It’s not about oil… It’s not about oil… It’s not about oil…

From Energy BulletinComplete English translation of German military analysis of peak oil now available: The tone of the Bundeswehr document is consistent with written warnings issued by other military analysts and stands in stark contrast to the disinterest of elected officials, bureaucrats and industry officials. The latter sectors have routinely dismissed the concerns of peak oil analysts, but this thoroughly sourced examination (which was conducted by a team of highly credible military analysts from a leading Western nation and approved by their top brass) gives credence to the view that the peaking of global oil production constitutes a threat which appears to be as serious as it is inevitable.

Here is the PDF.

Here is the complete text [note – to be formatted]:

Bundeswehr Transformation Centre
Future Analysis Branch
Prötzeler Chaussee 25
15344 Strausberg
November 2010
Armed Forces, Capabilities and Technologies in the 21st Century
Environmental Dimensions of Security
Sub-study 1

Security policy implications of scarce resources

© Bundeswehr Transformation Centre, Future Analysis Branch
All rights reserved. Contents may only be reproduced or published with express permission from the Bundeswehr
Transformation Centre, Future Analysis Branch


The Bundeswehr Transformation Centre analyses changes that occur within and outside the Bundeswehr and provides incentives for concept development, armed forces planning and the Bundeswehr’s capability profile. It thus assists the Federal Ministry of Defence in
centrally managing the transformation process.

In this context, the purpose of security-related future analysis is to acquire knowledge
precociously and scientifically based in order to refine conceptual specifications and
objectives without making predictions. Being open-ended and not bound by directives, it
provides ideas and approaches for aligning the Bundeswehr to face future tasks and
therefore is a central part in the process of formulating objectives. Purpose of the study
results is to enable the Federal Ministry of Defence to identify long-term issues with
relevance to security policy at an early stage before forwarding them, if necessary, to
internal or external organisations for a more detailed analysis.

To perform its tasks, one study from the ACT 21 series (Armed Forces, Capabilities and
Technologies in the 21st Century) and one Mid-term Study (MTS) will be alternately
presented by the Future Analysis Branch every 5 years. ACT 21 studies address conceivable long-term security policy challenges that are to be met within a 30-year time frame whereas MTS studies address challenges that are to be met within a 15-year time frame.

The studies carried out by the Future Analysis Branch of the Bundeswehr are prepared
within the area of responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Defence and are exclusively
based on open sources. In addition to military expertise, use is made above all of the
scientific knowledge of civilian university and non-university research facilities and various federal ministries. The results, however, are not coordinated with other ministries and research facilities and are not intended to interfere with their responsibilities. Against this backdrop, the studies carried out by the Future Analysis Branch do not generally reflect any official views held by the Federal Ministry of Defence. Any specific conclusions, analysis requirements and recommended actions that are of relevance to the armed forces, i.e. internal conclusions, are drawn up in parallel and are only published internally within the Federal Ministry of Defence.


1. INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………………………………..8
2. THE IMPORTANCE OF OIL……………………………………………………………..12
2.2 OIL AS A POTENTIAL CONFLICT FACTOR ………………………………………………………. 15
ACTORS ………………………………………………………………………………………………………..34
3.1.4 INTRA-SOCIETAL RISKS OF PEAK OIL …………………………………………………………..49
4. SECURITY IMPLICATIONS……………………………………………………………. 65
ELLIPSE …………………………………………………………………………………….. 68
…………………………………………………………………………………………… 73
4.6 CRITICAL ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE………………………………………………. 83
4.7. EXTENDED ENERGY REGIONS………………………………………………………… 85
4.8. EFFECTS OF PEAK OIL ON ARMED FORCES………………………………………… 87
5. CONCLUSION……………………………………………………………………………….91

Frequent questions

#1 What Does Peak Oil Mean? …………………………………………………………………………………….. 95

#2 How Do Critics Argue against Peak Oil? …………………………………………………………………… 98

#3 What Types of Resources are there? ………………………………………………………………………..102

#4 What is the Difference between Conventional and Unconventional Oil and how Is it
Recovered? …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….104

#5 How Important are New Oil Discoveries? ………………………………………………………………..105

#6 How Do Oil Refineries Work? …………………………………………………………………………………106

#7 What Is the Significance of EROI for the Price of Oil?……………………………………………….107

#8 Are there Ways for the Bundeswehr to Deal with Peak Oil? ……………………………………… 108


Table of Figures

Figure 1: The Strategic Ellipse …………………………………………………………………………………………9

Figure 2: The Overall Potential of Conventional Oil in 2008…………………………………………….22

Figure 3: State Involvement in the 12 Largest National Oil Companies……………………………..35

Figure 4: Variance in the Relation between the State and State-owned Companies ……………36

Figure 5: International Land Leases ………………………………………………………………………………46

Figure 6: Food Security Levels in the Face of High Food Prices ……………………………………….. 51

Figure 7 : German Imports and Exports Classified by Commodity Groups ………………………..52

Figure 8: A Comparison of Peak Oil Predictions ……………………………………………………………..95

Figure 9: Peak Oil Predictions and Estimated Depletion Rate ………………………………………….97

Figure 10: Conventional and Unconventional Oil ………………………………………………………….. 98

Figure 11: Ultimately Recoverable Reserves ………………………………………………………………….102

Figure 12: Annual Oil Discoveries ………………………………………………………………………………..105

Figure 13: EROI Estimation for Energy Sources …………………………………………………………… 107


Table 1: German Oil Imports in 2009 ……………………………………………………………………………. 19

Table 2: Predictions regarding developments in oil production………………………………………100


1. Introduction

In this first part of the study entitled “Armed Forces, Capabilities and Technologies in the
21st Century – Environmental Dimensions of Security”, the Bundeswehr Future Analysis
Branch addresses the subject of finite resources and their potential security policy
implications, exemplary using the scenario in which the global maximum rate of oil
production has been exceeded. The second part of the study deals with climate change and

