Access to ever-increasing quantities of oil has favoured the multiplication of exchanges between the various parts of the world, whether for people with the sharp increase in air travel, or goods with the development of road and air freight.
This development of transport and exchanges, combined with the tremendous progress made in the field of telecommunications, has been a major factor in globalisation of the economy.
The relatively low cost of energy has closed the gap between the continents and transformed the world into the 'global village' we now know. In this context, European consumers eat fruit and vegetables in winter grown in the southern hemisphere (from Australia, New Zealand and Chile).
The search for lowest-cost production sites has accelerated the development of goods transport and led to a sharp rise in energy consumption by emerging countries.
Simultaneously, liberalisation of the economy and deregulation of the energy sector in most industrialised countries have created the conditions
3 LNG is transported by tankers in liquid phase at low temperature.
for increasingly open competition. This situation has fostered an outbreak of concentrations (mergers and acquisitions) designed to make the newly created industrial groups large enough for the scale of the targeted markets.
This progressive concentration of industrial companies has given greater power to the international companies operating in the energy sector  and reduced the role of the states.
These concentrations first took place in the oil sector with the ExxonMobil, BP-Amoco-Arco, Chevron-Texaco, Conoco-Phillips and TotalFina-Elf mergers.
They also affected the electricity production sector, with numerous mergers in Europe strengthening the position of some major players such as E.ON, RWE, Suez and EDF.
The situation has not yet stabilised in this sector and changes are still taking place, as illustrated by the recent merger between Suez and Gaz de France and the acquisition of Endesa by ENEL, following E.ON's takeover bid.
Opening the gas and electricity networks to third parties represents another means of increasing competition. The networks are managed independently of the energy suppliers which use them at the same time. In Europe, the internal energy market must now be open and competitive. This involves separating the transport networks from the production means, under the control of the national regulation authorities.
Globalisation of the economy has led to greater dependency on oil, due to the ever-increasing demand for petroleum fuels and more generally fossil fuels. We have recently seen that the global economy could cope reasonably well with an increase in the cost of energy. In contrast however, an interruption, even temporary, in oil supplies would cause a major crisis.
In this globalised economy, investments and the decision processes depend more and more on the international groups in the energy sector, at least during the energy conversion and supply stages. In addition, since the energy policies within the European Union are becoming increasingly integrated, fewer decisions can be made at a purely national level.
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