Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff at PostGlobal

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff

Germany

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. He overseas the fund's policy programs. He was previously the Washington bureau chief of the German newsweekly, Die Zeit. Close.

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff

Germany

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. more »

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Get Energy Right

Germany -- If the G8 wants to get serious about energy security they need a commitment to start burning fewer fossile fuels. Conservation is not the only solution to the energy puzzle, but there will be no solution without conservation.

Traditionally, energy security meant: drill and burn. Drill more, burn more. That will be an increasingly costly strategy in the age of "Chindia." The second answer has been: Diversify. No nation should be dependent on one energy source alone. A third strategy is emerging: Stay interconnected. For a long time, nations have felt the need to establish exclusive supply relationships with energy producers. Germany's new Baltic Sea Pipeline to Russia which bypasses Poland and the Baltic states is only the latest example. But unfortunately, exclusivity only increases dependency. When Russia turned off the supply for Ukraine Western Europe erupted in protest. Why? They were down the pipeline and saw their own supply cut off. Russia did not want to anger all of her European customers at once. Which shows consumer power works, exclusivity does not.

However, consumer power has its limits when energy is in short supply. Ownership of oil and natural gas can even validate a claim to great power status. Russia is such a case. As Bulgarian policy intellectual Ivan Krastev writes, it has taken less than two decades to transform Russia "from a communist one-party state into an oligarchic one-pipeline state." In Krastevs view the western response to the rise of Russia "as a non-democratic energy superpower is a mixture of indignation, fear and double-standard politics". Russia is only the biggest of the autocratic energy powers. Save for Norway and Canada democratic suppliers of fossile fuels are hard to come by. And things are likely to get worse. In his "first law of petropolitics" Thomas Friedman notes that "the price of oil and the pace of freedom always move in the opposite direction in oil-rich petrolist states". And the west loses its leverage to press for democratization, in Russia and elsewhere. It might even be subjected to energy blackmail. And the Third World? Talk about a debt crisis.

Only when the big consumers start to conserve energy will the price come down. It has happened before. After the oil crisis of the early seventies the US and Western European countries started to enact tougher conservation regulations. It brought prices down, helped to overcome stagnation and finally led into the boom of the nineties. That can be done again. It will be good for the First World and good for the Third World. Only the Autocrats won't like it.

That's also why the G8 won't act on it. When it comes to energy, the group is actually a G7 plus 1.

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