Theater of Cruelty

Safe energy

Energy Security
Forfatter: Roland Dannereuther
Forlag: Polity Press (UK)
Energy Security provides important knowledge about the interaction between energy security, economic growth, ecological sustainability and social justice. 


Those who think that "energy security" sounds like a dry and uninteresting topic should think again. Basically, energy is the engine of modern society, and therefore a topic we all benefit from learning more about. Roland Dannereuther views energy security as a value for state, society and individuals – but also a value that constantly violates values ​​such as prosperity, sustainability and justice. To illustrate how these both interact and stand against each other, the book discusses the relationship between energy providers and consumers, national and international interests, between different energy markets (coal, oil, gas, nuclear and renewable energy), between economic actors and political strategies, and between history and contemporary.

Energy Security is a balanced, well-written and perspective-rich book with a clear red thread, which manages to provide a comprehensive representation of this complex multidimensional field. Dannereuther never falls for the temptation to reduce it all to one explanatory variable – on the contrary, he opens a deeper understanding of what is at stake through his many different approaches to the theme. Along the way, he alternates almost seamlessly between the naturalistic description of the world as it is and constructivism's understanding that reality is constantly being created and thus also malleable.

Stiavhengighet. Energy is a physical reality that can be discussed on a technical level – but Dannereuther makes it clear that reality contains much more than this. In this context, coal, oil, wind and solar become relevant first as we transform them into usable energy, and this process takes place on the basis of both social, economic and political mechanisms. The fact that Norway is now a prosperous oil country and owns a huge investment fund is a lot about finding, investing and extracting resources within the framework of a well-established state bureaucracy, a functioning justice system and a balanced democracy. If we are to understand the topic of energy security, these factors must be included in the calculation.

In 2017, it is too early to conclude that we are in the midst of a green energy revolution.

In the interaction between material resources, technological solutions, financial investments and political interests, energy is also about historical development. For 200 years, fossil resources have been written into a larger narrative of modern society. The money and prestige invested creates a path dependency that makes it challenging to change course towards renewable energy sources. Although there are environmentally friendly solutions, economic operators and policy makers continue to invest in fossils. Thus, short-term economic growth stands in the way not only for ecological sustainability, but also paradoxically for long-term energy security.

Green revolution on hold. In trying to understand what is happening, it may be okay to distinguish between intentional political action and what arises as a result of complex interactions between various factors and actors. This insight can, among other things, be used to shed light on three different energy markets: The oil has been politically lifted, and is today so embedded in usage patterns and technological solutions that its history is unlikely to be over by the first. atom power is too resource-consuming and costly for it to strengthen through clean market mechanisms, and in recent decades has lacked the political support it needs to be significant. The renewable energy is currently on the rise, along a trail characterized by both political support and a more complex game of technology development, financial gain opportunities and increased demand. But it is not certain that this trend will continue, and in 2017 it is too early to conclude that we are in the midst of a green energy revolution.

What is security? This uncertainty affects how Dannereuther views the relationship between energy security and the ecological challenges of our time, with climate change as a case in point. The obvious gap between the need for global responsibility and national pressure to meet all energy needs is a good example. The distance between these two illustrates the complexity of the work of establishing environmental policy solutions.

Throughout the discussion it is important to understand that the very topic of "security" can be viewed from different points of view. Analytically, it is common to distinguish between three main positions: the realistic perspective, which links security to military defense and states' self-interest within an anarchist international system; the liberalist perspective, which emphasizes that the world consists of a multiplicity of actors, where security can be established through international frameworks and regulations around the production, sale and use of energy; and the radical perspective, which emphasizes that neither state self-interest nor global market solutions ensure social justice and sustainable solutions.

Complex and ambiguous. What position we take will characterize what seems important and how we evaluate what we see. Dannereuther alternates between the different perspectives, including when discussing developments in China, Russia and the Middle East. Those who think they are on the front page will probably think that the author here is too vague. But in my opinion, he shows rather an exemplary ability to illuminate ambiguity and complexity. An example is the encounter with the conflicts in the Middle East and the role of the United States in these: Both power politics and the struggle for resources are considered important factors here, but the author rejects that everything can be reduced to one-dimensional causal mechanisms. On the contrary, Roland Dannereuther emphasizes that America's actions lie in a complex of factors.

Svein Hammer
Svein Hammer
Hammer is a dr.polit. in sociology and regular reviewer in Ny Tid.

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