ABSTRACT

Energy itself is fundamental to social development. Simultaneously, energy is central to one of the greatest environmental challenges humanity faces: climate change. Solutions to climate change will have a significant and lasting impact on the future of energy use. But climate change is not the only problem that the energy system faces. There are growing concerns about energy security, with real fears that geopolitical disruption could place many of the world’s economies in jeopardy. On

top of this is the problem of the longevity of existing fossil fuel supplies. While coal appears to be plentiful, oil and gas have increasingly limited lifetimes. In 2008, there were rapid fluctuations in the price of energy supplies, with oil peaking near to US$150 a barrel at one point and falling to less than US$50 towards the end of 2008. The knock-on effects of this were increases in the cost of basic food stuffs as well as manufactured products, showing that energy is a fundamental component of our lifestyles. Some believe these price fluctuations signal that we have reached what is termed ‘peak oil’; where more energy oil reserves are used than are produced. Trying to think through energy futures with the pressing problems of climate change and issues of energy resource and energy price security is particularly difficult without an energy policy framework, since the market itself gives very mixed messages.