Dependent or reliant on others for energy: Should we feel anxious about Europe’s energy dependency?
The European Union consumes about 1/5 of the world’s energy, but has very low
reserves of her own. As a result, the EU spends E350 billion pa importing
energy, the biggest suppliers being Norway, Algeria and Russia. Although
targets have been set to reduce consumption, this is hampered by national
regulations that prevent the energy market from operating efficiently.
Europe’s sources of energy are relatively diverse, with heavy use of nuclear
power in France, and hydroelectric power in Austria. However, few are immune
from the issue of dependency. For example, 100% of the uranium used in nuclear
plants must be imported. he 2009 gas supply crisis between Russia and Ukraine
combined with instability in North Africa and the declining Norwegian gas
fields have combined to increase many people’s anxiety about our energy
dependency. However, in this lesson we will also look at times when energy
usage has been a catalyst for co-operation, in order to make a judgement about
how anxious EU citizens should be about this issue. In addition students will
be encouraged to see how this issue links to political, economic and
geographic considerations through the “Questions for extended thinking”.
Students will be able to think about how the EU has responded to the challenge
of energy dependency, and the many competing factors that need to be
considered by EU policy makers in trying to address energy dependency.