to find alternative ways of providing the planet with energy today. In 1992, during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, a conclusion was presented: “humanity is going through a crucial moment of its history; industrial development around the world is going on without understanding the problems of the depletion of many kinds of non-renewable resources and understanding of the fact that the recovery ability of nature is not unlimited; following this path could lead to the collapse of our civilisation” (Rio Declaration, 1992).
The World Energy Council, in its paper ‘Energy for tomorrow’s world – the time to act’, underlines that the new reality in the energy sector confirms the darkest expectations. Obviously, increasing energy consumption in the world gradually leads to the negative impact on both nature and the physical and moral health of the individual human being. On the other hand, the number of people deprived of electricity and traditional fuels today has reached 2.5 billion, a figure which is expected to grow. And what about the gap in the level of energy consumption per capita between the rich and the poor? It is 25: 1 (World Energy Council, 2000).
The uneven distribution of energy resources around the world, the presence of a complexity of environmental problems, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the emergence of spiritual problems – all these combine towards the global energy crisis. Here we do not mean the energy crisis in the traditional sense of the term, which mainly refers to the lack of energy, or sharp changes in energy prices. Within the global energy crisis, we should understand the problem of a civilisational vector directed towards unrestrained energy consumption by the golden billion, and depriving part of the world of the possibility of using a minimum of energy benefits. This trend ultimately constructs the ontological value of global energy security and stresses the need to study it in the context of civilisational processes and problems. In turn, the presence of the problems mentioned above indicates that the idea of global energy security is not yet applied in practice and is essentially an ideological construction. Practice shows that in recent years, the world has become less integrated, and there is no doubt about the prevalence of national interests over global (or even regional) ones. That is why today, many supranational integration institutions are facing a crisis in their activities. The neoliberal model of a singular world is gradually losing relevance, and the main task of today should not be in the pursuit of abstract global unity, but in a stage-by-stage development for individual countries and peoples, enabling them to develop economically and socially while maintaining their national identities. In turn, this balanced kind of development would pave a way for mutual integration and, eventually, for global unity. From this perspective, the model of ‘dialogue of civilizations’ should replace the model of ‘civilisational absorption’.
Thus, if the concept of global energy security, in its contemporary sense, assumes the ensuring of the stability of the world’s energy system by the harmonious interaction between market actors (exporting, importing, and transit countries), and equal access to energy resources, the new understanding of the concept, first of all, should refer to a uniform energy security of individual states. This new approach is, for the most part, consistent with neoliberalism.
Socio-Philosophical and Political Problems of Global Energy Security
Energy Security and ‘Global Society’
Turning to the socio-philosophical and political issues of global energy security, it is necessary to pay special attention to the interdependence of social and political aspects in the framework of the research problem. Increases in energy consumption by society force leaders to constantly search for ways of satisfying demand; various mechanisms are used, including political ones. On the other hand, a society living in territory with abundant energy resources has to form inter-social relationships by taking into account the existing resource base, or in other words, by considering the availability of resources as an airbag of socio-economic security. Thus, an understanding of resource exclusivity is in turn fraught with two key risks:
- Energy determinism: the constant growth of the resource component in the economy, or energy dependence;
- Energy nationalism: primarily expressed in the use of resource potential as a weapon of foreign policy.
In the first case, society is often faced with the impossibility of full development and intellectualisation of the economy; in the second, society is in a constant state of ‘energy wars’. It is noteworthy that the energy war can be expressed not only at the international level, but also at the domestic level, provoking various conflicts, even civil wars.
The structure of society, its specific features and mental conditions, therefore have a direct impact on the international political agenda. And the more that a society is in a state of permanent growth of natural resource consumption, or demonstrates ‘resource exclusivity’, the more it is involved in global political processes. A traditional antagonism between the US (energy determinism) and Russia/the Soviet Union (energy nationalism) is evidence of this. Of course, it would be wrong to reduce all political processes only to the energy component, but we cannot exclude the ‘backbone’ role of energy in the political behaviour of different states.
Turning to the social and philosophical problems of global energy security, we should refer to the “international society” concept of Hedley Bull (Bull, 1995). Of course, we cannot ascribe the appearance of this concept solely to Bull, because the idea of a global society emerged in the framework of Greek philosophy (e.g., in the cosmopolitanism of Diogenes), and this idea also exists within major world religions. However, Bull was the first to consider this issue in view of the complexity of the global political and economic processes of the twentieth century. According to the concept, the main task of modern states is to form a single world society, which is regarded as the crown of the globalisation process. The concept affirms that the task of modern states is not to build or develop a system of cooperation between states, but to maximise socio-cultural, economic, and political integration between societies.
Toynbee is also a proponent of this approach; he notes that only in the twentieth century did the so-called destruction of distance (which began with the domestication of the donkey and the construction of the first boat) extend to such a degree that it gave humanity an opportunity to merge into a single company (Toynbee, 1959).
In turn, global society involves the formation of the global economy – the single market organism, equally accessible and open for all. This approach fits into the neoliberal model of world processes and was especially relevant in the 1990s and 2000s, i.e., during the post-Soviet transition. Today, we have to admit that the transition period is over. However, the full transition to a global model has not taken place. Moreover, major contemporary global political and economic processes are witnessing a profound crisis of this model: Brexit; the growing popularity of socialist, conservative, and nationalist movements in Europe; the crisis of global migration; Trump’s victory in the US presidential race; and the deactualisation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; all these factors place the idea of a global society, with a global economy (and global energy security), in question. Consequently, global society must first of all be considered as a system combining local societies (glocal society). With regard to the global economy it can be characterised as a complex of national economies and state structures, regulated within international economic relations. In this way, I do not try to refute this concept. I offer a new interpretation which, in my opinion, is more pragmatic and natural: the main mission of a global society is to mitigate conflicts between local communities; the main social mission of global energy security is to minimise the risks arising from conflict between actors exhibiting either energy determinism or energy nationalism.
Postindustrial Society, or the Problem of the Vicious Circle
Turning to the consideration of socio-philosophical problems of global energy security, particular attention should be paid to the theory of postindustrial society, which attempts to understand the new social trends caused by economic prerequisites. The appeal to this theory is caused by its high level of citation, and its consideration as a key platform in forming the concepts of information and e-society that are designed to determine the specifics of public relations in the twenty-first century. At the same time, we should see that, as a concept, the postindustrial society contains a number of contradictions, and what is more, it is an ideological construct rather than an objective scientific or philosophical system.
The term postndustrial society was introduced by D. Bell in his paper “The coming postindustrial society. Experience in social forecasting”, published in 1973. The postindustrial society is characterised by the reorientation of the economy from commodity production to service; the predominance of intellectual technologies in the industrial sector; the decrease in value and fundamental character of material property in the system of values; and the offset of semantic and axiological accents in society, (Bell, 1973).
According to Bell, the postindustrial society, replacing the industrial society, consists of five main components:
- In the economic sector – the transition from the production of goods to the expansion of the service sector;
- In the structure of employment – the predominance of the professional and technical class, and creation of a new meritocracy;
- The axial principle of the society – the central place of theoretical knowledge;
- Future orientation – the special role of technology and technological assessments;
- Decision making based on the new intellectual technology (Bell, 1973).
Generalising these components, the postindustrial society, as a result of de-industrialisation, may be characterised by a decrease in the consumption of primary (or natural) resources. However, the statistical indices of energy consumption presented above, as well as forecast data show that the world economy will stay in a condition of aggressive resource consumption for a long time (Rudenko, 1993). From this perspective, the concept of postindustrial society is not coherent, as it offers only a half-built model of social structure. The postindustrial society requires maximum de-industrialisation; however, this does not answer the key question of how de-industrialisation affects the formation of consumer markers in the global economy. Actually, one thing is replaced by another. According to this model, as a result of de-industrialisation, the economy must focus on the service sector, innovative development, and intellectualisation. At this stage, the logic of the postindustrial concept is understandable and can be welcomed. Obviously, through innovative development, societies can free themselves, for example, from the ‘resource curse’, and concentrate on human development. However, the contradiction is that the use of the innovative and intellectual mechanisms of a society’s economic development also implies an increase in energy consumption. According to the concept of the information society, which originates from the basis of the postindustrial society concept, the main driving force of the economy should be maximal informatisation. Today, sales of computers, tablets, and smartphones are growing at a tremendous speed. Naturally, the consumption of electricity is increasing in parallel. Also, taking into account the increase in the number of server organisations with superprocessors, we see that the informatisation of society contributes not only to its intellectualisation, but also to the growth of energy consumption. The intellectualisation of society should, in turn, include basic components such as the development of its spiritual potential, but that is impossible under conditions of unrestrained growth in consumption.
Maximum reliance on information technologies leads to an unrestrained growth of energy consumption in society. At the same time, the development of energy-efficient technologies does not actually keep up with the spread of new computer technologies and new information products. Moreover, according to some estimates, if the current growth in computerisation is maintained, the world may face an energy crisis by 2040.The amount of personal computers used in the world exceeded two billion in 2015, and this figure represents a trend of continuous increase (Semiconductor Industry Association, 2015a). At the same time, the growth of energy consumption is also determined by energy losses. This is due to the inefficient energy supplies of electronic devices, many of which continue to use electricity even when turned off, if not disconnected from a network.