The term “peak oil” stands for the maximum rate of oil production and refers to the point in time at which the rate of a single oil field, of an oil-producing region, or globally reaches its absolute peak. In geological terms, about half of the originally existing resource quantity of oil will be available in underground oil reservoirs at this time.1 Various measures such as investing in production technologies to develop further resources, economising in oil consumption, or softening existing environment protection regulations, could indeed maintain the production level for a certain period. From peak oil, however, this level will irreversibly decline in the long term. Generally speaking, oil will therefore continue to be available and recoverable beyond the 30-year timeframe chosen in this study, albeit in quantities that are possibly too small to fully satisfy global demands and at considerably higher prices.2

In the past already, numerous conflicts were linked to various kinds of raw material deposits. Literature relating to this subject is extensive, and the topic finds broad interest within the security policy community.3 In most cases, however, such resource conflicts have been restricted to specific regions and have only been of limited relevance to international security policy. 4 In the light of global peak oil, this could change in future with regard to oil as a natural resource: Firstly, a global lack of oil could represent a systemic risk because its versatility as a source of energy and as a chemical raw material would mean that virtually every social subsystem would be affected by a shortage.5 Secondly, the primarily geographical concentration of the oil deposits and transport infrastructures in the “Strategic Ellipse” (see Figure 1) could lend greater relevance to security policy and generate increased global interest, which amongst other things could result in a shift in geopolitical power.

1 The term “resource quantity” refers to the total quantity of oil that is still available, regardless of whether the deposits have already been discovered or are regarded as
recoverable. For more detailed information about the classification of various types of resources, see Annex, Frequently Asked Questions #3.
2 For more detailed information on the peak oil phenomenon, see Annex, Frequently Asked Questions #1.
3 Cf. Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Natural Resources and Environment, May 2008, (accessed on 11 October 2010); Ian Bannon and Paul Collier, eds., Natural Resources and Violent Conflict: Options and Actions (Washington, D.C., 2003), http://wwwwds.
flict.pdf (accessed on 11 October 2010).
4 For information about the various types of resource-related conflict constellations, see Matthias Basedau, “Erdölkriege – Kriege der Zukunft?” in GIGA Focus Global, No.
6, Hamburg, 2007, (accessed on 11 October 2010).
5 An example is international goods transport. For a more detailed understanding of the term “systemic risk”, see Chapter 3.2.


Figure 1: The Strategic Ellipse6

Figure 1 – Glossary
1 bis 10 Gt 1 to 10 GT
10 bis 20 Gt 10 to 20 GT
Strategische Ellipse Strategic Ellipse
Mit ca. 74% der konventionellen Welterdölreserven und ca. 70% der Welterdgasreserven with approx. 74% of the world’s conventional oil reserves and approx. 70% of the world’s
natural gas reserves
Source: Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR)

The precise global peak oil date is controversial and can only be determined with certainty in retrospect.7 Available data on global oil reserves vary considerably and hardly provide any scope for outsiders to make an independent assessment.8 The quality of statements about oil production and relevant conclusions for the occurrence of a global peak oil situation depends on several factors: The reserve levels officially specified by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), for example, can be disputed on the grounds of nontransparent data acquisition and partly politically motivated information. The higher an OPEC member declares its national reserve levels, the higher the production rate allotted by the OPEC and, in turn, the export profits. A further important factor when it comes to estimating reserves is the applied calculating method. In the past, predictions regarding the

6 The Strategic Ellipse is an area that extends from the Middle East via the Caspian Region to the far north of Russia. This area encompasses approximately two thirds of the natural oil and gas deposits that are known globally and can currently be recovered at reasonable costs (reserve). This specifically concerns countries such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait and Kazakhstan.
7 The likelihood that peak oil was actually reached increases with every 12-month interval from the prevailing maximum production rate, whereby security policy implications could also arise much sooner owing to a physical oil shortage that could occur in the interim or due to psychological effects.
8 “Reserves” refers to the total quantity of recoverable resources that have already been discovered but have not yet been recovered. For more detailed information, see
Annex, Frequently Asked Questions #3.


production development of oil fields based on originally reported reserves were often too low and had to be adjusted upward. Other aspects such as improved production technologies may also positively effect the “reserve growth” factor.9

It is a fact, however, that oil is finite and that there is a peak oil. Since this study is mainly
focussed on understanding cause-effect relations following such a peak oil situation, it is not necessary to specify a precise point in time. Some institutions claim that peak oil will occur as early as around 2010.10 Depending on the development of globally relevant factors, we cannot rule out that peak oil could have serious security policy implications within the review period of the 30-year investigation perspective chosen for the SFT series.11 The dimension of the potential effects in conjunction with the above-mentioned ambiguity regarding the existing data on the future availability of oil therefore underpins the necessity to look in more detail at the potential security policy implications for Germany.

Apart from the above-mentioned uncertainty factors regarding exact peak oil occurrence, it is foreseeable that when global peak oil is actually reached – and if transformation towards post-fossil societies has not been extensive enough or has occurred too late – it will no longer be possible from a certain point to cover the global demand for oil. Against this background and regarding the long periods of time12 needed for adjustments in the energy sector aiming at a far-reaching energy transition, it is today’s necessity (1) to thoroughly analyse our extent of oil dependence, (2) to identify – based on this information and in time- potential risks , and (3) to discuss alternatives for using oil.

