Competing Dimensions of Energy Security: An International Perspective
Sovacool, Benjamin K.
Brown, Marilyn A.
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How well are industrialized nations doing in terms of their energy security? Without a standardized set of metrics, it is difficult to determine the extent that countries are properly responding to the emerging energy security challenges related to climate change, growing dependence on fossil fuels, population growth and economic development. In response, we propose the creation of an Energy Security Index to inform policymakers, investors and analysts about the status of energy conditions. Using the United States and 21 other member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as an example, and looking at energy security from 1970 to 2007, our index shows that only four countries¡ªBelgium, Denmark, Japan, and the United Kingdom¡ªhave made progress on multiple dimensions of the energy security problem. The remaining 18 have either made no improvement or are less secure. To make this argument, the first section of the article surveys the scholarly literature on energy security from 2003 to 2008 and argues that an index should address accessibility, affordability, efficiency, and environmental stewardship. Because each of these four components is multidimensional, the second section discusses ten metrics that comprise an Energy Security Index: oil import dependence, percentage of alternative transport fuels, on-road fuel economy for passenger vehicles, energy intensity, natural gas import dependence, electricity prices, gasoline prices, sulfur dioxide emissions, and carbon dioxide emissions. The third section analyzes the relative performance of four countries: Denmark (the top performer), Japan (which performed well), the United States (which performed poorly), and Spain (the worst performer). The article concludes by offering implications for policy. Conflicts between energy security criteria mean that advancement along any one dimension can undermine progress on another dimension. By focusing on a 10-point index, public policy can better illuminate such tradeoffs and can identify compensating policies.