International Handbook of Energy Security
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International Handbook of Energy Security

Edited by Hugh Dyer and Maria Julia Trombetta

This Handbook brings together energy security experts to explore the implications of framing the energy debate in security terms, both in respect of the governance of energy systems and the practices associated with energy security.
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Chapter 2: Energy security and liberal democracy: ideals, imperatives and balancing acts

Steve Wood


Contemporary juxtapositions of energy security and liberal democracy are, subtly or dramatically, changing understandings of both. Presumed energy imperatives test the quality and integrity of the liberal democracy that defines most post-industrial societies. This pertains not so much to their domestic functioning – though this is also under stress – as their capacity and will to uphold the values of that philosophy globally. A growing body of inquiry into political and normative dimensions accompanies technical and econometric analyses of resource demand and extraction. Uncomfortable circumstances envelop multifaceted questions: how much and what forms of energy do populations, business and industry, and state sectors need; what should be done to ensure this; how are environmental, job, and societal security affected; what is the order of priority, and how is it determined? Media attention accentuates the existential, economic and political sensitivities that permeate this commotion of factors and possibilities. While this chapter recognises the frequent intersecting of domestic and foreign affairs, for organisational purposes it designates external and internal dimensions. The external concerns relations between liberal democracies and illiberal regimes where energy is a consideration: an illiberal regime possesses resources that a liberal democracy wants, it controls access to or transit of such, or otherwise influences their supply in ways that have impact, including through pressure on a liberal democracy’s partners and allies.

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