As is noted in the report of the Semiconductor Industry Association, the world energy system will not be able to power computers by 2040. This may lead to a number of social risks, due to the increasing informatisation of contemporary society. The figure below demonstrates this trend (Semiconductor Industry Association, 2015b).
According to the concept of the information society, what is envisaged is an increase in the role of information in public relations, and an increasing share of information and telecommunication technologies in gross domestic product. The main aim to be pursued in the new information society is the creation of a global information space, uniting all people, and erasing the distance between them. A person, regardless of his place of residence, must have maximum access to electronic information resources. All this can be realised through establishing a global information infrastructure. The concept of global information infrastructure involves a set of tools for the storage, handling, and use of information incorporated in computer networks. According to the concept’s founder, E. Toffler, the information infrastructure can be the basis of social and economic activity in the future, allowing anyone, at any time and in any place, to get all necessary information (Toffler, 1980). However, it is also important to understand that in the world’s contemporary socio-economic conditions, this information infrastructure is only available in so-called developed countries (Europe, US, Japan, etc.). Therefore, it would be more appropriate to use the term ‘local information infrastructure’. The globality of this infrastructure only has ideological significance, as for most developing countries it is associated with high quality of life and the development of economic and social structures. In short, the desire to become part of the global information infrastructure today is felt by the whole of humanity, but only a small part really enjoys the benefits of globally accessible information. The idea of the golden billion is more relevant than ever.
One of the manifestations of the information society is also the automatisation of a number of administrative processes. On one hand, this reduces the number of employed people, while on the other hand, it sees the growth of energy consumption for the operation of these automatic control systems. From1960-2010, the share of industry in world GDP declined from about 40 percent to 25 percent, and the proportion of unemployed workers rose up to 20 percent. De-industrialisation primarily affects economically developed countries and old industries such as metallurgy and the textile industry. The closure of industrial enterprises leads to increases in unemployment and the emergence of regional socio-economic problems (Rodrik, 2015).
We are facing the problem of a vicious circle: postindustrial society, first of all, requires a high quality of life and a constant growth of social wealth. This is often reduced to a desire to provide a range of social and economic indicators that are not always directly correlated with the real needs of society. The newest technological products, with multiple new editions of their modified versions popularised through various communication mechanisms, drive society in a state of psychological dependence. Often, these products are considered indicators of success, and the use of them is seen as a sign of intellectual consistency. This problem leads to the cult of informatisation and computerisation, and limits the individual in the realisation of their intellectual and spiritual abilities. Public goods, especially information goods, are not infinite; hence, their constant reproduction is required. Aspirations to participate in the virtual economy also generate processes that form consumer discourse. Packaging, labelling, branding, etc., become primary, and more important than material reality.
We can conclude that energy will continue to play a ‘backbone’ role in ensuring social security. Energy reproduction to ensure the life of both industrialised and de-industrialised societies continues to be a central task. This justifies the statement that the concept of postindustrial (information and electronic) society is located solely at the ideological level, because the concept does not answer the key questions of how to ensure the development of the human being as a spiritual being, nor how to make individuals happier and free of the consumer curse.
Global Energy Security and World Political Processes
There are three main groups of actors in global energy security: exporting countries, transit countries, and importing countries. Each of these groups pursues its own geopolitical or economic goals, which periodically leads to the aggravation of interstate relations.
We should refer to the fact that energy resources enable the formation of both regional and international security. Obviously, key strategic resources like gas, oil, etc., will continue to be used as mechanisms for the building of geopolitical architecture.
The international community first turned to the concept of energy security during the first oil crisis in 1973. At a meeting held in Vienna on 16 October 1973 – between the representatives of the OPEC countries (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Kuwait) and a number of oil companies – an increase in the price of oil from $2 to $3.65 per barrel was decided. It was a radical step by OPEC, which had profoundly political motivations. Shortly before the decision, on 6 October 1973, the fourth Arab-Israeli conflict was unleashed. Saudi Arabia was the first oil exporting country to speak about a reduction of oil production by 10 percent and the termination of supply to the US and the Netherlands because of their support to Israel. The decision possibly affected the Netherlands because the port of Rotterdam received large shipments of oil cargo from the Middle East. The fact that the tankers were no longer moored in Dutch ports allowed an increase in pressure on Europe (Laurent, 2008).
There is also a point of view that claims the concept of energy security had been first used long before the world’s first energy crisis. On the eve of the First World War, the First Lord of the Admiralty of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, made a historic decision on the replacement of coal with oil as fuel for ships of the British military forces. This decision was due to the intention to increase the speed of British Navy combat ships, but it also meant that the Royal Navy had to rely on imports of oil from Persia (Iran), and not on coal from deposits in Wales. Recognising the crucial military and strategic value of these supplies, the UK had to solve the problem of energy security, which in essence turned into an issue of national strategy. Talking about this issue, Churchill noted, “The stability and reliability of the oil sector can be provided only by supply diversity and variety” (Yergin, 2011).
The view that the problem of energy security was first experienced in the First World War can be justified. However, the need to ensure energy security for the operation of the Navy is a limited example; it does not provide an illustration of the problem I am addressing. It characterises only a single vector of energy security and is not able to serve as an example in the study of global energy security. That is why the oil crisis in 1973 should be considered the starting point in the formulation of energy security issues at the international level.
The concept of energy security was originally considered as a system aimed at ensuring the smooth and stable supply of raw materials in prices corresponding to world market trends, and at the same time playing the role of a powerful tool for solving a number of policy issues. Ever since the oil crisis in 1973, although the system of international relations has undergone several changes, it has continued to operate around permanent confrontations in which the application of diplomatic and non-diplomatic mechanisms applies implicit or explicit pressure. One such mechanism is a system of energy security: the achievement of energy security is often considered to be an occasion for great powers to implement a rigid foreign policy. Therefore, we should proceed from the fact that energy security is one of the main political factors in the world today, directly affecting the formation of the contemporary system of international relations.
Energy security does not exist by itself: it is directly linked to the broader relationship between the states and the methods by which they interact with each other. It can be stated that the complex of issues related to the export of hydrocarbons is not just important, but is the dominant factor in the foreign policy of many states, regardless of whether they are exporters or importers of energy. In addition to the term ‘energy security’ new terms like ‘foreign energy policy’ and ‘energy diplomacy’ were introduced to the political and business lexicon. Considering this as an inevitable demand of the time, it is important to note the importance of an awareness of how to relate these terms to their conventional counterparts – “foreign policy” and “diplomacy” (Shumilin, 2008).
The author of the paper ‘Oil, PR, war’, M. Collon, states, “whoever wants to rule the world should control the oil” (Collon, 2002). The twentieth century proved that all large-scale wars were connected with oil. At the centre of the First and Second World Wars were Caucasian and Middle Eastern oil, and during the Cold War the access of the free world to oil fields – particularly in the Middle East – was fundamental to Western foreign policy (Yen, 2007).
Daniel Yergin explains that whilst oil has helped to achieve mastery over the physical world, securing day to day life through agricultural chemicals and transport, and helping to provide us with our daily bread, it has also fomented world wars for political and economic supremacy. A lot of blood has been shed in the name of oil. Violent struggles for oil, for the wealth and power it provides, will undoubtedly continue as long as oil retains its central role. Yergin’s summary towards the end of the last century was “Our century is a century when every edge of civilisation has undergone transformations in the crucible of the modern and captivating alchemy of oil. Our century is indeed the century of oil (1993)”.
It is noteworthy that in the book The Philosophy of the Revolution, Egyptian President G.A. Nasser (1956-1970) determined that oil was the main component of force in the Arab world, because it was a central source of economic development for Western countries. In 1956 Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal, thereby creating a significant threat to Western economies – in 1955, the supply of oil through the Suez Canal for the needs of Europe had amounted to 67 million tons. Thus, Nasser showed that from the standpoint of geopolitical expediency, oil supply routes were just as important as regions with oil and gas reserves (Nasser, 1959).
Now, just as during the twentieth century, states with energy resources are increasingly resorting to the monopolisation of the oil and gas sector, and of energy infrastructures and logistics routes. They are also increasing government control over major energy companies in order to use energy as a tool for solving major foreign policy problems. Here are a few examples, demonstrating the importance of energy resources and energy infrastructure for key geopolitical players at regional and global levels.
An important aspect of Russian-American energy confrontation comes down to the issue of access to Middle Eastern oil which, in turn has lead to the destabilisation of the political situation in the region, becoming a cause of bloody wars and migration.