This study is intended to sensitise to the potential security policy consequences, risks and
cascade effects that may arise from peak oil excess.

The cause-effect relations described are expressly not to be understood as being
inevitable. Rather, they are intended to capture the potential interdependences
from different perspectives between the availability of oil and dependence on oil
and to thus help to better understand the systemic importance of oil and
potential security policy implications that can be derived for Germany.

Chapter 2 at first discusses the importance of oil, oil as a potential conflict factor, and the oil supply situation in Germany. Chapter 3 addresses two potential future scenarios resulting from global peak oil without implying, as already mentioned above, that the situation is inevitable or predicting the date on which the developments might occur. Chapter 3.1 looks at moderate developments that could occur as a result of peak oil. For this purpose, cause-effect relations that could arise as a result of peak oil and that are thought to be highly relevant to security policy have been identified and discussed. Chapter 3.2. addresses a possible special

9 Cf. Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Reserven, Ressourcen und Verfügbarkeit von Energierohstoffen (Hanover, 2009), 19f.,,templateId=raw,property=publicationFile.pdf/Energiestudie-Kurzf-
2009.pdf (accessed on 11 October 2010; the link refers to the German version).
10 Cf. Table 2.
11 For more detailed information on the international discussion on the peak oil phenomenon, see Annex, Frequently Asked Questions #2.
12 Cf. Robert L. Hirsch, Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling, Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management, February 2005, 57ff., (accessed on 11 October 2010).


case of peak oil consequences in which a so called economic “tipping point” is exceeded, a
situation which could lead to non-linear and partly chaotic developments. Even if in this case it is hardly possible to conduct an in-depth security policy analysis, the purpose is to raise awareness about a worst-case scenario. Chapter 3.3. deals with the oil resource-related conflict constellations that could change and expand as a result of peak oil.
The developments described start from the basic assumption that it was not possible to
complete an ambitiously timed and comprehensive global energy transition towards a postfossil economy and society within the investigation period. Accordingly, the study identifies the timely implementation of such a transformation and the development and expansion of systemic basic virtues such as independence, flexibility and redundancy as the central action priorities and proposals for a solution.

The results of the study can only be appropriately interpreted if its methodological approach and basic assumption are clearly understood and if due consideration is given to the fact that the study in part describes a worst-case scenario and, explicitly, not an inevitable development.

Chapter 4 deals with the consequences of the developments described in Chapter 3 for
Germany. Chapter 5 summarises the most important findings.

The main objective of the study is to raise awareness about the systemic importance of oil
and, in turn, the derivable significance to security policy if peak oil is exceeded. The findings and results are expressly not meant to imply that resources will necessarily have to be secured with military assets. Rather, the study is to be understood as an appeal to think things through at an early stage and to develop both preventive and responsive courses of action. It does not aim at anticipating political decisions.


2. The Importance of Oil

2.1. Oil as a Determining Factor of Globalisation

Today approximately 90% of all industrially manufactured products depend on the
availability of oil.13 Oil is not only the source material for producing fuels and lubricants but is also used as hydrocarbon for most organic polymers (plastic materials). It is therefore one of the most important raw materials in the production of many different products such as pharmaceuticals, dyes and textiles.14

As the source material for various types of fuels, oil is a basic prerequisite for the
transportation of large quantities of goods over long distances. Alongside information
technology, container ships, trucks and aircraft form the backbone of globalisation.

International division of labour, to which many countries owe their wealth, would not be
possible without today’s volume of cost-efficient goods transport. Oil-based mobility also
significantly influences our lifestyle, both regionally and locally. For example, living in
suburbs several kilometres away from their workplace would be impossible for many people without a car. To a certain extent, the classical suburb thus also owes its existence to oil. Currently, approximately 87 million barrels of oil are consumed worldwide every day – one barrel having a capacity of 159 litres.15 Per day, this corresponds to approx. 12 million tonnes or 60 oil tankers (very large crude carriers with a volume of 200,000 tonnes) or a cube with an edge length of about 240 metres. Approximately half of the oil recovered globally is processed into fuels for vehicles, aircraft and ships, roughly 10% of it is used for the chemical industry.16 In Germany, approximately 100 million tonnes of oil are consumed per year. This corresponds to more than one tonne per inhabitant, approximately 500 oil tankers, or a cube with an edge length of approximately 480 metres. In Germany’s transport sector approximately 50 million tonnes of petrol and diesel are consumed per year.

A considerable increase in the oil price would pose a systemic risk because the availability of relatively affordable oil is crucial for the functioning of large parts of the economic and social systems.17 For some subsystems, such as worldwide goods shipping or individual
transportation, the importance of oil is obvious. Overall, however, it is difficult to overlook
the entire range of possible challenges that could arise from an exceeded peak oil scenario18.

13 Maria Rossbauer, Erdöl. Ein Stoff für Katastrophen, Kriege – und unseren Komfort. Focus-online, 21 June 2010,, (accessed on 11 October
14 Cf. Robert L. Hirsch, Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling, Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management, February 2005, 8, (accessed on 11 October 2010).
15 Cf. IEA Oil Market Report, Quarterly Oil Product Demand, OECD/ IEA, September 2010, (accessed on 14 October
16 Cf. Claudia Ehrenstein, “Die Jagd auf Deutschlands versteckte Ölquellen”, in Welt online, 10 November 2007, (accessed on 14 October 2010).
17 The main risk posed by peak oil is not the fact that there is too little oil but that there is no inexpensive oil available anymore, see Annex, Frequently Asked Questions #7.
18 One example of potential consequences is the way North Korea developed following the collapse of the Soviet Union: After the Korean War, the USSR helped North
Korea to develop a modern and productive agriculture. When the USSR collapsed, the inflow of cheap oil suddenly dried up. Agricultural machines had to be put out of
service. A return to traditional cultivation methods was aggravated by overfertilised land although the proportion of people employed in agriculture was increased from
25% to 35% in order to compensate for the loss of an estimated 80% of the agricultural machines. Despite this, harvests dropped by 60% between 1989 and 1998. Cf. Jörg


The international community as well as every single country therefore have a vital interest in secure oil supplies. Nowadays, this is relatively easily realised via the world market. OPEC, the leading cartel on the oil market, for the most part has proved willing to cooperate even in crisis situations: The mutual dependence between exporters and importers helps to create a favourable atmosphere – at least from a market-economy perspective.

