The 'security' goal is one that sits at the forefront of both developed and developing country energy policies, as it speaks directly to the core government imperative of surviving internationally. In the UK, for example, in contrast to access, the security goal is not articulated around any ideas about justice or equity for specific groups of people within the UK, but is about promoting and defending the national interest as a whole in the face of international pressures. The relevant storylines revolve around the UK's place as a nation in the world. They raise questions such as the following: does the UK have enough energy resources of its own, and are they reliably available? If not, who has the energy resources the UK needs to import to be secure as a wealthy modern economy? Can they be trusted to sell them to the UK rather than to other nations? Can they raise prices to unacceptable levels, perhaps provoking social unrest?
Constructed in this way, it is clear how the security objective speaks directly to the core government imperatives of surviving internal and external threats. It also underpins nations' ability to achieve sustained economic growth. For anyone in the energy policy world, mention of 'security of supply' evokes the storyline of the OPEC oil embargo of 1973, the quadrupling in the price of crude oil in Western markets by 1974
and the ensuing global recession. It is not surprising then that in many senses the security objective lies at the heart of contemporary energy policy. By and large it is possible to buy and sell fuel and electricity whenever necessary: the issue is that this needs to be a stable and reliable position. Disruptions to fuel and electricity supplies are enormously damaging in economic and political terms: witness how rapidly the UK government, for example, caved in over the 'fuel duty escalator' when a handful of people blockaded road fuel distribution centres in protest at the policy in 2000.
Yergin (1988, p. 111) defines the objective of energy security as follows: 'to assure adequate, reliable supplies of energy at reasonable prices and in ways that do not jeopardize major national values and objectives'. Maintaining strategic fuel reserves and diversifying domestic and imported fuel sources are obvious means to this end. However, many other initiatives, including military intervention, are partially motivated by (and justified in terms of) the need for security of energy supply. Andrews (2005, p. 24) writes: 'Energy security persists as a policy driver of great rhetorical and practical importance. ... For a century now, importing nations have done whatever it takes to ensure a continuing flow of energy to fuel their economies'.
In the UK, with the depletion of North Sea oil and gas and the UK becoming a net importer of both, the energy security agenda has been moved to the centre ground in the government's energy policy rhetoric. It is instructive to examine the discursive construction of this renewed emphasis on security. At first glance former Prime Minister Blair's forewords to the 2003 Energy White Paper (DTI, 2003c, p. 3) and to the 2006 Energy Review report (DTI, 2006c, pp. 4-5) carry very similar messages. However, comparing statements on equivalent topics shows a clear discursive shift. Note that emphases in italics in the quotations below have been added here, highlighting points that are picked up in the analysis.
In 2003 the message was upbeat: climate change was a major threat, but renewable energy presented a vital part of the solution, and, importantly for this analysis, a major business opportunity. The UK was 'showing leadership' in tackling the problem. Mr Blair noted that 'our energy supplies will increasingly depend on imported gas and oil from Europe and beyond', but 'access to a wide range of energy sources', 'robust infrastructure' and 'competitive markets' would ensure our energy needs were met. Concern was expressed for 'the world's poorest' facing climate change, and for people living in 'fuel poverty'.
In 2006, however, the prime minister told us 'energy is simply essential for the future of our country. . Without it we could not function as an economy or modern society. Even minor disruptions in supply, after all, can cause major problems for communities and businesses. Ensuring we have a sustainable, secure and affordable energy supply is one of the principal duties of Government'. Here people are being primed to think the UK's place as a nation and their way of life are threatened, and government must give protection against this threat. This is compounded when it is stated that 'the overwhelming majority of experts believe climate change is already underway and, without collective action, will have a hugely damaging effect on our country, planet and way of life.'
It soon becomes clear that this is an external threat to the national way of life. Mr Blair (in 2006) continues: 'As a nation, we have been fortunate up to now that our energy needs have been met largely from domestic sources ... we will soon become net importers of oil, and dependent on imported gas at a time when global demand and prices are increasing'. Note the linguistic shift that is employed here. Whereas in 2003 the country could expect 'energy supplies' to 'depend on' energy imports, by 2006 'we' would soon become 'dependent on' such imports, which is a much less attractive proposition. For one nation to depend on another for goods can be part of a mutually beneficial trading relationship, whereas to be 'dependent on' others as a people is much more worrying, and suggests an unhealthy lack of alternatives. This subtle shift in linguistic construction is indicative of a significant change in discourse, since the same relationship is presented as 'natural' in the first instance and 'un-natural' in the second.
