An energy crisis is any great bottleneck (or price rise) in the supply of energy resources to an economy. In popular literature though, it often refers to one of the energy sources used at a certain time and place, particularly those that supply national electricity grids or serve as fuel for vehicles. There has been an enormous increase in the global demand for energy in recent years as a result of industrial development and population growth. Supply of energy is, therefore, far less than the actual demand.
Market failure is possible when monopoly manipulation of markets occurs. A crisis can develop due to industrial actions like union organized strikes and government embargoes. The cause may be over-consumption, aging infrastructure, choke point disruption or bottlenecks at oil refineries and port facilities that restrict fuel supply. An emergency may emerge during unusually cold winters due to increased consumption of energy.
Pipeline failures and other accidents may cause minor interruptions to energy supplies. A crisis could possibly emerge after infrastructure damage from severe weather. Attacks by terrorists or militia on important infrastructure are a possible problem for energy consumers, with a successful strike on a Middle East facility potentially causing global shortages. Political events, for example, when governments change due to regime change, monarchy collapse, military occupation, and coup may disrupt oil and gas production and create shortages
1970s energy crisis - caused by the peaking of oil production in major industrial nations (Germany, United States, Canada, etc.) and embargoes from other producers
1973 oil crisis - caused by an OPEC oil export embargo by many of the major Arab oil-producing states, in response to Western support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War
1979 oil crisis - caused by the Iranian Revolution
1990 oil price shock - caused by the Gulf War
The 2000–2001 California electricity crisis - Caused by market manipulation by Enron and failed deregulation; resulted in multiple large-scale power outages
Fuel protests in the United Kingdom in 2000 were caused by a rise in the price of crude oil combined with already relatively high taxation on road fuel in the UK.
North American natural gas crisis
2004 Argentine energy crisis
North Korea has had energy shortages for many years.
Zimbabwe has experienced a shortage of energy supplies for many years due to financial mismanagement.
Political riots occurring during the 2007 Burmese anti-government protests were sparked by rising energy prices.
Kuwait's Al Burqan Oil Field, the world's second largest oil field, will be depleted within 40 years.
Crises that exist as of 2008 include:
2000s energy crisis - Since 2003, a rise in prices caused by continued global increases in petroleum demand coupled with production stagnation, the falling value of the U.S. dollar, and a myriad of other secondary causes.
2008 Central Asia energy crisis, caused by abnormally cold temperatures and low water levels in an area dependent on hydroelectric power. At the same time the South African President was appeasing fears of a prolonged electricity crisis in South Africa.
In February 2008 the President of Pakistan announced plans to tackle energy shortages that were reaching crisis stage, despite having significant hydrocarbon reserves,. In April 2010 Pakistan government announced the Pakistan national energy policy, which extended the official weekend and banned neon lights in response to a growing electricity shortage.
South African electrical crisis. The South African crisis, which may last to 2012, led to large price rises for platinum in February 2008 and reduced gold production.
China experienced severe energy shortages towards the end of 2005 and again in early 2008. During the latter crisis they suffered severe damage to power networks along with diesel and coal shortages. Supplies of electricity in Guangdong province, the manufacturing hub of China, are predicted to fall short by an estimated 10 GW. In 2011 China was forecast to have a second quarter electrical power deficit of 44.85 - 49.85 GW.
It has been predicted that in the coming years after 2009 that the United Kingdom will suffer an energy crisis due to its commitments to reduce coal fired power stations, its politicians' unwillingness to set up new nuclear power stations to replaces those that will be de-commissioned in a few years (even though they will not be running in time to stop a full blown crisis) and unreliable sources and sources that are running out of oil and gas. It is therefore predicted that the UK may have regular blackouts like South Africa.
Social and economic effects
The macroeconomic implications of a supply shock-induced energy crisis are large, because energy is the resource used to exploit all other resources. When energy markets fail, an energy shortage develops. Electricity consumers may experience intentionally engineered rolling blackouts during periods of insufficient supply or unexpected power outages, regardless of the cause.
Industrialized nations are dependent on oil, and efforts to restrict the supply of oil would have an adverse effect on the economies of oil producers. For the consumer, the price of natural gas, gasoline (petrol) and diesel for cars and other vehicles rises. An early response from stakeholders is the call for reports, investigations and commissions into the price of fuels. There are also movements towards the development of more sustainable urban infrastructure.