The formation of this problem in the context of Russian-American relations has a very rich background and has roots in the Cold War years. In 1980, oil and gas represented 67 percent of Soviet exports to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (Gaydar, 2007). During this period, almost the entire budget, trade balance, and consumer market stability, and the financing of the Soviet army, was directly dependent on oil prices. That is why the stability of the Soviet economy in the 1970s was based on an unprecedented increase in world oil prices in 1973-1974, and particularly the jump of prices in 1979-1981. The formation of financial resources from oil sales stopped the growing food supply crisis for cities, increased the procurement of equipment and consumption goods, ensured the financial base for the growing arms race that would achieve nuclear parity with the United States, and begin to enable implementation of political adventures like the war in Afghanistan (Gaydar, 2007).
Thus, the Soviet economy became dependent on oil prices. This became especially noticeable in 1985 when, for the first time in the economic history of the Soviet Union, oil production began to decline sharply (a drop of 12 million tonnes was recorded), which led to the reduction of supply to capitalist countries. In parallel with this, Saudi Arabia, as one of the main exporters of oil to the world markets, and at the same time, a state considered to be the US’ outpost in the Middle East, decided on a threefold increase in oil production that caused a severe blow to the precarious positions of the USSR. This was a basis for a number of researchers to conclude that the collapse of the Soviet Union was directly determined by oil prices, which dropped several times in 1985-1986 (Gaydar and Chubays, 2011). Of course, it would be wrong to reduce the collapse of the USSR to only the energy component, but it is obvious that it played a key role in this process.
At present, the Middle East continues to play a basic role in US-Russian relations. Russia is interested in stabilising the situation in the region to prevent the destabilisation of the world oil market. There is no doubt that the armed conflicts in the Middle East, and especially the conflict in Syria, inflicted a crushing blow on world oil prices in 2014. As an oil exporting country, Russia considers the stability of the Middle East as an absolute necessity for its national security. This interest also requires constant strengthening of Russian positions in the region, which has become a basis for geopolitical confrontation with the United States – a country that considers the Middle East a zone of traditional interest. The basis of this interest is again the need to ensure national security in two respects: economic (the US is the world leader in energy consumption) and geostrategic.
The other problem in the Russia-US relationship can also be understood in terms of the so-called ‘shale revolution’. The implementation of shale projects in the United States today provides up to 10 percent of world gas production, which causes significant damage to the world energy position of Russia. Moreover, shale projects initiated by the US in different regions of the world also contradict Russia’s energy interests and directly affect oil and gas prices. It should be noted that shale gas deposits are found on almost every continent. The extraction of shale gas began in the US in the early 2000s. Today, the United States meets approximately four-fifths of its own natural gas needs: 59 percent of gas in the US is produced from non-traditional sources: 23 percent from shale gas. According to forecasts by the International Energy Agency, the US will cover 45 percent of its natural gas needs from shale by 2035. Today, therefore, the US officially considers the development of the shale sector to be one of the main conditions of ensuring the energy security of the state. This contributes significantly to talk of the phenomenon of the ‘shale revolution’, and raises considerable interest in the production of ‘alternative gas’ in other countries. Shale gas also arouses interest due to the combination of the qualities of fossil fuels and renewable sources. The ‘shale revolution’ has swept across other countries, too. Today, China, Canada, and Australia declare significant reserves of shale gas. Large deposits are also found in a number of European countries: Austria, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Germany, Poland, and Sweden. Production of shale gas in Europe is anticipated to reach 15 billion cubic meters per year by 2030 (International Energy Agency, 2012). According to more optimistic estimates, this figure could reach up to 40 billion cubic meters per year. Responding to these forecasts, Russian experts usually point out that the ‘shale revolution’ is nothing more than a well-planned PR-strategy aimed at causing damage to Russia’s interests.
According to Russian experts, a large-scale extraction of shale gas is not relevant for Russia because the country has plentiful traditional stocks. In addition, it is noted that the availability of shale gas was established in Russia more than ten years ago. At the same time, there is no economic feasibility for its production yet. Experts turn to the fact that the production of “blue fuel” has different costs, depending on the region – $10-$71 for 1000 cubic meters; whereas the same index in the US is $107-$250 (Gazprombank, 2013). However, in 2012, the President of the Russian Federation, V. Putin, acknowledged the threat of global changes in the energy market for Gazprom related to the growth in volume of shale gas production. It should also be noted that according to the information and consulting company, IHS CERA, world production of shale gas may reach 180 billion cubic meters per year by 2018 (IHS CERA, 2014).
Analysing Russian energy policy at the present time, it is impossible to pass over the sharp drop in oil prices in 2014 and the feeble attempts at stabilisation in 2015 – 2016. The fall to a critical mark of $36 per barrel from about $125 in 2011-2012 directly influenced not only Russia’s energy policy, but also the country’s whole economic system. Reasons influencing the new price levels in world oil markets include the following: the reduction of demand (especially from China, due to the economic slowdown); military conflicts in Arab countries (especially the Syrian conflict); the disappointment of investors in oil futures; the strengthening of the dollar; as well as the implementation of shale projects in the US. However, we should note that none of these factors, in addition to anti-Russian economic sanctions, limit Russia in using its energy resources as a tool of foreign policy in different regions of the world. This also applies to the gas industry; in this context we can consider such projects as the Nord Stream-2 or Turkish Stream gas pipelines. In addition, it should be generally stated that the current situation in the world energy market creates a number of risks and threats to Russia’s energy policy.
Today, the problems of relations between the European Union and Russia remain on the agenda of world politics. Those problems also include an energy component. First of all, we should note that in the short term, we can observe an increase in the demand of the European economy for Russian gas. That prospect is especially highlighted due to a sharp decline in gas production by one of the key European deposits – Groningen, located in the north of the Netherlands, which is the largest producer of natural gas in the EU. According to reports, the Netherlands has used up more than 80 percent of its own reserves. The government has significantly reduced the limits on gas production because of the frequent earthquakes in the Northern provinces of the country. The reduction of production in Groningen affects not only the Netherlands but also in the whole European energy market. Consequently, a reorientation to external delivery will be the only way to ensure European energy security.
As for Russia’s economic interests, they are more than obvious. The current situation in the world energy market creates a number of risks and threats to Russia’s external energy policy. Decrease in export of oil and oil products can be considered as the main threat for the Russian economy (Institute of Economic Policy, 2016).
At the same time, in regard to the aforementioned drop in oil prices in 2014, the fall to a critical mark of $36 per barrel drew attention not only to the energy policy of Russia, as it aimed to find new solutions under conditions of crisis, but also the country’s whole economic system. А collapse in oil prices did however lead to a decline in gas prices, which made Russian gas more attractive for the European market.
The diversification of the Russian gas supply to Europe is directly connected with Russian-Turkish relations, and in particular, the implementation of the Turkish Stream project. It is significant that after the warming of Russian-Turkish relations in 2016, the states returned to their interrupted dialogue on the Turkish Stream – an important project not only in the economic sense, but also possessing potentially geopolitically systemic importance for both states. The attractiveness of Turkish Stream for Russia is that unlike Southern Stream, it is fully integrated into the logic of the EU’s Third Energy Package. According to the European Commission, Russia will be able to use the infrastructure of the competitive Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) to supply gas within the project and thus avoid a violation of the EU Third Energy Package that prohibits one exclusive company from producing, transporting and selling gas. Using the Turkish territory, Russia will be able to deliver gas to the EU’s borders, bypassing Ukraine.
The implementation of the Turkish Stream project causes significant economic and geopolitical damage to Ukraine – traditionally considered a transit country for Russian gas to Europe. It is sufficient to note that the completion of the Turkish Stream is scheduled for 2019, i.e., coinciding with the expiry of the Russian-Ukrainian transit contract. It is noteworthy that the two existing pipeline projects (Turkish Stream and Nord Stream-2) aim to bypass Ukraine in supplying gas to Europe.
The growing demand for raw materials in developing Asian countries has dramatically changed the balance of power on the African continent. Despite the fact that Africa is a traditional area of political and economic interests for France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, since the 2000s, China has paid special attention to this region, primarily with the aim of satisfying its large need for natural resources. International Monetary Fund statistics on trade turnover in Africa show that Beijing, from an almost completely uncompetitive position, has captured the African market for goods and services over the last ten years, displacing the United States and significantly weakening the position of former European powers (Drummond, E. Xue Liu, 2014). This contributes to the Chinese policy of making large investments not only in the construction of industrial products but also in the development of widespread infrastructure. Despite the fact that the US still leads in terms of imports from Africa, China has come close, leaving France behind. This demonstrates the possibility of conflicts in the region. The total volume of Chinese investment in Africa is $60 billion – that is four times more than the US. The rate of growth of exports of raw materials from Africa to China is making the United States enact more active policies in relation to the region in order to ensure its economic dominance. In 2014, China imported about 1.3 million barrels of oil per day from Africa, representing 23 percent of the value of its total import volume. Among the biggest oil producers in Africa are Angola, which represents 11 percent of Chinese imports, Congo (2 percent), and South Sudan (2 percent). Among exporters with smaller shares are Algeria, Chad, Gabon, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Nigeria, and Uganda (Drummond, E. Xue Liu, 2014).
