Thursday, 10 February 2011

Impacts of the 1973 oil crisis and how energy consumption is linked to population growth and development.....

I have realised that it is probably about time that I actually started blogging about what I am primarily supposed to be blogging about! So, what did I learn in Geography today……..
In today’s lesson we started off by learning a bit about the 1973 Oil Crisis. This oil crisis started in October 1973 when the members of the OAPEC (Arab members of the OPEC and Egypt, Syria and Tunisia) announced an oil embargo (basically they refused to trade oil with the USA) due to the fact that the USA had started re-supplying the Israeli military during the Yom Kippur War (Fourth Arab-Israeli War – October 6th to the 25th 1973). Many of the countries within NATO blamed the USA’s actions for provoking the oil embargo and therefore the possibility of high oil prices and disrupted supply that accompanied this embargo. Due to fear of their own imports of oil being stopped, other European countries and Japan tried to distance themselves from this situation. The USA negotiated with Arab oil producers and the different countries involved to try and end the oil embargo. In January 1974 an agreement was reached which included the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. This was enough to persuade the Arab oil producers to lift the embargo and this was done so in March 1974.
However, in terms of oil prices, we are still feeling the impacts of this oil crisis today. During the oil crisis the OPEC members, independently, agreed to fully utilise their control over the world oil prices to guarantee themselves a more stable income. This resulted in oil prices being raised and ever since this oil crisis they have remained high. This has had a huge impact on the world’s economy as countries are reliant on oil and after the price of oil was increased there was a period of time known as the ‘oil price shock’ as this provoked a stock market crash.
After discussing the oil crisis we moved on talking about peak oil production and the ODAC (Oil Depletion Analysis Centre). ODAC was created in 2001 and is an independent UK based charity which aims to “engage public, interest, simulate concern and create momentum for progressive change in energy policy and planning”. The Peak Oil Primer is well worth and it includes some interesting statistics . An exact date for when we will reached peak oil production has yet to be calculated but what is clear is that it is going to be very soon and from that point onwards the amount of oil we are able to produce will decrease and the price will increase. This means that we don’t have long to try and develop other sources of energy and reduce our dependency on oil.

The oil trade flows graph that we look at today was rather interesting as it provided a graphical representation of which countries are dependent on which in terms of their oil supply. The USA receives oil from a variety of countries and by far imports the most oil. The reason for varying the countries that they import oil from is to improve the security of their oil supply. For example, if another oil crisis was to occur between the Arab nations and the USA, the USA would still be able to get some oil from Mexico, Venezuela, Canada and Nigeria and so, combining this supply with their stock piles, they would be able to continue with their normal lifestyles. For the opposite reason, Saudi Arabia does the same. Saudi Arabia controls 25% of the world’s oil reserves and they sell the oil they produce to many countries and so this means that they can guarantee the exporting of oil to one country or another even if relations between them and another country deteriorate. Some countries group together and trade with each other to try and reduce the costs of importing oil. Generally speaking the South American countries do this and so do the countries that used to be in the former USSR. The graph illustrates that the countries within the Asia Pacific region are dependent on imports of oil and that they don’t export any oil. This is because they have very few oil reserves as, in volcanic regions; the volcanic activity degrades the oil.
From reading the Geofile and looking at some more graphs we were able to compare the energy consumption in MEDC’s and LEDC’s. From analysing all of the information it became very clear to me that this module is very closely linked to the population module and that many of the energy issues we are likely to face in the future are going to be linked, and perhaps provoked by, population problems we are likely to encounter.
Energy consumption is likely to grow in line with population growth as, as LEDC’s develop their populations expand and at the same time technology and industry improve and so they start using more energy. It is predicted that by 2050 the world population will reach 9 billion and so can you imagine how much energy 9 billion people will consume. In reference to the UK, our use of coal enabled us to develop and countries, especially China, are now using coal as a resource to improve their industry and economy. We were not limited to how much energy we could consume or how much carbon dioxide we could release in our early stages of development and so is it fair to try and control how much energy developing countries consume. I think it is an extremely hard question to answer as in our development we polluted the atmosphere to a great extent but the increase in energy consumption needs to be monitored and controlled in order to try and reduce the impacts our lifestyles have on the environment. I also noticed another pattern between development and energy. As countries develop the energy sources that they rely on change.  Countries in stage 1 and 2 of the DTM are dependent on non-commercial sources like wood as they can’t afford to import resources from other countries or build the infrastructure required to transport the energy. In sub-Saharan Africa 500 million people are reliant on non-commercial sources of energy. However, in many areas this has led to large scale deforestation which has increased the risks of landslides and flooding. As countries then move from stage 2 into stage 3 they seem to use coal more and depend less on biofuels. At present developed countries are trying to use coal less as they strive to become greener and instead opt for gas or nuclear but these methods of generating energy are too expensive to implement in LEDC’s. Renewable energy sources are used in both LEDC’s and MEDC’s, despite the high start-up costs, as certain physical features are required and these features are not present in all countries. MEDC’s use more oil than LEDC’s, in general (there are a few exceptions like Saudi Arabia, for example, as they have to use some oil in order to extract it), and so does this mean that as more countries develop the demand for oil is going to increase?
This is not the only link between the energy issues module and the population change module and over the last few days I have realised just how closely they are linked. Other examples of how they are linked include the impacts that climate change is likely to have on migration and which countries should take responsibility for environmental refugees and also, as the global population grows can we manage to feed everyone whilst using fertile land to grow biofuels. Anyway they are issues that I will try and discuss in another post. Feel free to leave any comments as, more so than the other two we have studied so far, it seems vital that you can form your own opinions on these issues and discussions are perhaps the best way to do so.

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