Fukushima Arab Spring Shale Gas

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Fukushima, Arab Spring, and Shale Gas: Future Revisited
Abbas Maleki
3rd Gulf Research Meeting, Cambridge University, UK
The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, first commissioned in 1971, with a combined power of
4.7 Giga Watts equivalent, making Fukushima Daiichi one of the 15 largest nuclear power
stations in the world. The plant suffered major damage from the 9.0 earthquake and
subsequent tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011 and is not expected to reopen. The
earthquake and tsunami disabled the reactor cooling systems, leading to nuclear radiation
leaks and triggering a 30 km evacuation zone surrounding the plant. On April 20, 2011, the
Japanese authorities declared the 20 km evacuation zone a no-go area which may only be
entered under government supervision. This event had several consequences. First, the
renewable energy resources are important, but not necessarily sustainable in long term.
Second, despite of the human bold achievements on high technologies in energy industries,
uncertainties of energy future are more specific and dealing with them are more
complicated. Third, conventional energy carriers like coal, oil, and gas still play the major role
for the energy sector. Especially in transportation, despite of all progress on using solar,
wind, and biomass energies, 90 percent of transportation still relies to the fuel directly or
indirectly by conversion of oil to electricity.
The Arab Spring is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the
Arab world that began on Saturday, 18 December 2010. To date revolutions have occurred in
Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, resulting in the fall of its regime; civil uprisings in Bahrain, Syria,
and Yemen; major protests in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, and Oman; and minor protests
in Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Western Sahara. Clashes at the
borders of Israel in May 2011 have also been inspired by the regional Arab Spring. The
consequences of a series of upheavals in Arab states on energy markets are multi-layers
phenomena. Geopolitically, these countries are dominant powers to the straits and
waterways which is the bed of oil and gas flow to the rest of the world. Strait of Hormuz
passes 16.5 million barrels per day of crude, as Bab el-Mandab is carrying 6 mb/d and Suez
Canal as 5 mb/d. On production side, Libya’s stream at 2.6 mb/d on daily oil still is not clear,
needs time. Egypt’s gas export to Israel and Jordan is not fixed, and Saudi’s situation,
especially domestic politics in oil rich eastern part of the country and interaction with Shi’a’s
majority is unclear. At the same time, optimistically, the new governments of Arab states will
be democratic, therefore need huge jobs for young generations, more consumption of
energy indigenously, less for export.
At the same time, shale gas has become an increasingly important source of natural gas in
the United States over the past decade, and interest has spread to potential gas shales in
Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia. One analyst expects shale gas to supply as much as half
the natural gas production in North America by 2020. Some analysts expect that shale gas
will greatly expand worldwide energy supply. A study by the Baker Institute of Public Policy
at Rice University concluded that increased shale gas production in the US and Canada could
help prevent Russia and Persian Gulf countries from dictating higher prices for the gas it
exports to European countries. The Obama administration believes that increased shale gas
development will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is growing
evidence that the extraction and use of shale gas results in the release of more greenhouse
gases than conventional natural gas, and may lead to emissions greater than those of oil or
coal.
This article wants to answer few questions:
1- What is the future of renewables after Fukushima disaster?
2- What are consequences of Arab Spring to the energy security, specifically in demand,
supply and price sides?
3- What are the impacts of new shale gas reserves on energy markets?
4- Does it need any changes to energy policy of main exhaustible resource
producers/consumers?
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