The systemic relevance and strategic significance that is ascribed to oil in particular and to
secure energy supplies in general is also reflected in various strategic documents of states and international organisations.

Already the White Paper 2006 on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr, for example, referred to energy security as one of the main challenges of German security policy. It states that the task of supplying Germany and Europe with energy on a sustainable and competitive basis faces challenges such as global growth in energy demands, increasing regional and interregional energy trade, proliferation risks, and increasing environmental protection requirements. It also states that in addition there is a need to improve access to energy and thus the chances of economic development in developing countries. “Energy issues”, it says in the White Paper “will play an ever more important role for global security in future.”19

The European Security Strategy (ESS) of 2003 considers the EU’s foreseeable dependence on energy imports, which is expected to rise from 50% (current figure) to 70% by 2030, to be an issue of concern.20

The debate in the US, too, clarifies the growing importance of national energy supply. In
2001, the then US Vice President stated in the document that became known as the “Cheney Report” that the daily import of crude oil into the United States would have to increase by 60% between 2001 and 2010 and declared that the Gulf Region was vital to American interests. Against this background, Cheney’s proposal to the White House was that securing America’s energy should be recognised as a priority of foreign and economic policy.21 The National Security Strategy of the new administration under Barack Obama, which was approved in May 2010, also recognises future energy supply as an essential factor for the country’s competitiveness and prosperity and considers it necessary to make increased efforts to guarantee this supply.22 In this context, the document declares that the development of new sources of energy forms a part of the strategy’s approach.23 At the same time, it explicitly Friedrichs, “Global energy crunch: how different parts of the world would react to a peak oil scenario”, in Energy Policy, 38 (8), August 2010, 4562-4569, (preprinted version accessed on 11 October 2010).

19 Cf. Federal Ministry of Defence, White Paper 2006 on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr (Berlin, October 2006), 1-123 (here: 20), (accessed on 13 October 2010; the link refers to the
German version).
20 Cf. European Security Strategy. A Secure Europe in a Better World (Brussels, 2003), 3ff.
(accessed on 11 October 2010; the link refers to the German version).
21 Cf.Lühr Henken, Die Rolle des Militärs bei der Energiesicherung ‘des Westens'”, contribution at the klima & energie – macht – arbeit Conference, Hamburg,
3 November 2007, (accessed on 13 October 2010).
22 Cf. National Security Strategy, White House (Washington, May 2010), 9, (accessed on 13 October 2010).
23 Cf. ibid., 2.


identifies the maintaining of free global trade of fossil raw resources as a basic prerequisite for American security and prosperity.24

In its White Paper entitled “China’s National Defense in 2008”, the People’s Republic of
China also states that the global energy issue, amongst others, is gaining more importance
worldwide and that deep-seated contradictions exist with regard to interests in this context.25

Russia, too, sees the increasing global shortage of fossil raw materials as a potential risk for the country’s national security.26 Against this background, the country’s new security strategy explicitly emphasizes, amongst other things, the need to build up strategic fuel reserves.27 Moscow’s efforts to develop as broad as possible a range of potential oil buyers, one objective being to become more independent from the European market, are highlighted for example by its intensified cooperation with China in the field of energy policy and, most significantly, the opening of a pipeline to China in September 2010.28

Forecasts predict that by 2030, India will be the world’s third biggest energy consumer. This explains the significance of energy supply to this important threshold country and why, for several years now, India has intensified its external relations with energy-rich regions such as Africa, Latin America, Central Asia and, last but not least, the Middle East, one of the aims being to diversify its oil imports.29

It can therefore be stated that against the backdrop of the ever-decreasing availability of
fossil fuels, the challenge of ensuring long-term energy supply is reflected in national
strategies worldwide, leaving no doubt as to the vital importance attached to this issue. In
this context, the fact that energy supply aspects occupy an increasingly important place in the national security strategy documents of various countries is an indication of the increasing securitisation of this area – a process that, as is explained below in Chapter 2.2 – is likely to have consequences on the nature of future energy relations. The above-mentioned strategy documents explicitly emphasise a principally peaceful method of securing energy supplies.

Whether and how efforts towards secure energy supply can be designed conflictively or
cooperatively in the face of potential peak oil consequences depends on a number of different conditions, which will be addressed in the following chapters.

24 Cf. ibid., 30.
25 Cf. China’s National Defense in 2008, Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China (Beijing, January 2009), (accessed on 13 October 2010).
26 Cf. National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation until 2020, Decree No. 537 of the President of the Russian Federation, 12 May 2009, 17, (accessed on 13 October 2010; the link refers to the German version).
27 Cf. ibid., 20f.
28 Cf. “Energie-Gipfel Russland/China: Öl-Pipeline eröffnet”, in Comcenture online, 11 October 2010, (accessed on 13 October 2010).
29 Cf. Thorsten Wojczewski and Melanie Hanif, “Indiens neue Energiepolitik und ihre geostrategische Bedeutung”, in GIGA Focus Asien, No. 9 (Hamburg, 2007), (accessed on 13 October 2010).

