Monday, 29 July 2013

Energy Security is what dominant interests want it to mean says academic study

A wide-ranging study of the relationship between energy security and climate change concludes, among other things, that there is little consistency between notions of energy security in different countries. Climate change objectives appear to be subservient to dominant conceptions of energy security.

These discussions are contained within a Special Issue of the leading academic journal 'Environmental Politics' which is edited by David Toke (me!) and Eleni Vezirgiannidou. I author a paper looking at the evolution of current British electricity policy and  electricity market reform. The paper examines British 'securitisation' of energy policy, something that is framed to give priority to nuclear power. There was not enough room in the paper to comment on the historical background to the elite construction of the notion of 'security' in Britain. However, it is worth commenting that in the context of Britain, with its emphasis on maintaining an 'independent' nuclear deterrent, this 'security' carries with it the baggage of the nuclear weapons-inclined British establishment. The language itself suggests a priority for nuclear power. Public opinion, which gives greater priority to energy efficiency and renewable energy, is downgraded in favour of elite conceptions of 'security'.

Rather, we should have a discussion about what measures can best achieve 'climate change' objectives. Renewables and energy  efficiency are  a much better bet on grounds of innovation and increasingly on cost.  'Security' is something that can be defined in many ways. Ironically the spread of nuclear power also encourages nuclear weapons proliferation, which reduces our security in international terms (we're telling the Iranians not to have nuclear power!). So let us not start using 'security' as a criterion that boosts nuclear power.

I must say that this makes me very sceptical about pressing climate change objectives in terms of 'climate security'. As Rita Floyd has indicated in her book 'Security and the Environment' (on policy in the USA), environmental security discourses tend to put the military in the box seat to say what our environmental policies should be. The notion of 'security' can carry with it notions of secrecy and top-down control and what the 'establishment' (usually older males) knows best.

You can see the Special Issue on the Politics and Energy Security and Climate Change at

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