Saturday, April 18, 2009


Beside environmental problems associated with large-scale use of fossil and nuclear fuels and the problems with sustainability there are also social problems arising from present trends of energy utilization.

Political and economic problems

In the earlier stages of the industrial revolution, fuel sources were local and widely distributed. Industrial activity tended to grow in areas where local sources of coal were available. As the transport associated with industrialization spread and developed, fuels began to be transported from more and more distant places. Now, with the most accessible sources of oil and gas depleted, fuels are transported around the world from small number of major producing areas. The result is that the major industrial nations have become dependent upon supplies from those producing nations, in particular oil from the Middle East, and are highly vulnerable to disruption of these supplies. This vulnerability and dependence has been a major factor shaping world politics. A series of major economic and political crises has resulted from Sues crisis in 1956 to the 1970s, oil crisis to the Gulf war in early 1990s. Since the producing nations are generally weak militarily and the consuming nations are generally stronger, latter are under pressure to dominate the former economically, politically and if necessary, militarily to maintain access to oil (most important fuel today).

Oil price depends on political situation and each conflict in oil sensitive region leads to higher energy prices. World economy is thus shaped with such conflicts.


A related aspect of vulnerability in the present form of industrialization is the centralized nature of fuel production and distribution. Electricity is generated in relatively few, very large power stations, and distributed through the country. Oil is imported in giant tankers, and converted to fuel in large refineries for further distribution. Concerns have been expressed that these large, vital installations offer potential target for terrorists or military opponents. As has been seen in recent years in the Middle East (Gulf War), the result can be massive ecological damage as well as economic devastation. The normal response to such vulnerability is to put greater resources into security and to increased level of protection. High level of centralisation leads also to problems with employment. Decentralized energy production and utilization which is the case of renewable energy sources can create much more new jobs than centralized fossil fuel installations.


Nuclear weapon proliferation is one of the biggest threat to the world peace today with several countries already in or trying to be a member of “nuclear club”. In developed countries nuclear electricity industries grew out of nuclear weapons development. The earliest nuclear reactors were built to produce material for nuclear bombs. There has always been a close connection between the two terms of the technology used, so that military spending on research and development for nuclear weapons technology has in effect been a major subsidy for civilian nuclear electricity industries. Nuclear fuel is not directly useful for nuclear weapons. Much further processing is needed. However, for a country wishing to develop nuclear weapons without publicly revealing the fact, an obvious approach would seem to be combine weapons development with a nuclear electricity generation industry.

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