2.2 Oil as a Potential Conflict Factor

The above comments refer to the aspect of strategic resource security and, in connection with
this, the question as to under what conditions and with what means efforts to this end can be
implemented cooperatively or conflictively. Since conflicts rarely have a single cause, it is not
possible to determine beyond doubt to what extent resources have actually contributed to
their development. To date, four conflict constellations have been mainly discussed in
connection with oil:30
(1) conflicts between oil exporters and importers, where oil importers intervene
politically or militarily in exporting countries or where exporters pursue a more
aggressive foreign policy by increasing oil revenues,
(2) conflicts between oil importers, which can also take the form of surrogate conflicts,
(3) conflicts between oil exporters, e.g. through cross-border deposits or through direct
access to the resources of neighbouring countries by way of conflictive actions, and
(4) conflicts in oil-exporting countries, either in the form of distribution or secession
conflicts or attempts to assume central power if it is associated with access to
resources – both of which might be supported by third parties.
As a rule, it cannot be concluded from the existence of competition or conflicts in general that
there will be an increase in violent confrontations and wars since the constellations
addressed here must by no means escalate into violent conflicts. In the past, the most
frequent form of oil-related conflicts have been conflicts in oil-exporting countries.31 At first
glance, such conflicts also seem more likely in future in fragile states that are highly
dependent on the export of resources if, for example, distribution conflicts can no longer be
solved cooperatively within a society. However, export income could also lead to the
containment of conflicts and increased stability through improved social policy, strengthened
security apparatuses and similar measures. It already becomes clear in this context that the
resource – in this case oil – can only have a conflictive effect in conjunction with other
conflict variables such as a lack of national capacity to solve problems and the absence of fair
distribution mechanisms.
Not only competition for scarce resources but also a certain surplus of resources can hold
conflict potential, prolong conflicts or stand in the way of peaceful solutions.32 The nature of
the resource may also influence the form of conflict. Diamonds, for example, are a relatively
easily exploitable and transportable resource for which there is an international black
market.33 Raw materials such as oil or natural gas, on the other hand, are not as easily
30 Cf. Matthias Basedau, “Erdölkriege – Kriege der Zukunft?”, in GIGA Focus Global, No. 6 (Hamburg, 2007), http://www.gigahamburg.
de/dl/download.php?d=/content/publikationen/pdf/gf_global_0706.pdf (accessed on 11 October 2010).
31 Cf. ibid., 5.
32 Cf. Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Natural Resources and Environment, May 2008, (accessed on 11 October 2010).
33 This is why it was possible for warlords in Sierra Leone at the end of the 1990s to finance a violent conflict that lasted for several years and during the course of which
many thousands of people were killed.
utilizable for small non-state groups. The necessary infrastructure to recover, transport,
refine and sell oil calls for a relatively stable (state) environment. The control of an oil field
alone is not sufficient, transport routes and possible transshipment centres such as seaports
must also be freely accessible. What is more, there has been no functioning international
black market thus far for oil and natural gas.
In addition, resources can be more than just the cause or the trigger of conflicts. They may
also become a conflict resource themselves, with their use providing a basis for financing
conflictive confrontations.34 Resources can therefore also prolong and escalate ongoing
conflicts, and an additional conflict can arise over the resource itself as a conflict resource if
various conflict parties wish to access it.
The examples and potential conflict constellations outlined here clearly show that the debate
on oil, its conflict potential and possible security policy implications are based on an
extended security concept involving far-reaching consequences for the actors involved as well
as approaches and tools needed to contain or solve conflicts. Chapter 3.3. looks at the
possible effects of peak oil on the above-mentioned conflict constellations and also addresses
the dimension of conflict within import countries and the special conflict case of a system
crisis induced by peak oil, which is described in Chapter 3.2.
34 Cf. Solveig Richter and Jörn Richert, “Kooperation oder Eskalation? Warum Rohstoffknappheit nicht zwangsläufig zu Konflikten führt”, in Internationale Politik,
November/December 2009, 10-16, in this case p. 11ff.,–wind—
fire/download/1dec21cc7b552a8c21c11dea75b65d7b87564156415/original_11_richter_richert.pdf (accessed on 13 October 2010).
2.3. Oil and Aspects of German Energy Security
Depending on context, the term “energy security” is used and operationalised in different
ways. Generally, energy security is understood as “provision of inexpensive, reliable and
environmentally friendly energy”35. The German Government defines energy security as a
“secure, sustainable and competitive supply of energy”36. These definitions refer to the
“triangle of political goals comprising supply security, cost-efficiency and environmental
compatibility”, which is what the term “energy security” actually means.
A baseline study conducted for the EU (DGTREN) by the Clingendael Institute for
International Relations (CIEP) in Den Haag lends the term “energy security” a narrower
definition and sees it as the use of political means to minimise the risk of energy crises.37 In
this context, energy crises are lasting imbalances between supply and demand, which
provoke price jumps and have negative effects on the economies concerned. Energy security
policy therefore aims at preventing energy supply shortages or even supply disruptions.
Regarding oil, political interest focussed for a long time – and logically enough for importing
countries – on the minimisation of dependences to prevent shortages.38 More recent studies39
extend this concept to include aspects such as the observation of environmental and climate
protection goals, which potentially place other demands on a sustainable energy policy:
