Uncontrolled Oil Dependence Is A Threat To National Security  

Posted by Big Gav

The WA Sustainable Transport Coalition has a good article on energy security and uncontrolled dependence on oil.

We all know that peak oil is going to cause serious problems - this article identifies some lessons we can learn from other countries (such as Japan and Sweden) who have actually spent a lot of time and effort since the 1970's reducing their dependence on oil.

The Japanese ruling bureaucracy realised in 1974 that national security is about enabling Japan to survive oil shortages; that oil conservation is just as important as having a military capacity and that oil dependence was a serious threat to their way of life. Japan's energy security policy has reduced oil dependence in the transport sector by creating the finest rail system in the world, for urban commuting and intercity transportation, which is sustainable because it is reliant mainly on hydro electric sources (Hook, W. 1994). Intermodal passenger transport is highly developed with 6 million bicycles being used to access rail stations; very efficient modal interchanges linking buses and trains and providing secure bicycle parking.

Japan has introduced legislation requiring the sale of new cars, after four years of use to other countries so that new energy efficient cars, particularly small petrol electric hybrids, will, in a few years, renew their car fleet and make it the most fuel efficient in the world. Petrol is A$1.75 per litre, a price high enough to encourage the sale of smaller cars. Electricity generation is heavily dependent on oil and is the reason for Japan planning to generate 40% of its electricity from nuclear power. This electricity can be also used for more high-speed trains and to power electric bicycles which are becoming popular in Japan (Parker 2004 A). Japan has almost zero population growth, has no indigenous oil resources and has been sensibly planning to survive since the 1970s when Japan's elite bureacracy MITI made important decisions. Since the middle 1990's energy security planning has no longer been as dominant in decision making, so Japan may have problems in adapting to coming oil shortages. Fortunately Japan current commitment to reducing Greenhouse gas emissions will act as de-facto oil conservation policy and under that plan the major highway along the length of Japan will have hydrogen refueling stations and in time most of the hydrogen will come from renewable resources.

Around 1980 the US developed a national plan for the more energy efficient use of oil and gas which was designed to buy time to develop more energy efficient uses of renewable energy resources. As a result of the unwarranted influence of the military/industrial complex, instead it made massive investments in long range ballistic missiles and a nuclear arsenal, which is now obsolete. Since 1990 a group of neo-conservative republicans has formulated a clandestine energy security policy based on invading other countries to access their oil resources. This policy option is not open to Australia or other nations. Indeed, the EU accepts that conserving oil resources and investing in the energy efficient use of oil and renewable energy is the only sensible option.

Current Australian practice must be close to world worst, unfortunately. The things we have in our favour are a relatively low population density (slowly being eroded by continuous increases in immigration driven by the business community's desire for more consumers) and a lot of potential sources of energy (but with few incentives in place to begin developing these, other than exporting raw fuel).

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