How Do Renewables and Oil Sands Affect Energy Security?
- Thursday, 23 June 2011
How Do Renewables and Oil Sands Affect Energy Security? Despite its frequent use in policy and other discussions, "energy security" lacks a single, fixed meaning, and the consensus on its definition seems to be in flux. As an outgrowth of the oil crises of the 1970s, it has usually been associated with the economic, defense and geopolitical implications of imported oil and petroleum products, focused mainly on security of supply. It was often seen as a more nuanced term than energy independence. Over time, it has taken on other connotations, including the financial impact of imported energy. However, an even more recent trend to incorporate climate change and other sustainability concerns into energy security bears careful consideration, because it can sometimes lead to a direct conflict with energy security's most basic aspects. When I see advocates of a renewable electricity technology like solar power touting its energy security benefits, I can't help wondering how carefully they've thought through that claim, especially in light of the significant energy changes arising from the shale gas revolution.
A blogger conference call hosted by the American Petroleum Institute last week got me thinking about this topic again. Based on API's analysis , increased access to US oil resources that are currently off limits for exploration and development, together with approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring in more Canadian crude--including synthetic crude from new oil-sands projects--could dramatically reduce US oil imports. Imports from countries other than Canada could fall from 38% of our supply in 2010 to just 8% by 2030. Their assessment builds on a US Department of Energy forecast that already incorporates improvements in vehicle fuel economy and the...