 inclusion of the technological environment for transforming societies of the fossil era
into societies of the post-fossil era,
 consideration of uncertainties regarding the development of energy demand, e.g. in the
wake of recessions, including the risks this poses for producer countries, or as well
 conditioning of national energy policy through the respective nation’s integration in
supranational organisations.
This broader understanding became necessary mainly due to globalisation of the energy
markets, which has led to increasing frictions between various actors on different levels. Peak
oil would have effects on all of the above-mentioned energy security aspects. These effects are
addressed in the following chapters. An extensive analysis of all these problem areas and
their interdependences would, however, exceed the boundaries of this study.
In order to estimate Germany’s long-term oil supply situation it is important to look at
various factors and their complex interrelations. Examples are Germany’s dependence on oil
35 Sascha Müller-Kraenner, Energiesicherheit. Die neue Vermessung der Welt (Munich, 2007:Verlag Antje Kunstmann), 7.
36 Federal Ministry of Defence, White Paper 2006 on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr, 20.
37Clingendael International Energy Programme (CIEP), Study on Energy Supply Security and Geopolitics. Final Report (Den Haag, 2004), 36ff.
38 Cf. Vlado Vivoda, “Evaluating energy security in the Asia-Pacific region: A novel methodological approach”, in Energy Policy, 38 (9), September 2010, 5258-5263 (here:
39 Cf. Andreas Beyer, Theoretische und methodische Grundlagen zur Analyse von Energie- und Energiesicherheitspolitik, Kieler Analysen zur Sicherheitspolitik, No. 27
(Kiel ,February 2010), (accessed on 11 October 2010); cf.
Matthias Christoph Pröfrock, Energieversorgungssicherheit im Recht der Europäischen Union/ Europäischen Gemeinschaften, Dissertation (Tübingen, 2007), (accessed on 11 October 2010).
and, in turn, on the respective producer countries, the domestic political situations in these
countries, their own oil demand and their role in the international community, the quality of
relations between Germany and these countries and potential alternative oil-exporting
countries, and the role of other importing countries – above all rapidly growing economies
that have a high energy demand of their own, such as modern-day China.
Global peak oil and what could consequently develop into intensified global competition for
the remaining oil would lend the diverse factors associated with Germany’s supply security
new dynamics. This study aims at describing relevant cause-effect relations, using examples
wherever possible, and identifies further issues and need for research in areas where an indepth
(e.g. regionally specific) analysis is not possible within the scope of this study. An
analysis of the reliability of Germany’s situation concerning the supply of oil through imports
seems to be a meaningful central starting point for further debate on the effects of global
peak oil. The following therefore first of all aims at looking in more detail at Germany’s
supply relationships.
Table 1: German Oil Imports in 2009
2009 – German oil imports (producer countries and their peak oil)
Producer countries
Peak oil reached within
the review period of the
study (possibly reached
in 2010)
Percentage (rounded off)
Russia Δ) X 35.3%
Norway X 14.1%
Great Britain X 10.7%
Libya*) X 8.5%
Kazakhstan Δ) X 7.0%
Azerbaijan Δ) X 4.3%
Nigeria*) X 3.7%
Syria Δ) X 2.7%
Venezuela*) X 2.0%
Algeria*) X 1.8%
Ivory Coast X 1.5%
Saudi Arabia*)
? 1.5%
Egypt X 1.2%
Denmark X 1.1%
Iran*) Δ) X 0.8%
Angola*) ? 0.8%
Gabon X 0.6%
Netherlands X 0.5%
Tunisia X 0.5%
Brazil ? 0.4%
Iraq*) Δ) X 0.3%
Kuwait*) Δ) X 0.3%
Poland X 0.2%
Italy X 0.1%
Lithuania X 0.1%
Trinidad & Tobago X ≤ 0.1%
Turkmenistan Δ) X ≤ 0.1%
Republic of the
X ≤ 0.1%
*) OPEC members plus Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Ecuador. As of 2010.
Δ) Strategic Ellipse countries.
Note: Producer countries as well as the original values on which the percentages are based
have been adopted from the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control
The annual data regarding the occurrence of peak oil have been taken directly from
the text specified in the footnote or, if no information is available, have been derived
from it as an estimated value.41
Table 1 shows that more than 90% of all oil imports to Germany come from countries that
reach or have already exceeded their national peaks during the study’s period of review.42
Various expert analyses assume that it is very likely that peak oil has already occurred for
Russia, Norway and Great Britain, for example. These three countries alone currently supply
60% of Germany’s total oil import volume.
As long as there is leeway to increase export quantities despite peak oil, e.g. due to low
producer countries’ national demand or sufficient alternatives for import by other producer
countries, there may still be options of compensation for Germany if new and less favourable
terms of delivery have to be negotiated. Great Britain, for example, from which Germany
receives 10% of its oil imports, is already an oil net importer and can only export oil to
Germany after having previously imported from third countries.43
While it is assumed that approximately 90% of all oil countries have already exceeded their
national peak oil or are likely to reach it by 2015, increasing production rates over several
years are considered possible for Brazil and Angola.44 A reliable estimate of Saudi Arabia’s
potential is regarded particularly difficult. There are indications, however, that suggest an
unfavourable development for the kingdom.45 This is extremely relevant because ultimately
the point at which global peak oil occurs is likely to be determined primarily by Saudi
Arabia’s oil production potential. In a worst-case scenario, this would mean that even a
dominant oil power such as Saudi Arabia could cease to function as a potential compensation
factor (swing producer).46
40 Cf. Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA), Crude Oil Imports December 2009, (accessed on 11 October 2010; the link refers to the German version)
41 Cf. Jörg Schindler and Werner Zittel, Zukunft der weltweiten Erdölversorgung (Berlin, 2008), 46ff.,
05-21_EWG_Erdoelstudie_D.pdf (accessed on 11 October 2010).
42 Owing to the ambiguity of data records on the resources and reserves that are still available globally, Table 1 does not include any specific years but only states the
