From the end of world war two to today, the post war “pax americana” has guaranteed stable access to fossil fuels for the OECD economies which encompass the US, Europe, Japan, Korea and other western countries, most of which are substantial fossil fuel importers. With the growth of China, India and other emerging economies the balance started to shift. China is now the world’s biggest oil importer and India is growing rapidly.
The energy world is starting to look like that of pre WW2 where there were competing powers in Europe, Japan and the US. Access to oil was used as a political weapon and many believe this was a major contributor to the outbreak of WW2. This was very clear in the case of Japan, but Germany’s lack of oil contributed to its attack on the USSR.
Because energy security has not been a major issue for over seventy years, complacency has set in. The shift to a world where the pax americana is not the guarantee it once was not yet been widely appreciated. Trump’s antics have exacerbated an already existing trend. In the world of competing global powers that is emerging, oil is likely to become an instrument of that competition, as it was pre WW2.
Clean energy like wind and solar are local and as such do not have the political energy security problems of fossil fuels. There is a growing complacency that wind and solar can be 100% replacements for fossil fuels and that we are on a path toward that future. Unfortunately this complacency is ill founded. There is no clear path as yet to 100% replacement and the rate of growth in clean energy is far too slow to have an impact before the end of this century.
Stratosolar in contrast is a 100% fossil fuel replacement and its favourable economics mean it could be deployed rapidly. It is a viable solution to energy security.
Economies that are dependent on fossil fuel imports have yet to focus on their vulnerability. As usual, it will probably take a crisis that threatens or reduces fossil fuel imports to cause change. Hopefully that crises will not be armed conflict as it was with WW2.
By Edmund Kelly