While September 2010 marks 50 years of the cartelization of oil by OPEC, it also marks the Journal of Energy Security’s second year of publication in an attempt to draw attention to the dangers of oil dependency, among others, on national and collective security. The cartelization of a strategic commodity, any commodity, is an anathema to competition and choice. The effective monopolization of oil and the determination of oil prices through the manipulation and collusion of supply by a relatively small number of producers is as much a testament to OPEC’s success as it is indicative of a collective failure to move beyond oil, particularly in the transportation sector which it dominates. If the JES was only singularly dedicated to informing and promoting transportation fuel-choice, it would still be a battle worth waging. But the JES advocates much more. We understand that limited energy supply, limited transportation and distribution alternatives, and single-country dependence on any one fuel is a danger. Just as the ‘resource-curse’ can twist resource allocation away from human development goals and towards corruption, and thwarts institutional capacity-building across commercial, judicial, and administrative domains, so too does the ‘dependency-curse’ retard competition and fair market pricing for energy resources, and weaken a nation’s ability to provide for its own energy security. This is the larger scope of the challenge we’ve undertaken.
We understand that, as former Saudi oil minister Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani has said, “technology is a real enemy for OPEC.” But as Nancy E. Brune points out in her article, “50 Years Later: OPEC's Continuing Threat to American Security,” America’s investment in new technologies still lacks the critical mass that could challenge the oil-OPEC transportation paradigm. But this is not singularly an American challenge. In 2009 China surpassed US investment in ‘clean energy investment’ which includes the development of fuel alternatives. In the very first issue of the JES in October 2008 Greg Dolan at the US Methanol Institute explained China’s push towards developing methanol from coal as a strategic transportation fuel. Since then we’ve published a series of articles on alternative fuels and power development including ethanol, thorium, and battery technologies like lithium; alternative gas suppliers such as Algeria, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, India and the High North (Arctic); and regional supply sources such as the Caspian, Central and South Asia, and Latin America.
Beyond OPEC and the oil question, this issue of the JES highlights the Slovak Republic’s painful evolution towards bolstering its national energy security. Having suffered disproportionally from the January 2009 Russia-Ukraine gas crisis, the article, “The Evolution of Energy Security in the Slovak Republic,” suggests that the country is finally beginning to take energy security seriously in spite of its continued Russian gas import dependence.
For regular readers of the JES, we continue with our ongoing commitment to exploring the nexus between water and energy. Contributor Allan Hoffman from the US Department of Energy explores what he calls the ‘water-energy conundrum’ and explains some of the dilemmas inherent in this relationship. Beyond words to deeds, the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (publisher of the JES) co-sponsored earlier this month an experts’ meeting on the water-energy nexus in cooperation with the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) in Stockholm. A year from now we hope to report on tangible progress in this cooperative endeavor with SIWI and others on the occasion of the 2011 World Water Week.
Finally, it’s valuable to point out that in diversifying oil dependence away from OPEC member states, Brazil’s efforts at developing its ‘pre-salt’ oil reserves are beginning to take shape. Estimated at some 50 billion barrels of oil, this will provide some cushion to faltering non-OPEC oil output around the world if Brazil’s coastal oil resources can be substantially exploited. Mark Langevin of BrazilWorks.org lays out the details in his contribution entitled, “Brazil’s Big Oil Play: How This Nation is Charting National Energy Security.” Just as energy is no longer a narrow resource-issue, so too are security and security concerns no longer limited to the kinetic. Energy and its ‘soft-security’ permutations are ever present as ‘threat multipliers’ hover like cloud-cover across the global security landscape. With all due respect to OPEC, this is why the Journal of Energy Security is here: to make the connections between human, national and collective security and to embrace, not avoid, the complexities in these arguments.
Editor, Journal of Energy Security