The politics of energy

Shortages of energy resources ensure that energy resourcing and production is a priority for many countries, both developed and developing.

The map compares energy rich and poor countries.

Map of the world showing energy exporting countries

Political tensions

There have been incidents, especially in the Middle East, where countries are willing to go to war to secure energy supplies.

There is also the risk of oil and gas reserves being withdrawn. For example, the recent conflict in Libya decreased oil availability.

Conflict in Syria and Iraq has threatened and disrupted oil supply. Islamic State (IS) has bombed oil wells in Kirkuk in northern Iraq. It has also taken control of much of Syria's oil production.

Continuing instability in this region threatens world oil supplies.

There are arguments ahead between countries as they argue over territorial waters in their quest to find new sources of oil and gas. This is especially true of the South Atlantic and Arctic areas.

There are also arguments surrounding new ways to extract energy, such as fracking and horizontal drilling.


Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth. Fracking makes it possible to produce natural gas in shale areas that were once unreachable with conventional technologies.

Horizontal drilling allows for the injection of highly pressurised fracking fluids into the shale area.

This creates new channels within the rock from which natural gas is extracted at higher than traditional rates.

Scientists are divided as to the safety of these methods.

The extensive use of fracking in the US, where it has revolutionised the energy industry, has prompted environmental concerns.

The first is that fracking uses huge amounts of water that must be transported to the fracking site, at significant environmental cost.

The second is the worry that potentially carcinogenic chemicals used may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site. The industry suggests pollution incidents are the results of bad practice, rather than an inherently risky technique.

There are also worries that the fracking process can cause small earth tremors. Two small earthquakes of 1.5 and 2.2 magnitude hit the Blackpool area in 2011 following fracking. And in March 2016, the US Geological Survey released a map of areas of the U.S.A. where there was an increased risk of induced earthquakes due to human activities, such as fluid injection or extraction.

The energy debate will continue and intensify as developing countries industrialise further and increase demands on an already strained resource.

Developed countries demand also shows little signs of abating.

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