Japanese-Russian relations indicate the ontological significance of energy security in the world today. Emerging from conditions of a long-time territorial dispute, in 2016 Japan and Russia began to show signs of progress, especially in the sphere of economic relations. As is well-known, the dispute over four islands north of Hokkaido, which Russia calls the southern Kurils and Japan calls its northern territories, hindered the states from signing a peace treaty after World War Two. In 2014, bilateral relations between Russia and Japan were also seriously impaired as a result of Tokyo joining in with anti-Russian sanctions regarding Ukraine. There had also been a decline in Russian-Japanese trade and economic cooperation: the volume of bilateral trade in the first half of 2015 fell by almost a quarter compared with the same period of the previous year (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation).
However, despite these conditions, at the end of 2016, Tokyo and Moscow officially declared their readiness to “change the way of thinking” and make investments in Far East and Siberian development (Fitfield, 2016). It is noteworthy that most of these investments will be directed to the energy sector, which makes sense in light of the fact that Japan makes up 4.2 percent of the world’s consumption of primary energy resources. According to this indicator, it takes the fifth position in the world and is only slightly behind India and Russia. Oil dominates in the structure of Japan’s energy consumption, and its share is slightly higher than the average for developed countries (43 percent versus 39.7 percent) (British Petroleum, 2010). In addition, since the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011, Japan has periodically faced the problem of energy shortage.
By demonstrating a willingness to establish an economic dialogue with Russia, Japan attempts to solve its energy security problem. The implementation of these programs will therefore demonstrate that issues of energy access lead not only to confrontations, but that they also form the ground for peaceful cooperation.
Of course, the political problems of global energy security are not limited to the aforementioned vectors of international relations. I have just tried to present the most crucial influences in order to further a complex understanding of global geopolitical processes and determine the extent of their ‘energy determinism’. Moreover, in studying the political problems of energy security, we should also pay special attention to internal processes in different countries that see a dominance of the energy component.
In this context, the most vivid example is the armed conflict in Sudan, which began in 1983 when the governing National Islamic Front introduced Sharia to the country, depriving the Christian and animist southern areas of autonomy. During the Civil War, the struggle for control over significant oil reserves in southern Sudan was a factor in the conflict. In 2005, in Nairobi, a peace treaty was signed between the rebels and the government forces and it provided a proportional distribution of oil resources between the respective sides of the conflict. It is important to note that in 20 years of conflict more than 2 million people were killed (Ottaway, El-Sadany, 2012).
All these problems of contemporary international relations lead to the formation of a new political discourse, energy diplomacy. Today, by energy diplomacy we mean the practical activities of government departments in foreign policy, foreign trade, and energy, together with national companies, for the implementation of an external energy policy that protects and defends national interests in the production, transportation, and consumption of energy. Energy diplomacy is one key aspect of foreign policy for states rich in hydrocarbon resources and states with major transit potential. Knowledge of the basics of energy security, of the functioning of international oil and gas transportation systems, and awareness of current energy affairs regarding oil and gas, are the most important requirements of contemporary diplomacy. Therefore, application of the concept of energy diplomacy in political literature is commonplace.
As mentioned above, states possessing energy resources or favourable transit conditions are the key actors in international energy diplomacy, and therefore, they have an impact on global energy markets. However, it would be a mistake to say that an importing state that is devoid of oil, gas and other raw materials, as well as states not providing territory for transit, drop out of high-level energy diplomacy. Moreover, the presence of political or economic instability in these countries, affecting regional stability, can become a key segment in the formation of the energy strategy of major states.
The European Energy Charter, or the Search for Ways to Minimise Political Risks in Energy Security
The political issues of global energy security presented above require systemic solutions, primarily through the involvement of supranational institutions. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the European Energy Charter has been one of the institutions focusing on the minimisation of political and geopolitical risks in the global energy system.
In fact, the Energy Charter turned out to be a declaration of the development of energy cooperation between the East and the West. It included the basic principles that had to become the foundation of global energy security, on the basis of reliable energy supply and sustainable economic and social development.
The Energy Charter dates back to initiatives that emerged in the early 1990s in Europe, in the period when the end of the Cold War had seemed to facilitate the overcoming of Europe’s previous economic divisions. Under conditions of deepening interdependence between energy exporters and importers, it became clear that supranational rules could provide more effective and sustainable cooperation in the field of energy communications, rather than agreements between individual states. It is important to emphasise that, first of all, the importance of national sovereignty over energy resources was determined within the Charter. On the basis of the Energy Charter, in 1994, the Treaty (which entered into force in 1998 and currently has 53 signatory) was developed and signed – the first of its kind. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it defined the legal norms of interstate cooperation in the energy sector, from exploration work to final consumption. The Treaty’s provisions focus on four broad areas:
- The protection of foreign investments based on the extension of national treatment, or most-favoured nation treatment (whichever is more favourable) and protection against key non-commercial risks;
- non-discriminatory conditions for trade in energy materials, products, and energy-related equipment based on WTO rules, and provisions to ensure reliable cross-border energy transit flows through pipelines, grids, and other means of transportation;
- resolution of disputes between the participating states, and – in the case of investments – between the investors and the host states;
- the promotion of energy efficiency, and of attempts to minimise the environmental impact of energy production and use (International Energy Charter 2015).
The main objective of the Energy Charter is to minimise the risks and threats that arise in the process of investment and trade in the energy sector. In particular, the issue of the transit of energy and energy products is given special attention in the Treaty’s framework. The Treaty obliges participating states to simplify procedures for implementing energy transit through their territories according to the principle of free transit.
The Energy Charter also has great conceptual importance as it determines the logic of sustainable and safe energy development. In fact, this is one of the basic documents forming the political basis for fully-fledged energy cooperation between East and West. However, the presence of a number of conflicts in the world (including military conflicts), and the natural prevalence of national interests over the interests of integration, creates serious obstacles to the implementation of the Charter. At the same time, these consequences are often reflected in the paralysis of the most effective and appropriate logistical routes for energy transit. Today, there are many regions in the world with closed borders, conserving interstate energy and transport infrastructure. The South Caucasus countries are examples: they signed the Energy Charter Treaty, but since the early 1990s they have been unable to fully implement the postulates of the Charter due to a number of unresolved conflicts and closed borders (e.g., Georgia-Abkhazia; Armenia-Azerbaijan).
It is important to note that a number of countries have not yet signed or ratified the Energy Charter Treaty. The United States, Canada, Russia, Australia, Iceland, Norway, and Belarus are among them. Each of them has its own motivation, driven by national interests, driven indeed by the ‘energy determinism’ or ‘energy nationalism’, substantiated above.
In summary, we can conclude that social-philosophical and political problems complement one another in the context of global energy security. More specifically, a supposed division between ‘energy-determined’ societies and societies supporting ‘energy nationalism’ shapes an international relations agenda that can become a cause of armed conflicts, wars, and other confrontations. Such divisions are not formed by themselves. The most important reason is the uncontrolled growth of energy consumption and the formation of consumer psychology. This applies to a greater extent in developed economies, which annually demonstrate steady growth in energy consumption. At the same time, searching for ways to reduce dependence on energy mainly leads to the necessity of informatisation and intellectualisation of the economy and social system. Of course, intellectualisation of the economy is an alternative method of development and also a tool denied to traditionally energy-intensive, industrially oriented economic systems. However, the main contradiction that lies in the fact that the intellectualisation of the economy, improving its levels of innovation, leads to a growth in the multi-level computerisation of society – from the common consumption of information products to their application in the fields of defence and public administration. In turn, such a large-scale computerisation inevitably leads to increasing energy consumption. Therefore, it is necessary to develop the energy industry in order to provide for complete intellectualisation of the economy. In this context, the development of renewable energy is now considered a life-raft that can determine the economic future of the world. We will consider this issue in the next chapter of the report, but we should note that in spite of the comparative environmental advantages of renewable energy, there is no real reason today to talk about its domination of the global energy supply system, at least in the medium term.
Another contradiction we are inevitably confronted with is the aspiration of the supporters of information society, or e-society, to consider humanity as an integrated single society without any borders. It is obvious that the main goods of postindustrial society (in particular, information technology) are distributed irregularly across the world. Moreover, developed countries continue to be the main customers of such goods and they inevitably consider the developing world a resource base to continue building their basic ideological structure – the consumer model of the social system. Thus, by ‘resource base’ I mean not only the presence of energy resources in certain regions but also a large number of people involved in the energy industry. And as most developed and developing countries (US, Japan, EU countries, China, and others) are not raw material economies in terms of their structure (although they may have hydrocarbon deposits), the appearance of a number of the geopolitical issues considered above is quite logical. Hence, we come to the conclusion that the constant growth of energy consumption in the world is determined not so much by the growth of the world population, but with the formation and dominance of a new kind of human – Homo Consumptoris (Lat. – a consuming man) which will be explored in the fifth chapter.