national peaks reached during the study’s period of observation. For more than 90% of all states that currently export oil to Germany, 2015 is specified as the latest point at
which peak oil will be reached for the respective country. Cf. ibid., 55ff.
43 Cf. Eberhart Wagenknecht, “Den Briten geht das Öl aus – das Ende des Aufschwungs scheint gekommen”, in Eurasisches Magazin online, 29 September 2004, (accessed on 11 October 2010).
44 On the ranking list of the 40 exporting countries richest in oil, the following countries – in addition to Angola and Brazil – are said to also have the potential to expand
their production rates: Thailand, Vietnam, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan and China. Cf. Jörg Schindler and Werner Zittel, Zukunft der weltweiten Erdölversorgung (Berlin,
2008), 11, (accessed on 11 October 2010).
45 The most important and partly contradictory bases for this possible development are:that first of all, Saudi Arabia’s production rate has been on the decline for the last
five years, but at the same time it is emphasised that increases are possible at any time; that secondly “Ghawar”, the biggest oil field in the world, could have exceeded its
peak; that thirdly, King Abdullah announced publicly in 2007 that: “The oil boom is over and is not going to return”, and: “All of us must get used to a different lifestyle”;
fourthly, for the period of review covered by this study, it is necessary to take into account that global oil supplies from Saudi Arabia might decrease due to an increase of
40% in the country’s own demand. Cf. ibid., 48; Andreas Postner and Willi Sieber, Peak Oil. Die internationale Diskussion und mögliche Auswirkungen auf Vorarlberg
(Bregenz, November 2008), 271, (accessed on 11 October 2010).
46 Cf. Eckart Wörtz, “Saudi Arabia: Energieriese zwischen geopolitischer Neuausrichtung und innenpolitischer Reform”, in FES-Analyse, September 2006, 7-8.
Although Germany has so far imported comparatively small quantities from the three
countries mentioned, yet this potentially unfavourable development restricts the supply
alternatives of all countries that are dependent on oil imports, including Germany. In
contrast to the European trend, Germany’s oil demand is likely to diminish. The Federal
Ministry of Economics and Technology assumes that imports will decrease by approximately
10% by 2025 while economic growth remains moderate.47 With a decline in overall imports
and consistent supply quantities from Russia, the Russian share of German oil imports would
therefore increase to 40%. Due to the fact that imports from Europe might decline and in
order to prevent one-sided dependence on a few countries, Germany’s supply relationships
could well undergo a restructuring process. Decreasing imports from Europe could be
compensated for by imports from the Middle East, the Caspian region and Africa (Figure 2
shows the remaining and already recovered oil quantities in various regions). The 2008
Report by the German Government on the Oil and Gas Market Strategy (Bericht der
Bundesregierung zur Öl- und Gasmarktstrategie) 48 describes this situation and presents a
strategy for securing Germany’s supply with oil that meets the specified energy security
dimensions. It does not, however, take the peak oil aspect into account.
It seems equally significant to look into possibilities for extending ongoing contracts, e.g.
with Brazil or Angola, but also with Russia and other contracting parties.
47 Cf. Energiewirtschaftliches Institut an der Universität zu Köln, ed., Energiereport IV – Die Entwicklung der Energiemärkte bis zum Jahr 2030 –
Energiewirtschaftliche Referenzprognose (Munich, 2005), 380ff.
48 Cf. Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, Bericht der Bundesregierung zur Öl- und Gasmarktstrategie (Berlin, November 2008),,property=pdf,bereich=bmwi,sprache=de,rwb=true.pdf
(accessed on 11 October 2010; the link refers to the German version).
Figure 2: The Overall Potential of Conventional Oil in 200849
Figure 2 – Glossary
Erdöl Oil
Reserven reserves
Ressourcen resources
kum. Förderung Aggregate production
in Gt in GT
Reserven Reserves
159,9 Gt (= 228 Gt SKE) 159.9 GT (= 228 GT CE)
Förderung Production
3,9 Gt (= 5,6 Gt SKE) 3.9 GT (= 5.6 GT CE)
Source: Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR)
Ultimately, it is hardly possible to calculate from today’s perspective how suppliers and
consumers will respond to global peak oil.50 Against this backdrop, the continuous
assessment of diversification opportunities seems equally necessary and difficult, particularly
with regard to the ousting or competition effects with other oil-importing countries that such
efforts would bring about in the face of declining production rates. Generally, an increasing
importance of the countries of the Strategic Ellipse for Germany’s oil imports becomes
apparent. When shaping its relations with these countries, Germany has several prioritisation
options. Chapter 4 deals in more detail with the requirements, potentials and boundaries of
49 For the difference between reserves and resources, see Annex, Frequently Asked Questions #3.
50 The following is another example to emphasise this: In view of the country’s enormous dependence on oil revenues, it is unlikely that Tehran had forsaken
correspondingly higher profit margins for rational reasons. Nevertheless, this situation does not necessarily prove the occurrence of national peak oil either, but it can be
concluded that cost-intensive production would not have been profitable due to the decrease in reserves. Cf. Martin Schmidt-Bredow, “Peak Oil” oder das Erdölproblem,
2007, (accessed on 11 October 2010)
these options. The interests and commitment of other countries that depend on oil imports,
in particular fast-growing economies such as modern-day China and India, are also
important factors for global oil supply security and Germany’s activities in this connection.
3. Possible Developments after Global Peak Oil
The following chapters describe two possible future scenarios that might occur after peak oil
has been exceeded.
Chapter 3.1 considers possible developments for a moderate form of the peak. To this end,
possible peak-oil-induced cause-effect relations on security policy are developed and
discussed in four chapters. The cause-effect relations described are not to be understood as
being inevitable, but might help to grasp the possible interdependences between availability
of and dependence on crude oil and thus lead to a better understanding of the significance of
