Finally, the energy security problem has been complicated by the problem of global climate change. As the science has become increasingly clear, climate change is now a major political issue at the global and national levels.
Rising sea levels, drought in Africa, and increasingly turbulent storms all pose a new threat that must be taken seriously. So measures to deal with energy security must address the demand side even more than the supply side.
Measures that some legislators favor, such as transforming coal into liquids, increase secure supplies, but they imply more carbon dioxide emissions than imported oil does. They should be avoided until technologies for clear coal or carbon capture are perfected. On the other hand, reducing demand through improved energy efficiency and conservation measures are beneficial for both the security of supplies and the global climate.
But it is not enough for the US and EU countries to improve their energy efficiency unless other countries do so as well. China and India can pursue security of supply by using their large coal resources, but unless they also have access to improved coal technology, the burdens they impose on the atmosphere will be large.
This year, China will surpass the US in emissions of greenhouse gases. It builds nearly two new coal-fired electricity plants each week. In such a world, energy security can no longer be summed up as greater energy independence. Instead, we must find better ways to cope with energy interdependence.
Joseph Nye is a professor at Harvard University.
Copyright: Project Syndicate