Renewable Energy as a Backbone of a New Energy Infrastructure and a New System of Values: Advantages and Disadvantages
Renewable Energy as a Basis of Energy Independence
The development of renewable energy as one of the most promising and pragmatic areas of energy security at the local and global levels is an important step towards the democratisation and humanisation of the world’s energy system today. Moreover, as was demonstrated above, from the second half of the twentieth century on, the average amount of energy produced has been unevenly distributed between the inhabitants of different countries. For example, the average amount of energy consumed by the average US resident is significantly higher than the amount of energy used by the inhabitants of Africa and South Asia. It is also important to pay attention to the struggle undertaken for energy by key political actors. This struggle is especially present for so-called traditional energy sources, but statistics show that in the near future, this process will affect water resources, too. In some regions, these processes turn into long international and civil wars and even provoke the realisation of mass purges of the local population with the characteristics of genocide. It should also be noted that the rise in energy resource demand worldwide promotes its use as a mechanism of political pressure, which under the transformative conditions of contemporary world political processes, ultimately leads to price instability in world energy markets.
All these factors undoubtedly dictate different countries’ needs for an increased use of renewable energy sources as a guarantor of energy independence, regardless of their degree of economic, social, and technological development. The desire for autonomy in the energy system, and the desire to maximise levels of self-sufficiency, are inevitable processes that will affect most countries that see energy security and energy independence аs key components of a sustainable future. At the same time, this process will have special importance not only for countries that do not have hydrocarbon resources, but also for those that produce oil and gas, due to the fact traditional energy markets show a high level of sensitivity to political processes and periodically appear in a state of crisis.
One of the most important prerequisites for the development of renewable energy is the presence of an appropriate legislative framework. It should define the principles of state policy for energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as mechanisms for their implementation, aimed at:
- strengthening economic and energy independence;
- increasing economic and energy security through the reliability of the energy system;
- creating new industries and organising services that promote energy efficiency and renewable energy development;
- reducing anthropogenic impacts on the environment and human health.
4.2. Renewable Energy in 2015-2016: Global Trends
On 8 May 2016, the world’s media reported on the setting of a new record in Germany: at one point on this day, renewable energy provided 80 percent of the consumed energy – 55 GW of 68 GW. As a result, electricity prices dropped so much that they turned negative (Bolton 2016). As it turned out, Germany was not quite ready for such indicators despite its consistent policy in this area. However, power plants running on gas were stopped due to an overabundance of energy, and coal-fired and nuclear power plants (NPP) continued to operate with a loss. This was a significant day for the history of energy. It proved that a gradual adaptation of the entire power system to new conditions was required for the full development of renewable energy and especially for a full transition to it. Therefore, gradual development of renewable energy should not be conducted unilaterally; otherwise it will be doomed to only partial provision of total energy generation.
Germany is not the only country which has carried out policy for the transition to renewable energy. Moreover, there are some countries which have managed to carry out this transition successfully (for example, Iceland and Paraguay). With regard to the developed energy infrastructure of Norway, its energy complex represents a very specific and well-functioning model: the country provides for its domestic needs from renewable sources, and at the same time, is one of the largest oil and gas exporters in Europe. The effectiveness of this model is primarily based on the fact that the profits made as a result of trade in hydrocarbons are invested by Norway in the development of a new and innovative energy system. The example of Norway can reveal an excellent model of interaction and direct economic connection between traditional and renewable energy.
Here are some other examples, showing the beginnings of new trends in the history of world energy. In July 2015, 100 percent of electricity consumed in Denmark was provided by wind power plants (WPP) and the resulting surplus of 40 percent was exported to Germany, Norway, and Sweden.
In November 2015, the official state of Lower Austria stated that the province did not need coal power plants due to the hydropower plants (HPP) set up on the river Danube, and other renewable sources.
In May 2016, Portugal officially announced that the energy system had fully functioned on renewable energy sources for over 107 hours and that this was possible through the use of solar, wind, and hydro resources (Neslen 2016).
As we can see, 2015 was a key year for renewable energy. These examples also affected the investment climate of the industry. According to 2015 statistics, investments made in renewable energy were twice as high as those made in fossil fuel production that year. It is noteworthy that most of the investments were carried out by large oil and gas companies. In May 2015, the French energy giant Total S.A., holding a stake in SunPower Corporation (which produces solar cells), made a deal of $1.1 billion with the company Saft Groupe to increase cell production (Total.com). Other key players in the energy market are also trying to enter the renewable energy industry. For example, the US oil company Exxon Mobil Corp., which is engaged in the reduction of greenhouse gases and emissions from power plants together with FuelCell Energy Inc (ExxonMobil.com). Additionally, Russia – traditionally seen as within the hydrocarbon context – has already declared investments of $53 billion in renewable energy to occur by 2035, and oil and gas giants like Rosneft and Gazprom are considered as the main actors in this process. In general, during 2015, about $286 billion was invested in renewable energy projects around the world (Kulikov 2016).
The history of the largest oil and gas companies investing in renewable energy in fact goes back to the 1970s. Starting from that period, the cost of solar energy has fallen by 150 times the 1970s average, and since 2000, solar energy has doubled in volume seven times. With regard to the volume of wind energy for the same period, it has seen a four-fold increase. According to Bloomberg forecasts, the volume of solar energy by 2018 will have doubled in size. According to the agency, while doubling the volume of energy produced from wind, its value will decrease by 19 percent and the value of energy produced from the sun will decrease by 24 percent (Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016).
The world has gained great experience and specific mechanisms for the implementation of green energy policy and for the full development of renewable energy and its use as a key feature in state energy security.
‘Framing’ Renewable Energy
As noted in the previous chapter, at present, renewable energy is often regarded as the main guarantor of energy security and stability in the twenty-first century, when discussion centres on global energy security. Of course, whilst accounting for all the benefits of renewable energy (particularly the environmental benefits), it should be noted that although the scope for renewable energy itself creates a new reality and a new system of global values, it does however possess a basic feature that is also characteristic of traditional energy: the development of renewable energy is directly related to the growth of energy consumption. Furthermore, this development is not ultimately intended to replace traditional sources, but is intended only to diversify the world energy system, making it cleaner and safer. This thesis is key to this report, because my main goal is primarily to assess the risks resulting from unbridled energy consumption, and it does not matter which kind of resource is consumed – traditional or renewable. From the point of view of spiritual risk, the situation remains almost the same, with one difference: unlike traditional resources, the transition to renewable sources will not directly lead to global geopolitical confrontation. At the same time, I realise that this statement is a scholastic one, because the transition to renewable sources does not imply uniform development of this industry worldwide, and this is also fraught with potential confrontations in different regions. Currently, confrontations of this kind cannot be found, but the transition of renewable energy to the industrial scale may also increase political risks. On the other hand, considering this issue within the context of renewable energy’s development on an industrial scale (especially the most popular renewable industries – hydropower, solar, and wind energy), it also involves environmental risks and threats. The most important of them are as follows:
- The transition to renewable energy does not always lead to a reduction of environmental pollution, including the reduction of CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases;
- In the field of solar energy, the main environmental risks are associated with the use of large amounts of toxic and explosive components in the manufacture of solar cells;
- Wind power plants require large areas, and there are certain limits on their installation in areas with high levels of population density and infrastructure. Another problem that is becoming more and more urgent is the utilisation of wind turbine blades that have exhausted their capacity and have been built from composite materials with high potential for pollution;
- One of the most important influences of hydro-energy on the environment is the setting aside of large areas of fertile land for reservoirs. Significant areas of land near reservoirs are flooded as a result of rising groundwater levels. As a rule, these lands are usually considered within the category of wetlands. The destruction of these lands, and their ecosystems, also occurs as a result of destruction by water. The construction of reservoirs is associated with severe disturbance of the hydrological system of rivers, as well as of their ecosystems.
It is also important to note that renewable energy, especially components like solar or wind energy, requires large areas far from human habitats for development on an industrial scale. For example, the largest solar power plants operating in the United States are built in areas not used for agriculture or other economic purposes (e.g., the Mojave Desert). The field of wind energy experiences a similar situation. This is because wind power plants produce mechanical and aerodynamic noise. In the vicinity of a wind turbine, at the axis of the propeller, the volume of a sufficiently large wind turbine may exceed 100 dB which, in turn, may adversely affect human psychological health. A new term was even formed in modern psychological literature – “the wind turbine syndrome” – that includes a number of symptoms observed in people living in the vicinity of industrial wind turbines. The author of the term is Dr. Nina Pierpont (US, New York), who surveyed people living near wind turbines in the United States, Italy, Ireland, Canada, and the United Kingdom over several years. In the study, Wind Turbine Syndrome, published in 2009, Pierpont highlighted wind turbine symptoms like sleep disturbance, headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, nausea, visual blurring, tachycardia, irritability, problems with concentration and memory, and panic attacks (Pierpont, 2009). According to the author, problems are caused by the violation of the vestibular system of the inner ear because of the low-frequency noise of the wind turbines. That is why wind power plants should be erected at a distance from settlements, and large uninhabited areas are necessary for wind turbines. It turns out that densely populated countries with small territories are in no condition to develop trends in solar or wind energy. To summarise, it seems impossible today to talk about the real possibilities of renewable energy development in global dimensions. Moreover, solar and wind energy are quite costly mechanisms, and international experience shows that their development requires government subsidies.