As a relationship, international trade in energy has become unhealthy, according to the 2006 Foreword: others will buy up available supplies, and this will both create an energy shortfall and accelerate climate change. Mr Blair writes: 'Energy consumption by China and India, for example, is projected to double by 2030. ... Without action to ensure reliable supplies and replace power plants, there will be a dramatic shortfall in our energy capacity and risks to our energy security. . The UK, for example, only accounts for 2% of global carbon emissions which are expected to rise by another 50% by 2030.' These arguments deftly combine storylines of an energy gap and climate change becoming major threats as people in other nations catch up with us economically: our way of life and place as a nation are under threat from outside.
A clear change in linguistic emphasis can also be discerned in relation to renewable energy. In 2003 Mr Blair heralded renewable energy and fuel cell technologies as 'major opportunities for our businesses to become world leaders'. By 2006 renewables demanded 'investment' and 'support' and their development was an 'obligation', but it was 'clear that wind, wave or solar power, let alone less established technologies, are not yet enough by themselves ... neither renewable energy nor greater energy efficiency can provide the complete solution to the shortfall we face. This will depend on securing energy supplies from abroad, in [sic] new nuclear power stations to replace those becoming obsolete'. Comparing these two statements on renewable energy illustrates the idea of problem framing: in 2003 they are framed as serving economic growth; in 2006 they are framed as an incomplete solution to a potential energy gap. In this framing nuclear power fares much better, given that its economic performance is not one of its strong cards.
Many commentators (Tansey et al., 2006; SEG, 2006) criticised the conduct of the 2006 Energy Review as hasty and potentially damaging to public trust in government and its use of science in policymaking. In short, the review appears to have been an opportunistic attempt to legitimise renewed government support for investment in nuclear power. The procedures by which this decision was subsequently secured were ruled unlawful in February 2007 in an action brought by Greenpeace (see Chapter 5 for more detail). The discursive shift from 2003 to 2006 illustrated above was central to reframing investment in nuclear electricity as necessary for the UK. The storyline evoked was one of the UK as an imperilled island state whose way of life is threatened by the activities of foreign nations: only a domestically controlled energy source such as nuclear could protect us. This storyline, advanced by the nuclear lobby extremely effectively in the intervening years, has resonance in the context of the wider security fears around international terrorism. Again, in this instance, it is clear that policy influence can be achieved if a discourse is constructed in such a way as to speak to core government imperatives; in this case the imperative to survive internationally as an independent state.
The nuclear industry talks of the UK's need for a new 'fleet' of nuclear power stations. This is a historically resonant metaphor that evokes a storyline of Britain defending its shores with mighty naval ships. Thus, in its response to the 2006 Energy Review consultation (DTI, 2006d), British Energy (the privately owned nuclear electricity business) argued: 'A fleet approach to replacement nuclear build, with a common design, makes sense ...'. The Sussex Energy Group responded to the same consultation questioning what, if anything, had changed between 2003 and 2006 to merit this sudden panic over energy security, and argued that the purported imminent energy gap that had been used to justify the need for nuclear new build was not real (SEG, 2006). The existence or otherwise of such an energy gap, and its use in constructing the arguments in the 2006 Energy Review, illustrate the importance of analysing the 'ontology' (or the ways in which certain entities are constructed as real) in specific discourses: if the energy gap is a rhetorical fabrication then the conclusions that flow from its posited existence are undermined.
This provides a good example of energy policy failing to conform to the linear objective model described above. The shift in emphasis between 2003 and 2006, to a position where nuclear new build suddenly emerged as a necessary part of plugging an energy gap, was not based on any new empirical analysis that had uncovered such a shortfall during that three-year period. What had occurred in those three years, however, was an increasing emphasis on fears around energy security within the rhetoric that characterised the energy policy debate. The nuclear lobby itself played a significant part in promoting this rhetoric. By speaking to the core government imperatives of national security, the discursive construction of the call for new nuclear power was therefore effective in influencing energy policy and establishing new nuclear power as essential for the UK.
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