A new paper issued by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) reminds us that the pace and ambition of policies to transition Western economies to net-zero emissions must be balanced against the world’s energy security needs — or there may be serious unintended consequences.
In the paper, titled East vs West realpolitik: Why energy security matters, chief analysts Jack Mintz and Ron Wallace ask, “While achieving greater energy efficiencies and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions sounds reasonable, we need to examine how these goals will be accomplished and the consequences of doing so. Many government policies focus solely on environmental concerns – but at what cost?”
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The paper examines efforts by many jurisdictions to decarbonize the world’s energy systems, fearing impacts of global climate change. But researchers conclude that current energy transition policies in North America and Europe, which are focused on cutting emissions, could undermine economic, energy and national security concerns. The paper highlights energy’s essential role in supporting economic recovery and resilience, and security – important considerations that tend to be ignored when environmental issues alone are prioritized as the basis of energy policy.
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The study notes, “No one has yet addressed the enormous financing requirements that will be needed to accomplish a comprehensive transition away from those fuels. Discouraging investment in fossil fuels has already led to market instabilities, power interruptions, and continued price escalations. It will also reward producers outside of North America with enormous windfalls as is presently occurring. Putin’s Russia, for example, has greatly strengthened its self-sufficiency in hydrocarbons and become a significant global exporter.”
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The authors conclude that energy policies “… assume that energy transitions are straightforward, even inevitable, and that alternative energy solutions can provide practical, adequate, sustained, and secure energy supplies. However, limiting production of fossil fuels at rates faster than can be reasonably and economically replaced with alternative power would lead to market instabilities, power interruptions, and price increases. Energy transition policies in North America may undermine both energy and national security, as has clearly occurred throughout Europe.”