Of course, these are not all of the risks that renewable energy has. Their identification is not the task of our research, which is why we should only note that renewable energy is often idealised in contemporary scientific discourse, whereas its full development requires critical treatment. For example, when we talk about the environmental benefits of solar energy, we need to bear in mind that it is necessary to intensify the development of electrochemical factories for producing solar cells, which also includes a range of environmental risks.
In summary, we should note that it is impossible to ensure the sustainable development of renewable energy without a basic understanding of its major problems. However, today we observe a kind of fetishisation of the sphere, and its absolutisation, both in terms of efficiency and environmental safety. These trends are particularly formed through the mass media, which operates in accordance with certain rules and principles of communication. Perhaps one of the most accepted principles used for the design of communication and information reality is “framing”. Conceptualised by the American linguist George Lakoff, “framing” structures social meanings. It allows us to influence the perception of information by an audience, and forms a mental structure that determines our thinking (Lakoff, 2009).
Thus, ‘super-efficient and environmentally safe renewable energy’ is nothing more than a frame to be used at various levels – from the diplomatic level to the level of the consumer.
Another misconception associated with the absolutisation of renewable energy is that its development may help reduce dependence on traditional sources, and therefore radically change markers of social consumer behaviour. This approach is not entirely justified, because the desire to move to renewable energy sources is only the manifestation of a human being’s maximum dependence on energy, and in this case, it does not quite matter what kind of origin the energy has. The human being continues to be energy dependent. However, the problem is not so much in the dependence on energy (which is natural and inevitable in general), but in the fact that this dependence continues to deepen every year, becoming the main ontological foundation of human existence. Developing renewable energy on an industrial scale just moves the burden from one natural substance to another. The main problem still lies in the cessation of the growth of human energy dependence.
Increasing Energy Consumption as an Ideological Structure: Constructing the System of ‘Energy Security of Humanity”
Homo Consumptoris, or the ‘Energy of Disaster’
The consumption system is one of the driving forces of social development. This thesis was proved in ancient Greece, and was further reflected in the doctrines of many philosophers concerned with the origins of society and the state. For example, the origin of the state was directly explained by Plato using the situation of a person unable to satisfy his own needs turning to another person to produce the goods he needed for him. In a later period, Hobbes stated that people were born with the same physical and intellectual abilities: the natural equality of people determined their natural ability to use the same limited public goods. In turn, this led to the situation of conflict, in other words – to the war of all against all (bellum omnium contra omnes).
In the nineteenth century, Hegel also turned to the crucial importance of consumption in the development of public relations. He asserted that needs were satisfied by human activity. He also noted that measures to satisfy needs are extracted by an individual himself. In this context, Hegel argued with some philosophers who affirmed that a human being was free – in terms of his needs – in his natural state, because he satisfied them with finished products provided by nature.
Perhaps in terms of world philosophy, this “consumer-axis” reached its apogee in Marx’s papers devoted to the materialist conception of history, claiming that every person is trying to awaken in someone else some new need to force him into victim status, or to create in him a new dependence, which would be pushed towards the kind of ‘enjoyment’ that would cause economic ruin. People tend to bring to life “alien” force that dominates the lives of others in order to satisfy their own selfish needs. Therefore, together with growth of the mass of objects, the “realm of alien entities” also grows, with humans under their yoke, and every new product represents a new possibility for mutual fraud and mutual robbery (Marx, 1956).
Marx’s thesis is that society is trying to awaken a new need in human beings and is forming a new dependence on pleasure. This is in fact a generalisation of the basic ideological structure of “consumer society” – the fundamental definition that is relevant to the twentieth century and especially to the twenty-first century. In this regard, it is necessary to turn to the outstanding French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, who puts forward an interesting idea that “needs are produced together with goods” in his book Consumer Society (Baudrillard, 1970). This is a formula that fully reveals the essence of this report’s ideas and concepts: the dominance of the “culture of pleasure” dictates the growth of manufactured goods, corresponding to the principle of the “functional” rather than the “useful”; these products are moving into the category of the ‘vital’ due to various communication technologies (for instance, Baudrillard considers the technology of sexualisation). In turn, the production of commodities is directly related to energy consumption, which is why it is concluded that the “production of energy requirements” goes in parallel with the production of goods. The persistence of this model is associated with the formation and the dominance of a new kind of human that has already been called Homo Consumptoris. The basic philosophical problem here lies in the fact that within the framework of the consumption model, the human being becomes a resource for completion and endless repetition of the consumer cycle. Energy no longer serves humans – humans becomes links in the spontaneous and uncontrolled substance of consumption.
In the paper ‘The Transparency of Evil’, Baudrillard affirms that energy is a kind of fantastic projection that feeds all the industrial and technical ideas of the present. We can add to this thesis that energy also feeds numerous branding and communication plans that are beginning to prevail in human life. Energy even influences the formation of the natural needs of the individual human. According to Baudrillard, the analysis of turbulence, chaos, and disaster phenomena made by contemporary physics demonstrates that any flow and any linear process during acceleration acquires a strange curvature – a curvature of disaster. At the same time, the philosopher argues that the catastrophe awaiting us is not determined by the exhaustion of energy resources. In every sense it will be more than that, at least until a time beyond which it will no longer affect people. Nuclear energy is as inexhaustible as solar and tidal energy, and the energy generated by natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanos is also inexhaustible. The disaster is in the disequilibrium of dynamics within the limits of the energy system. This disequilibrium could result in the murderous disorder of the whole mechanism (Baudrillard, 1990).
Baudrillard states that as energy enters the super-cooling stage, the whole world transformation system experiences the same stage. From the material and productive condition, energy is converted into a variable, dizzy process that fuels itself. The philosopher turns to the example of New York, citing it as an example of a miracle, because in this city, everything starts over again every morning despite the fact that so much energy had been spent the day before. The experts who count only the quantitative data of the energy system underestimate the natural source of energy that consumption is. Baudrillard writes that New York acquired the highest level of the energy consumption due to its own spectacular nature, which is incandescent to the limit. Baudrillard is sure that the energy of New York’s citizens comes to them from the polluted air, acceleration, and panic, the conditions in which it is impossible to breathe – unthinkable for the human environment. Thus, the greater the costs, the more energy and wealth grow. This is the energy of the disaster that cannot be anticipated by any economic calculation (Baudrillard, 1990).
Besides this, Baudrillard does not try to talk people out of such a lifestyle aimed at creating the illusion of wealth. This would be a mistake because people would feel humiliated if they had to save energy. This would be a degradation of an established collective way of life, of all its excesses and its urban mobility.
Reflecting on the fate of energy, Baudrillard notes that the risk to the human race is not associated with a lack of energy caused by the depletion of natural resources; it is directly associated with excesses and luxuries. Even if you can fight the depletion of natural resources through environmental policy, there is nothing to cope with the steady internal logic of consumer behaviour that “absorbs all sorts of lofty thoughts and devours their executors”. According to the philosopher, in parallel with ongoing widespread environmental activities aimed at effective and safe interaction with nature, enterprises aimed at the devastation of this interaction are also prospering. Quite often, the same companies are involved in both processes simultaneously. And if the purpose of the environmental movement is relatively clear, we still do not know anything about the secret purpose of the latter movement. Baudrillard asks a question: “Maybe the fate of humanity and the completely different symbolic relationship with the world that is much more complex and ambiguous is at the end of the mentioned accelerated motion?”
The philosopher answers this question unequivocally: “This purpose is inevitable and it is fraught with the general risk. And if this is our destiny, it is obvious that the environment cannot do anything against the unbridled aspiration of technique and energy to the unpredictable end of the Great Game, whose rules are unknown to us (Baudrillard, 1990).
Jean Baudrillard grounds his formula as follows: “needs are produced together with the goods”; a reference to this theory is necessary while trying to assess the unbridled growth of energy consumption in the world. Baudrillard is also important because he deals with the problem of energy consumption at the philosophical level, without which it is almost impossible to conduct meaningful economic or political analysis of this phenomenon. Moreover, the French philosopher takes the problem on at the existential level, stating that the mechanism of energy consumption that we set in motion by ourselves is now operating without our participation. On one hand, the growth of consumption is good because it makes human life more beautiful and interesting. On the other hand, it leads to the disasters mentioned above, meaning, first of all, spiritual disaster. Baudrillard compares this dilemma with the struggle between Good and Evil: while noting that Good and Evil are inseparable, it is impossible to implement one without the other. This is what he calls a theorem of the damn side of the things (Baudrillard, 1990).