In 2006, survey respondents in the United States were willing to pay more for a plug-in hybrid car
In the market, new technology and energy efficiency measures become desirable for consumers seeking to decrease transport costs. Examples include:
In 1980 Briggs & Stratton developed the first gasoline hybrid electric automobile; also are appearing plug-in hybrids.
the growth of advanced biofuels.
innovations like the Dahon, a folding bicycle
modernized and electrifying passenger transport
Railway electrification systems and new engines such as the Ganz-Mavag locomotive
variable compression ratio for vehicles
Other responses include the development of unconventional oil sources such as synthetic fuel from places like the Athabasca Oil Sands, more renewable energy commercialization and use of alternative propulsion. There may be a Relocation trend towards local foods and possibly microgeneration, solar thermal collectors and other green energy sources.
Tourism trends and gas-guzzler ownership varies with fuel costs. Energy shortages can influence public opinion on subjects from nuclear power plants to electric blankets. Building construction techniques—improved insulation, reflective roofs, thermally efficient windows, etc.—change to reduce heating costs.
See also: Green building and Zero-energy building
An electricity shortage is felt most by those who depend on electricity for heating, cooking, and water supply. In these circumstances, a sustained energy crisis may become a humanitarian crisis.
If an energy shortage is prolonged a crisis management phase is enforced by authorities. Energy audits may be conducted to monitor usage. Various curfews with the intention of increasing energy conservation may be initiated to reduce consumption. To conserve power during the Central Asia energy crisis, authorities in Tajikistan ordered bars and cafes to operate by candlelight. Warnings issued that peak demand power supply might not be sustained.
In the worst kind of energy crisis energy rationing and fuel rationing may be incurred. Panic buying may beset outlets as awareness of shortages spread. Facilities close down to save on heating oil; and factories cut production and lay off workers. The risk of stagflation increases.
Mitigation of an energy crisis
The Hirsch report made clear that an energy crisis is best averted by preparation. In 2008, solutions such as the Pickens Plan and the satirical in origin Paris Hilton energy plan suggest the growing public consciousness of the importance of mitigation.
Energy policy may be reformed leading to greater energy intensity, for example in Iran with the 2007 Gas Rationing Plan in Iran, Canada and the National Energy Program and in the USA with the Energy and Security Act of 2007. Another mitigation measure is the setup of a cache of secure fuel reserves like the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve, in case of national emergency. Chinese energy policy includes specific targets within their 5 year plans.
Andrew McKillop has been a proponent of a contract and converge model or capping scheme, to mitigate both emissions of greenhouse gases and a peak oil crisis. The imposition of a carbon tax would have mitigating effects on an oil crisis. The Oil Depletion Protocol has been developed by Richard Heinberg to implement a powerdown during a peak oil crisis. While many sustainable development and energy policy organisations have advocated reforms to energy development from the 1970s, some cater to a specific crisis in energy supply including Energy-Quest and the International Association for Energy Economics. The Oil Depletion Analysis Centre and the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas examine the timing and likely effects of peak oil.
Ecologist William Rees believes that
“ To avoid a serious energy crisis in coming decades, citizens in the industrial countries should actually be urging their governments to come to international agreement on a persistent, orderly, predictable, and steepening series of oil and natural gas price hikes over the next two decades. ”
Due to a lack of political viability on the issue, government mandated fuel prices hikes are unlikely and the unresolved dilemma of fossil fuel dependence is becoming a wicked problem. A global soft energy path seems improbable, due to the rebound effect. Conclusions that the world is heading towards an unprecedented large and potentially devastating global energy crisis due to a decline in the availability of cheap oil lead to calls for a decreasing dependency on fossil fuel.
Other ideas concentrate on design and development of improved, energy-efficient urban infrastructure in developing nations. Government funding for alternative energy is more likely to increase during an energy crisis, so too are incentives for oil exploration. For example funding for research into inertial confinement fusion technology increased during 1970s.
Energy economists theorize that declining energy availability will result in a higher price for energy and that this will attract investment to procure new sources of energy that may be substituted. However as Michael Lardelli and others have pointed out, this hypothesis does not include the concept of Energy Returned on Energy Invested, which is important for example, when considering biofuels as an alternative to conventional energy supplies. The theory also assumes that capital investment in the substitution sector will be available even if a financial downturn caused by higher energy prices happens. Nor does the theory account for the fact that the most easily obtainable energy is extracted from reserves first because it provides the most profit leaving the smaller, harder to reach and more expensive to produce reserves.
Future and alternative energy sources
In response to the petroleum crisis, the principles of green energy and sustainable living movements gain popularity. This has led to increasing interest in alternate power/fuel research such as fuel cell technology, liquid nitrogen economy, hydrogen fuel, methanol, biodiesel, Karrick process, solar energy, artificial photosynthesis, geothermal energy, Space-based solar power, tidal energy, wave power, and wind energy, and fusion power. To date, only hydroelectricity and nuclear power have been significant alternatives to fossil fuel.
