Brief Dive: The Geopolitics of Energy Security
The geopolitics of this era is no longer ideological nor is it for new markets. It is for negotiating energy security - from hydrocarbons to green metals e.g Lithium, Coltan, Manganese et al. This is going to continue for the next half of a century.
The geopolitics of energy security has become increasingly important as energy resources become increasingly scarce, energy demands become increasingly greater, and time-honored traits of expansionist aggressions by countries bear new forms. In today’s world, energy security is essential for economic and political stability, and it is a major factor in international relations.
Energy security is defined as having access to an uninterrupted supply of energy at a reasonable cost. Energy security is increasingly important because it affects the economic, environmental, and political stability of the world. It is important for countries to have access to a reliable, secure, and affordable energy supply that meets their needs. The geopolitics of energy security is a complex issue, as it involves the intersection of politics, economics, and technology. The main players in this issue are the countries that produce and consume energy, as well as international organizations such as the International Energy Agency (IEA), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and production cartels like the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
It is also important to highlight that the geopolitics of energy security is rooted in the concept of energy nationalism, which is the idea that countries should control their own energy resources and use them in an economically and politically beneficial way. This has led to the development of energy security policies that are tailored to the interests of the producing and consuming countries. The geopolitics of energy security is further complicated by the presence of transnational energy companies that play an important role in the global energy market. These companies operate in different countries, creating a complex web of interests and relationships that must be managed in order to ensure energy security. The geopolitics of energy security is also affected by the rise of renewable energy sources and the increasing use of natural gas and nuclear power. Renewable energy sources have the potential to reduce the reliance on climate-destructive hydrocarbons, while nuclear power can provide a more stable and secure energy supply.
War and energy security: the Russia example
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine early this year, western democracies have been mulling and debating about ways to stop Russia from earning more from its energy exports so as to curtail its war progress against Ukraine, while not disrupting the global energy markets. From the western countries’ perspective, it is a moral and geopolitical imperative to be able to stall hegemonies from carrying out invasions and ill-thought-out wars against smaller nations. At the same time, not compromising the energy security of their respective countries.
While on paper this looks good, in reality, it is far more complex than that and the ensuing global energy crisis has come as no surprise. Unsurprisingly, days ago, western countries finally found concordance to come up with an innovative solution to curb Russia's oil revenue while avoiding major disruptions to energy markets. They will be applying a price cap of $60/barrel(paywalled) on Russian oil, with the intention to help stabilize energy markets while reducing the money Putin has to fund the war in Ukraine. Western countries have even come up with a comprehensive enforcement arrangement(paywalled) and mechanism. It remains to be seen whether this step will aid the countries in achieving their expected goals, but, this is a very relevant case to highlight and study in the geopolitics of energy security school of thought.
Green war era? The geopolitics of green metals
The geopolitics of this era is no longer ideological nor is it for new markets. This is not the cold war era where ideological hegemonies were entrenched or extended, or where new oil production markets or new consumption markets were created through subtly supported coups/wars by either of the two hegemons then. The geopolitics of this era is for negotiating energy security - from hydrocarbons to green metals such as Lithium, Coltan, Manganese, and more. This shift is likely to continue for the next half of a century, as the world's energy needs are becoming increasingly demanding and complicated.
The world is facing a number of energy challenges, from the security of supply to energy transition. No global event has made this more prominent than the current global energy crisis precipitated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the flurry of sanctions targeted at its gas production capabilities thereafter.
Also, the global energy landscape is ever-shifting and traditional energy sources, such as oil and gas, are no longer the only viable options. Countries, organizations, and companies alike are searching for alternatives that are more sustainable and cost-effective. This is where green metals such as Lithium, Coltan, and Manganese come into play. These green metals offer a number of advantages, such as being renewable and having low carbon footprints. They are also becoming more popular in the production of electric vehicles, solar panels, and other devices. Furthermore, the world's demand for these metals is projected to increase significantly in the next few decades, making them an increasingly important part of the global energy equation.
However, the availability of these green metals is limited and the geopolitical dynamics surrounding them are complex. Many of these metals are found in politically unstable or developing countries, making it difficult to secure reliable supplies i.e Democratic Republic of Congo, etc. Additionally, the transportation logistics for these materials often require the use of costly and inefficient methods, such as air freight.
These challenges underscore the importance of energy security and the need for countries to negotiate with each other to ensure stable supplies. This is especially true in the case of green metals, as they are essential to the development of a more sustainable energy future. As such, governments and companies are increasingly looking to negotiate contracts that guarantee access to reliable supplies.
At the same time, countries are also looking to invest in green metal mining projects, in order to develop their own domestic supply. This is especially true for countries with large reserves of these metals, such as China, Australia, and the United States. However, this kind of investment carries its own set of risks, as it requires significant capital and technological resources.
In summary, energy security is a major factor in the geopolitics of this era, and green metals such as Lithium, Coltan, and Manganese are becoming increasingly important. As such, countries are negotiating with each other to ensure reliable supplies and investing in their own mining operations. This is likely to continue for the next half of a century and is an essential part of the global energy equation. Furthermore, supply and price caps on ‘aggressor’ countries in the context of expansionist wars and invasions will increasingly be deployed or at the very least, seen as an option in the geopolitics of energy security primarily by the west or the global north.
To conclude, the geopolitics of energy security is shaped by nationalistic imperatives to secure stable and reliable energy supplies. It is also being deployed with the view to curb the financial benefits of energy-rich aggressor nations in a way that doesn’t destabilize global energy markets. And while energy transition imperatives are driving up demand for green metals, the countries rich in these green metals are generally unstable, posing serious questions regarding secure green metals’ supply chains for energy geopolitics players to answer. The geopolitics of energy security is an important issue that will continue to shape international relations and global politics in the years to come. It is essential that countries and international organizations continue to work together to ensure that energy resources are used in a sustainable and responsible way.