The philosopher’s attention to New York in the context of the culmination of energy consumption is not accidental. Excesses are peculiar to developed and large economies; they also cultivate enjoyment and entertainment. In turn, the replication of enjoyment and entertainment is also associated with increased energy consumption because it is primarly carried out through the communication of advertising. A large volume of advertising communication in the contemporary world is carried out in the electronic format: traditional advertising on television and radio, advertising via online media and social networks, outdoor advertising on electronic tablets of all sizes, etc., All of these formats are energy-intensive mechanisms aimed at reproducing the system of energy consumption. Energy consumption for advertising directly or indirectly makes a human even more energy dependent. A similar function is performed by the light usage in cities, showcasing buildings and other institutions that have no direct relationship to real human needs. It creates an illusion of happiness and high moods, and an atmosphere of growing pleasure caused by an abstract connection with something rich and successful. This is the postmodern “pleasure industry”, and it is impossible to consider the problems of energy consumption outside of this context. For example, we should note that about 40 percent of electricity in New York is used for street lighting (New York State Energy Research, 2014). Considering trends of urbanisation, forecasts predict that 70 percent of the earth’s population will have moved to cities by 2050 (UN, 2014). If we observe this issue in demographic terms, we could note that city dwellers usually have fewer children than residents of provinces. Does this mean that the sharp growth of the world’s population will come to a halt, and in parallel, that the growth of energy consumption will also be suspended? Not at all. Urbanisation affects the growth of energy consumption, and if predictions regarding urbanisation are realised, then we should expect a sharp rise in energy consumption. Therefore, energy security will remain a key issue in the twenty-first century. Let us try to understand the problem in more detail.
The Growth of Energy Consumption: A Demographic Approach
It was noted above that the constant growth of energy consumption in the world is not so much determined by the growth of the world population, but by the formation and dominance of Homo Consumptoris. Of course, this statement may seem controversial, as it contradicts traditional understandings of the problem as formed in research discourse. However, the relationship of ‘population growth – growth of energy consumption’ should be considered through a critical lens. Otherwise we risk considering the problem in a solely ideological sense, ungrounded by concrete fact or critical analysis.
To substantiate this thesis, it is sufficient to consider the experience of developed countries that demonstrate negative demographic indicators from year to year, in conjunction with stable growth in energy consumption. Perhaps the basic contradiction lies in the fact that contemporary developed energy-intensive economies face the problem of ageing populations, and as a consequence, face a decrease in the total population.
As previously mentioned, Japan is among the top five countries demonstrating the highest rates of energy consumption. Japan consumes 4.2 percent of the world’s primary energy sources. At the same time, during the last five years, Japan has declared that it has serious demographic problems. The Japanese government predicts that if current trends continue, Japan’s population will have declined from its current level of 127.5 million, to 116.6 million by 2030 and 97 million by 2050. Currently, there are far fewer people under 30 years of age than there are between the ages of 30 and 60. As the average age becomes older, the number of younger people decreases. In other words, the current generation of middle-aged Japanese people cannot reproduce itself (Traphagen 2012).
According to NHKWorld (2014), the proportion of people over 65 years of age in Japan has reached as high as 26.7 percent, representing 33.8 million people in absolute terms. The worst thing is that this figure is twice as large as the number of young people under 14-years-old, the total number of which is only 16.2 million. In 2014, the number of Japanese people aged 80 and older increased compared to the previous year by 380,000 and amounted 10.02 million, for the first time surpassing the 10 million mark.
This trend is not limited to Japan, but is seen in almost all East Asian countries. South Korea, for example, is in the top ten countries in terms of energy consumption levels, ahead of Canada and France. At the same time, South Korea records a decline in the birth rate and an ageing of its population almost every year (Howe, Jackson, Nakashima, 2007).
A similar situation is developing in some European countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, which according to official statistics, is in a state of demographic crisis. Surely the new wave of migration converging on Europe has an impact on its demographics – in 2015, the total number of refugees who arrived in the EU from the Middle East and Africa was variously estimated between one and two million people.
On the other hand, we can consider an example from Africa. Per capita consumption across Africa is, as a continental average, the lowest in the world. The population changes taking place in sub-Saharan Africa have major implications for the development of the energy sector. The growth is rapid, having increased by 270 million people since 2000 to around 940 million in 2013. The number of people in Africa has reached one billion people and Africa is currently seeing an increase of 24 million people every year. If such growth rates continue, the number of people in Africa may have doubled to two billion people by 2050 (Africa Energy Outlook, 2014).
Fertility rates have decreased in North Africa, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia, but have remained high in sub-Saharan Africa – at the level of 5.3 children per woman. The highest birth rates are recorded in Niger, where women give birth to an average of seven children (USAID, 2013).
When considering the controversy of the impact of demography on energy consumption, it is impossible to ignore China, which holds the leading position in the world in terms of aggregate energy consumption, even surpassing the United States. The peculiarity of the Chinese example is that the government of the country implemented systematic measures of birth control for many years. The ‘One family – one child’ programme was launched in 1978 and was only revised in 2016 to the principle of ‘one family – two children’. According to official statistics, the programme prevented more than 400 million births. Chinese demographic policy eventually contributed to the growth of an urban middle class consuming more energy than residents of the provinces. Thus, financial resources that may have provided for an additional 400 million people were used for Chinese economic growth. From the begining of the 1980s, China began to increase the orientation of the national economy towards exports. China has thereby increased its rate of energy consumption (despite a slight decrease in energy consumption in 2013 that was typical for almost all economies due to waves of economic crises), whilst using systematic birth control to restrain rates of demographic growth from the 1980s to present.
Therefore, the supposed direct relationship of ‘growth of population – increase of energy consumption’, that has been traditional in economic literature, despite containing a measure reasonable objectivity, possesses numerous controversial aspects that I have identified with the examples presented above. The demographic problems of world energy consumption should also be considered in the context of the Pareto empirical principle that states that “20 percent of the effort gives 80 percent of the results, and the remaining 80 percent of the effort gives only 20 percent of the results”. Using this principle, I define the following thesis:
Economic growth in its contemporary sense determines the growth of energy consumption, as well as its forms, and constantly expands the middle class living mainly in cities. In turn, the middle class – under the conditions of a developed economy and a high level of social security – aspires to consume the maximum amount of public goods. This aspiration is infinite and is designed to obtain maximum pleasure, which leads to a gradual increase in the consumption of natural resources, especially energy resources. Along with this, such a ‘hedonisation’ of social consciousness inevitably leads to the deactualisation of the traditional institution of the family, and hence, to the decrease in the birth rate. Thus, fewer people consume more and more energy. The cause and, at the same time, the consequence, of this process is Homo Consumptoris.
Human Energy Security and the Overcoming of Spiritual Crisis
The basic philosophical problem lies in the fact that Homo Consumptoris does not simply aim to maximise the consumption of resources, but turns out to be a resource required to complete and then repeаt the cycle of consumption. Energy no longer serves human beings; human beings become an element in the substance of unmanageable resource use.
To support this thesis, I refer to F. Aguero, who calls to us distance ourselves from concepts of “national security” and “state security”, suggesting that we focus our efforts on the construction of a “human security” system instead (Aguero, 1998). This approach concentrates on the principles of contemporary political, economic, spiritual, and social life such as anthropocentrism, eco-centrism, and democratisation. It is necessary to determine the methods of constructing a human security system, which should also include the subsystem of human energy security, directly related to the culture of consumption, as well as to determine how humans may be resources for building ideological and communication structures.
“Unlike the thirties, today’s economic crisis is caused by the energy crisis: we discovered with horror that energy sources are not inexhaustible. I hope that I will not be considered to be frivolous if I venture here to say that the energy crisis and the concomitant decrease in the growth of the industry is the only serious chance for our frustrated desire for meaning. We have a chance to understand ourselves. In the age of the affluent society, most people have enough money to live but a lot of them completely do not know for what to live. Now it is quite possible to shift the emphasis from the means of life to life goals, to the meaning of life. And unlike energy, this meaning is inexhaustible and omnipresent” (Frankl, 1992). The world-famous Austrian psychologist Viktor Frankl wrote this in the 1970s. However, such an assessment of the energy crisis, and the role of humans in it, is even more relevant today in conditions of deepening depression in the world economy, whereby a reduction in the importance of human beings seems significant. Precisely this context today, as never before, requires a reconsideration of our relationship with energy, guided not only by short-term consumer approaches, but also looking to the future in order to build a new model of both interpersonal and international relations on the basis of environmental and ethical principles.
From this point of view, the formation of human energy security is perhaps one of the key challenges of the twenty-first century. This safety system primarily involves implementation of various ideological and communication structures aimed at underlining the consumer essence of a human being. Further to Frankl, we should note that the main resource of a human being – one’s inner energy – should be aimed at the pursuit of happiness, harmony with oneself and the world, and finally at the achievement of satisfaction with oneself and one’s place in this world. The currently deepening hedonisation of public consciousness seems to hold the individual human on its hook. Satisfaction is almost impossible; it exists somewhere, but to achieve it, one needs to commit all personal energy to endless consumption. This illusion is the basis of the spiritual, and consequently social and political problems of global energy security.