Hydrogen gas is currently produced at a net energy loss from natural gas, which is also experiencing declining production in North America and elsewhere. When not produced from natural gas, hydrogen still needs another source of energy to create it, also at a loss during the process. This has led to hydrogen being regarded as a 'carrier' of energy, like electricity, rather than a 'source'. The unproven dehydrogenating process has also been suggested for the use water as an energy source.
Efficiency mechanisms such as Negawatt power can encourage significantly more effective use of current generating capacity. It is a term used to describe the trading of increased efficiency, using consumption efficiency to increase available market supply rather than by increasing plant generation capacity. As such, it is a demand-side as opposed to a supply-side measure.
Although technology has made oil extraction more efficient, the world is having to struggle to provide oil by using increasingly costly and less productive methods such as deep sea drilling, and developing environmentally sensitive areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The world's population continues to grow at a quarter of a million people per day, increasing the consumption of energy. Although far less from people in developing countries, especially USA, the per capita energy consumption of China, India and other developing nations continues to increase as the people living in these countries adopt more energy intensive lifestyles. At present a small part of the world's population consumes a large part of its resources, with the United States and its population of 300 million people consuming far more oil than China with its population of 1.3 billion people.
William Catton has emphasised the link between population size and energy supply, concluding
“ The faster the present generation draws down the fossil energy legacy upon which persistently exuberant lifestyles now depend, the less opportunity posterity will have to live in anything like the same way or the same numbers. Yet most contemporary political proposals for solving problems of economic stagnation or inequity amount to plans for speeding up the rate of drawdown of non-renewable resources. ”
David Pimentel professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell University, has called for massive reduction in world populations to avoid a permanent global energy crisis. The implication is that cheap oil has created a human overshoot beyond Earth's carrying capacity, which inevitably led to an energy crisis.
Energy balance (disambiguation) and Tragedy of the Commons
For nearly 60 years the US dependence on imported oil has grown significantly.
Matthew Simmons and Julian Darley amongst others, have examined the economic effects of an energy crisis. Historian, and sociologist Franz Schurmann links an energy crisis with a deflating American dollar. He has stated that
“ If a dollar free-fall should take place, Americans will confront an energy crisis that will make the October 1973 oil shortage seem a mild nuisance. ”
According to Christopher Falvin, geopolitical factors have made the current fossil fuel-based energy system a risk management issue that undermines global security. As the major source of greenhouse gas emissions that accumulate in the atmosphere, fossil fuel energy is increasingly viewed as socially irresponsible. Joseph Tainter, an expert on societal collapse and energy supply, draws attention to the complexity of modern society and our ability to problem solve the wider issue of environmental degradation.
National population suffering from undernourishment as percentage.
According to Kenneth S. Deffeyes, agricultural production depends heavily on hydrocarbons for energy, in the form of:
Petroleum to power machinery and transport goods to market
Natural gas to produce fertilizer and sometimes to power irrigation
Between the late 1940s and early 1980s, as the Green Revolution transformed agriculture around the globe, world grain production increased by 250%. Energy for the Green Revolution was provided almost always by fossil fuels. The 20th century population explosion is strongly correlated with the discovery and extraction of hydrocarbons.
The decision to develop a biofuel industry through subsidies and tariffs in the USA increased food costs globally. Lester R. Brown states that by converting grains into fuel for cars
“ ..the world is facing the most severe food price inflation in history as grain and soyabean prices climb to all-time highs, ”
World power usage, 1965–2005
See also: Food security and Food vs fuel
Some experts including Howard Odum and David Holmgren have used the term energy descent to describe a post-peak oil period of transition. Ron Swenson has described a looming peak oil crisis as a calamity unparalleled in human history. The peaking of world hydrocarbon production, known as peak oil may test Malthus critics. Michael C. Ruppert has discussed energy crises in relation to the petrodollar, oil imperialism and police states.
Fictional scenarios have been explored in;
Frontlines: Fuel of War, a first-person shooter game that depicts a global energy crisis in 2024 leading to war between Western Coalition (EU and USA) against Red Star Alliance (Russia and China) over the last remaining natural resources
Ice, online comic
Mad Max, depicts an energy starved post-apocalypse world
Oil Storm, a 2005 television docudrama that portrays a future oil-shortage crisis in the United States
Soylent Green, a film about a dystopian future in which overpopulation leads to depleted resources
The Man Who Broke Britain, a BBC docudrama
The Running Man, a fictional film depicts the effects of a global economic collapse.
Monsters Inc., a Pixar animated film that takes place in a fictional world called "Monstropolis," for which Monsters, Inc. supplies power by extracting energy from children's screams. Monstropolis is in the middle of an energy crisis because children are harder to scare than they used to be.