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Energy Independence vs Energy Security

October 18, 2008




I do think Energy Independence is the ultimate in sustainable development. An ability to utilize locally available resources, without destroying the local environment will keep overall balance of energy. Energy Security is just an aspect of Energy Independence. Focusing on energy security allows not focusing on energy efficiency and sustainable sources of energy. Military invasion of an oil producing country is one way to ensure energy security. Energy independence on the other hand requires no invasion. In fact, invading other countries would not have anything to do with access to energy resources.

Right now, with the current trends taking shape, we are poised for many small, and possibly a large military conflict to ensure broader resource security: water, food, useful land, oil, gas, coal and others. Our resource security will be in direct conflict with China's resource security, India's resource security, and others. Countries like China, India, and the whole South-East Asia have many more people than Western world. 200 million displaced and hungry people are a dangerous prospect. Those people would not need weapons to fight for their lives.

Energy and resource independence will ease pressure on main sources of conventional energy, like oil, gas and coal. Of course, a joint effort is necessary to help China, India and others to achieve energy independence. In this case, energy independence goes in direct conflict with energy security. Energy security assumes OUR access to cheap energy, and to stay competitive, others should not have access to the same energy.

The fundamental problem of understanding of humankind as a whole, or as groups of people confined within their borders is at core of choosing between energy independence and energy security. Energy security describes life within borders. Life outside borders is irrelevant to energy security. Energy independence will require broader thinking. If China and India burns all oil, gas and coal we would not burn, we will still suffer from pollution. And our energy independence will be threatened by global climate changes caused by massive levels of pollution elsewhere, even if we become fully energy and resource independent.

Energy independence should not be equalized with "drill-it-all" perspective. Broader resource independence requires us to think far beyond burning oil, coal and gas. Plastics depend on oil, and gas. There are better ways to utilize oil, coal and gas. Russian chemist Mendeleev used to say, back in 19th century, that burning oil to heat a house is like burning money. Drilling for oil will not make us energy and resource independent. Quite the opposite, it will be similar to sudden improvement in health of a dying patient right before dying. Drilling will prolong pre-death convulsions of a sick economy.

We have to move to smart, energy intensive and energy efficient economy. Like an instant tankless water heater, economy would use more energy for smart application, with overall balance being less than old conventional applications. Pyramids, Acropolis and Coliseum took more efforts to build initially than any of the new buildings. Yet, they stand for thousands of years. None of the new buildings will be around a couple of hundred years from now. These examples touch yet another fundamental issue - perception of time. This perception is also at core of resource independence.

This is not a coherent article on the issue - by no means. I just touched briefly on issues I consider important for survival of this country, and the humankind in general. 200 million displaced, desperate and hungry people could trigger massive military conflicts, which will dwarf the worst war we had so far, WW2.

So, I say, we go for energy and resource independence. Energy security will be all but a small part of it.

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