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Terese is a 20-year-old mother living in a small village in Senegal. She spends most of her day laboring over simple everyday tasks that a woman living in a developed country with reliable access to energy could perform in minutes. In order to cook meals, Terese must grind her homegrown grains using traditional tools like a mortar and pestle. Even though the village has a grain-grinding machine, it requires several liters of expensive gasoline in order to function-resources Terese does not have and cannot afford. Cooking this meal into an edible form over a simple fire can take up to two hours, not counting the time it takes to gather the wood. In addition, she must spend several hours a day walking to and from a well to gather water because the village lacks the electricity to run a modern water pump.

Most people take energy for granted, never realizing how much they use-and waste-to accomplish even the most basic activities in their daily routine. Yet, energy is a scarce and valuable commodity, one that will play an increasingly important role in the lives of all global citizens in the coming years. One day, the forces of globalization may bring a supply of energy and thus greater opportunity to Terese’s village. But globalization is also complicating the global energy landscape in ways that we are only beginning to understand (A day in the life of Terese, n.d.).

Energy usage has been such a basic element of human advancement for so long that it is perhaps not surprising it has acquired mounting significance in the era of globalization. It pervades every aspect of life: enabling the simplest everyday tasks, shaping the environment around us, underpinning economic growth, and increasingly affecting the geopolitical calculations of all governments. In addition, an estimated $38 trillion dollars needs to be invested in the energy supply infrastructure between 2011 and 2035 to meet the growing demand (Energy Information Administration, 2011)

First and foremost, energy in all its forms, perhaps more than any other commodity, has fueled the continuing integration of the nations of the world and their economies. Higher energy consumption has both influenced and been influenced by the forces of globalization, raising the stakes involved in the formation of national energy policies and the proper operation of global energy markets. Strong global economic growth and the need to ship more goods and services around the world have raised demand for energy in many sectors.If current energy agreements and policies are acted upon, it will have a marked effect on energy demand.

The economic turmoil of 2008-2009 created widespread uncertainty in the energy sector. Recovery has been uneven, though global primary energy demand increased five percent in 2010. Recovery has been uneven, though with increasing population growth, the demand for primary energy sources has only gone upwards. Since 1900, population has more than quadrupled, with real income increased by a factor of 25 and energy consumption by a factor of 23. With the world population and increasing, as well as continued economic integration of low and medium income economies, this is expected to only increase in the next 20 years.

Governments are still strapped with heavy debt and fear a double dip recession. Subsidies to encourage fossil fuel consumption reached $400 billion. The nuclear disaster in Japan and the turmoil in the Middle East bring to light the fragility of energy suppliers.  While prospects for short-term economic growth are uncertain, demand is expected to grow in the long-term. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that between 2010 and 2035 world primary demand will increase by one-third, Ninety percent of that increase is predicted to occur within non-OECD countries like China (Energy Information Administration, 2011).

Spikes in demand, due to increased transportation and trade, when matched with the declining level of supply in the short term, have created a shock that the average consumer feels deeply because high energy prices mean the cost of living rises and energy costs assume a growing share of household spending. The economic recession has hurt consumers more by augmenting the effects of the energy shock.

While the exact size of future global energy demand is in constant flux, all trends suggest that consumption of energy will grow at least as steadily as global population. Thus energy issues will only become more prominent in the global dialogue as emerging economies such as China and India continue to modernize and industrialize, and as developed countries place an ever greater premium on securing energy assets and achieving energy independence.

This Issue in Depth will provide an overview to the field of energy, surveying several of the most important types of energy and the issues specific to each type. It will also explore the relevance of energy considerations to three central aspects of globalization: the environment, development, and geopolitics. The Issue in Depth includes both description and analysis, providing both real-world examples and broader background concepts that contextualize them. Most importantly, the Issue in Depth will address the critical questions and controversies at the heart of the ongoing debate about the role of energy in a globalized world.


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