Balancing the Energy Triangle

by Brina Jablonski

Frank Umbach (2012), uses an ‘energy triangle’ to illustrate the importance of energy supply security and its’ three main goals: environmental/climate sustainability, energy supply security, and economic competitiveness. Countries struggle in balancing the three areas and often lean towards one at the cost of misbalancing the other two.

Energy shocks and supply disruptions can leave individual states and countries extremely vulnerable. This highlights the increasing imbalance of the supply and demand of energy worldwide and also the dire need for supply security, or in other words, the necessity of balancing the three objectives of the ‘energy triangle’. An example of this balance is the expanded usage of domestic coal. Although expanding the usage of domestic coal can increase economic competitive and strengthen supply security, it will also increase carbon dioxide emissions and as a result accelerate climate change. In contrast, reducing coal emissions by replacing coal with natural gas can negatively impact economic competitive and energy supply security. Umbach uses this idea of balance throughout the article to analyze the methods the USA and the EU are using to reduce the damaging effects of climate change.

Umbach also mentions how climate change and climate change prevention are linked through six major factors: the burning of fossil fuels and the greenhouse gases they release, the rise of carbon dioxide emissions, how human activities play a large role in climate change, how climate change is affecting global security because it stands as a ‘multiplier’ for potential conflict, how the substitution of biofuels for traditional fuels has increased the price of food and is thus no longer efficient, and lastly how current energy plans and policies will likely have no effect on the climate change situation in the future. These six factors link together climate change itself and the efforts that people are making to prevent further climate change.

Umbach, F. 2012. The intersection of climate protection policies and energy security. Journal of Transatlantic Studies, Vol. 10, No. 4, 374-387.

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