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 5: Global energy supply: scale, perception and the return to geopolitics

Susanne Peters and Kirsten Westphal


Energy security is back on the agenda. No longer is it an issue of the past like it was during the 1973/74 and 1979 crises. During the heyday of globalization in the 1990s, energy was increasingly framed as a commodity among others with markets taking care of trade flows between producers and consumers. Since the early 2000s, the growing consumption of China and India has resulted in tightening of the hydrocarbon markets and consequently in rising prices. Moreover, with the 2003 Iraq War it became evident that a geopolitical approach to energy has revived again as a policy paradigm. This large-scale war between a third world country and a Western coalition, led by the United States, which was also fought to gain access to Iraq’s vast untapped potential brought home the message that “territory”, “geography” and “state interest” are major categories for constructing energy relations again. Whereas in the United States the geopolitical narrative has been closely related to oil, the storyline in Europe is somewhat different: in the EU, natural gas deliveries from Russia have been framed in geopolitical terms. United States criticism on the Soviet-German gas-pipe deals accompanied the trade relationship from the very beginning. More recently, the new Eastern and Central European member states raised the issue of energy security vis-à-vis Russia in a more pronounced way and the Russian-Ukrainian gas crises in 2006 and 2009 were framed as a case in point.

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