BY ROSA LIN
Crude oil remains consistently above $100 a barrel, with intermittent spikes caused by unrest in the Middle East. Rising countries such as China and India press their demands on the world oil supply. The most viable alternative to crude oil, nuclear power, took a blow from the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Despite all this, energy security likely won’t be on the agenda at the NATO summit this year.
“Energy security will not play a role in the Chicago summit,” said Michael Rühle, the head of the Energy Security Section at NATO headquarters in Brussels. The only contribution, he said, would be a classified report on energy that is submitted annually.
NATO countries source their energy from a wide variety of places, which is one of the reasons leaders are reticent to discuss energy policies.
Crude oil, natural gas, and coal remain the top energy sources worldwide, and will continue to be so, making up a forecasted 80 percent of energy consumption in 2040. However, where Allied countries obtain these products is where the interests divide.
“Allies come from very different angles” in regards to energy security, said Rühle. “The countries have very different levels of concern.”
While countries such as Canada are rich in natural gas, oil, and coal resources, other countries aren’t so lucky. Many central Eastern European countries remain tethered to natural gas pipelines from Russia, left over from the Cold War era.
“We are what is known as an energy island in the EU,” said Audrius Brūzga, director of the Lithuania Energy Security Center, based in Vilnius. “We have for the moment very limited options in terms of energy sources … we rely on 100 percent gas coming from Russia.”
Many European countries are heavily dependent on Russia, the world’s largest resource of coal, gas, and uranium. However, North American countries maintain very different energy sources, and so they are hesitant to create tensions with Russia, a non-NATO country.
”They (European countries) have to deal with the Russians,” said Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security based in Washington, and adviser to the United States Energy Security Council. “North American, and even some European nations, such as Germany, don’t have this issue … So why complicate things? Why get involved?”
Another reason energy security is low on the NATO agenda has to do with NATO’s structure. NATO is primarily a military alliance, and energy security is not a military operation issue.
“NATO has a significant role in energy security … we’re gradually developing,” Rühle said, but presently NATO only intervenes if an energy security issue becomes a security threat requiring military involvement.
Luft agreed that energy security is a commercial, rather than military issue. NATO can discuss the issue all they want, he said, “but until there are deliverables,” energy security is best left for the commercial arena.
Brūzga remains hopeful the energy security will come up during the summit. “I’m happy to observe that all NATO countries are increasingly interested in the topic,” he said. “NATO has a role in energy security, and NATO has to face that role and obligation … I think energy security will be discussed at the Chicago summit.”