Referring to Baudrillard, we can confirm that happiness is currently the basic concept of the social unit; as this concept is absolutised and therefore blurred and abstracted, it becomes inaccessible. Happiness is directly identified with pleasure, and hence with consumption. This ideological construction imposes the false notion that owning things and using public goods leads to an approximation to wealthy classes, creating democratic equality. This misconception, which stimulates the unrestrained consumption of energy, is at the heart of the spiritual crisis of the human being. Consequently, global energy security must first look to the energy security of the individual, who consumes energy resources not spontaneously, but consciously, in volumes necessary for personal development. Applying this approach to energy consumption can minimise the importance of energy as a geopolitical tool or a geopolitical goal. It may also allow us to provide a more equitable distribution of resources and reduce the level of confrontation in the world.
The principle of anthropocentrism should be at the heart of globalisation (including global energy security). An individual human being, not an abstract humanity or global society, should be the main reference point for the processes of globalisation. The human being has a large set of risks that become more pronounced every year. The vast majority of these risks are spiritual in their nature, and it is not in vain that many researchers have come to the conclusion that all current financial and economic crises in the world are formed as a result of a spiritual crisis. These risks are mainly due to the problems of human beings’ relationship with nature and the cosmos, and the formation of individual attitudes towards the self. The self should not be seen as a consumer, but as a spiritual being born to be free and happy. The main objective that should be pursued in the formation of a human being’s energy security is a rationalisation of energy consumption. In this case, I do not mean a sharp limitation of consumption, as this may cause stress in the economic and social spheres. I mean a rationalisation that refers to the constant search for ways to harmonise a human being’s relationship with nature, establishing a dialogue with it primarily through non-aggressive research methods. Obviously, this rationalisation also requires a deep self-knowledge and evaluation of a human being’s spiritual and intellectual potential. These should be parallel processes, completing each other. In turn, continuous self-knowledge may lead to the renouncement of stereotypical consumer archetypes and reassessment of the pressuring consciousness of artificially constructed myths, and finally, to a review of the individual’s place and purpose in the world. Thus, we can conclude that self-knowledge is the main guarantor of human security, including energy security. The system of anthropocentric global energy security should be formed in accordance with this principle and that system should consider human development as a core value and as its key spiritual purpose.
- Global energy security requires a deep multi-level study not only within traditionally frameworks of economic, technical, natural, and political sciences, but also in philosophy, with the use of its appropriate methodological apparatus. Philosophical application obliges use of the categorical apparatus of philosophy, which is less popular in the contemporary sciences focused on problems of energy security. This lack can in no way be justified. The use of philosophical methods and categories is primarily necessary because of the transformation of energy security from a purely technical and economic system into a socio-forming, ontological system.
- Complex conceptual understanding of global energy security is impossible without applying methods of structural analysis using the decomposition method, i.e., the decomposition of a large and complex problem into a series of subtasks. At the same time, decomposition may be carried out at the level of already allocated subtasks. Structuring the problem in this way, we have an opportunity to penetrate more deeply into its various aspects; only then do we have a real opportunity to consider the problem at an integrated level by making both specific and general conclusions.
- The ontological significance of energy security lies in the fact that this system has become a ‘backbone’ factor that has great influence on the world’s economic and political system, as well as on the formation of numerous socio-cultural trends and patterns, even down to the predominant markers of consumer behaviour. On the other hand, energy consumption is precisely the main criterion for the development of civilisation today, as well as an indicator of quality of life. However, the main question still continues to be the identification of the risks that encompass global energy consumption. At the same time, turning to the ontological foundations of energy security, it is necessary to consider not only economic and environmental risks, but also spiritual and moral hazards.
- Energy security has civilisational value. Cities, as the centre of economic life, have always been the engines of civilisational development. Any kind of economic activity implies the existence of an energy component in the broadest sense of the term. The consumption of human energy (slave, farmer, craftsman, employee, etc.), and of animal and natural forces (e.g., wind that inflates sails or sunlight that heats water) – all these factors ultimately represent the foundation of economic activity. Cities are nowadays also the key actors in the development of civilisation. As the main carriers of economic activity, they consume more energy than provincial areas. And the higher the level of civilisational development, the greater the amount of energy consumed.
- The uneven distribution of energy resources across the world, the existing complexity of environmental problems, the widening gap between the rich and the poor – all these and many other factors influence the global energy crisis. Here we do not consider the energy crisis in the traditional sense of the term, which refers to the lack of energy or sharp changes in energy prices. By the global energy crisis, we should understand the problem of the main civilisational vector directed to unrestrained energy consumption by the ‘golden billion’ and depriving the rest of the world of the possibility of minimal benefits from energy. This trend ultimately forms the ontological value of global energy security and stresses the need to study it from the standpoint of civilisational processes and problems.
- The idea of ‘global energy security’ has not yet been widely applied and is essentially an ideological construct. The world is becoming more disintegrated, as shown by the prevalence of national interests over global (or even regional) ones. At the same time, many supranational institutions today face similar problems in their activities. The neoliberal model of a single world is gradually losing relevance, and the main task is likely not in the pursuit of an abstract global unity, but in the phased development of individual countries and peoples, enabling them to develop whilst preserving their national identities. Thus, a new understanding of the concept of “global energy security” should consist in a uniform energy security of individual states. The model of ‘dialogue of civilisations’ should replace the model of ‘civilisational absorption’.
- The heightened dependence of postindustrial (informational, electronic) communities on information technologies leads to the unrestrained growth of electricity consumption. At the same time, the development of energy-efficient technologies does not keep pace with the proliferation of new computer technologies and new information products. The main contradiction is that the use of innovative and intellectual mechanisms for the economic development of society ultimately comes down to an increase in energy consumption. Maximal informatization is theoretically the main driving force of the postindustrial economy, and today, the number of the computers, tablets, and smartphones sold is growing at a tremendous speed. It is quite natural that the amount of electricity consumed is increasing in parallel. We can come to the conclusion that the informatization of society contributes not only to its intellectualisation, but also to the growth of its consumption needs. As the intellectualisation of society includes basic components like the development of spiritual potential, it is ultimately impossible amidst conditions of unrestrained growth in consumption.
- The structure of the society, including its specific features and mental conditions, has a direct impact on the international political agenda. And the more that society is in a state of constant growth of natural resource consumption, and the more it demonstrates ‘resource exclusivity’, the more it is involved in global political processes (‘energy determinism’ and ‘energy nationalism’). It would be wrong to reduce all political processes to only the energy component, but in any case we cannot exclude the ‘backbone’ role of energy in the political behaviour of different countries. For example, in order to use energy as a foreign policy tool, some states have increasingly resorted to the monopolisation of oil and gas sectors, energy infrastructure, and logistics routes, and to increasing government control over major energy companies. Thus, energy consumption also forms political reality.
- The main delusions associated with the exaggeration of the role of renewable energy in global energy security are that the development of this sector may help to reduce dependence on traditional sources, and may radically change the social markers of consumer behaviour. However, the desire to move to renewable energy sources is merely another manifestation of human dependence on energy, and in this case it does not quite matter what origin this energy has. The problem is not so much energy dependence – it is rather the situation whereby that dependence is becoming the main ontological foundation for human existence. Ultimately, by developing renewable energy on an industrial scale we just move the burden from one natural substance to another.
- The formula “needs are produced together with goods”, proposed by Baudrillard, ensures that the prevailing “culture of pleasure” dictates the growth of manufactured goods with the domination of the principle of the “pleasurable” over the “useful”; at the same time these products are built into the category of vitally required products through a variety of communication technologies. The production of these goods is directly linked to energy consumption, which means that the “production of energy demand” is carried out in parallel with the production of goods. The persistence of this model is associated with the formation and dominance of a new kind of human – Homo Consumptoris.
- Economic growth, in its contemporary sense, determines the growth of energy consumption, as well as its forms, and constantly expands the middle class living mainly in cities. In turn, the middle class – under the conditions of a developed economy and a high level of social security – aspires to consume the maximum amount of public goods. This aspiration is infinite and is designed to obtain maximum pleasure, which leads to a gradual increase in the consumption of natural resources, especially energy resources. Along with this, such a “hedonisation” of social consciousness inevitably leads to the deactualisation of the traditional institution of the family, and hence, to decreasing birth rates. Thus, fewer people consume more energy. The cause, and, at the same time, the consequence of this process, is the Homo Consumptoris.
- Homo Consumptoris does not simply aim to maximise the consumption of resources; he starts to act as a resource required to complete and repeat the cycle of consumption. Energy no longer serves the individual human. A human being becomes an element in the unmanageable substance of consumption. That is why the formation of the system of human energy security is one of the key challenges of the twenty-first century. This system involves – at a minimum – an implementing of different ideological and communication constructions designed to emphasise the consumer essence of the human being.
- The principle of anthropocentrism should be at the heart of globalisation (including global energy security). The human being, not an abstract humanity or global society, should be the main reference point for globalisation’s processes. Continuing self-knowledge and the establishment of a harmonious dialogue with nature – these are the basic principles that should be incorporated in an anthropocentric model of global energy security.
Associate Professor at the Institute of Law and Politics of the Russian-Armenian University
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