oil and deducible implications for Germany’s security policy. By today’s standards, these
cause-effect relations are not only plausible and worth discussing, but also likely to occur,
though only in part and under the outlined conditions.
However, future analysis must also cover unexpected and undesired futures of which no
more than the first indications can be analysed. Chapter 3.2 therefore looks into a special
possible peak oil scenario in which a so-called “tipping point” is exceeded where linear
developments become chaotic and finally result in a worst-case scenario in terms of security
policy. For example, if the global economy shrinks for an indeterminate period of time, a
chain reaction that might destabilise the global economic system is imaginable. Depending
on point in time and the level of dependence of the affected society, such a peak-oil-induced,
economic tipping point might have such severe systemic implications that only a few general
statements as to economic, political, and social developments beyond the tipping point can
be made. This will clearly change the analytical framework for all other security policy
conclusions. Because of the widely unexplored “tipping point” phenomenon, it is impossible
to conduct a comprehensive analysis of possible effects of such a trigger element. Rather, this
study is designed to raise awareness of a possible nonlinear economic development due to
peak oil and of the related risk of a severe system crisis.
Chapter 3.3 discusses known oil-resource-related conflict constellations and extends them
against the background of the contexts described in Chapters 3.1 and 3.2.
3.1 Possible Peak-oil-induced Implications
3.1.1 Oil as an Important Factor Shaping International Relations
Oil, along with economic power and military strength, might gain, due to peak oil, even
more importance as a factor shaping international relations and exerting political
influence. This might imply an improved standing for producer countries in the
international system, greater difficulties in diversifying sources for importing countries, a
new role for import-dependent threshold countries as well as a reorganisation of many
supply relationships.
Improved standing of producer countries in the international system
In a situation of global economic change due to peak oil, the remaining oil-exporting
countries would be in a favourable position: their industries could expect relatively moderate
oil prices, provided that adequate state regulation is in place and their budgets might benefit
from increasing profits from oil exports.51 This would increase relative significance of
producer countries within the international system. They could use the resulting benefits to
extend their freedom of action for shaping domestic and foreign policies and to establish
themselves as newly emerging or reemerging regional or even global leading powers.52
Oil-importing countries could translate greater competition for noticeably dwindling oil
resources into greater competition for the favour of producer countries, for example through
intense energy diplomacy. For the producer countries, this would open up a window of
opportunity which they could use to aggressively enforce political, economic, or ideological
objectives; this window of opportunity would be restricted by declining reserves, more
complex oil production conditions, and the ongoing transformation of many countries into
mainly post-fossil economies. Already today, Russia’s foreign policy calculus, for example,
includes energy aspects and the option to use them in order to enforce Russian interests. At
the strategic level, this is reflected in Moscow’s Foreign Policy Concept of July 2008. In
practice, Russia’s gas disputes with Ukraine are an indication of a political
instrumentalisation of its energy riches.53 A similar connection between an offensive foreign
policy and energy richness can be observed for Venezuela and Iran.54 Against the background
of global peak oil, such trends will probably escalate drastically.
The growth in importance of producer countries may be increased or accelerated by different
dynamics: (1) by a politically intended and controlled further shortage of the much-
51 Cf. Chapter 3.1.2 below.
52 The following comments in this chapter are based on the assumption derived from liberal foreign policy research that governments are rational actors seeking to
maximise their own interests, the primary goal being the preservation of their own power
53 Marcel De Haas, “Medwedews Sicherheitspolitik: Eine vorläufige Einschätzung”, in Russlandanalysen, No. 186, 3 July.2009, 3, http://www.laenderanalysen.
de/russland/pdf/Russlandanalysen186.pdf (accessed on 11 October 2010).
54 Cf. Günther Maihold, Außenpolitik als Provokation. Rhetorik und Realität in der Außenpolitik Venezuelas unter Präsident Hugo Chavez, SWP-Studie.22, July 2008, (accessed on 11 October 2010); Michael Thumann, “Erdöl als Waffe”, in Zeit Online, 14 December
2007,, (accessed on 11 October 2010).
demanded resource and (2) by successful attempts to vertically integrate value-added chains
of oil production and processing.
(1) Further shortage following peak oil
Being aware of exceeding peak oil and in view of countries pursuing their own lasting
advantages, there might be a deliberate restriction in supplies (“political peaking”), for
example, to preserve undeveloped oil resources for the nation’s generations to come.55 The
more obvious the actual scarcity of oil, the more expensive oil would become and thus the
greater the profits of producer countries. The calculus of “political peaking” would become all
the more understandable. Political peaking would further aggravate peak oil-induced supply
shortage and related price increases.
Similar effects would be caused by a trend which can be observed mainly in less
industrialised producer countries. Oil recovered and refined at home is offered on the
domestic market at a price below the world market price, for example to improve the
competitiveness of a rather inefficient national industry or to share the country’s riches with
the population. It is observable that this price distortion leads to an increase in domestic
consumption which reduces export quantities and supports a generally inefficient use of oil.
Such dynamics could lead to exports increasing more slowly than production, or, in the event
of a peak, the exported amount of oil decreasing even more rapidly than the produced
amount. After peak oil, this could lead to an additional acceleration of the decrease in
globally available production quantities.
(2) Renewed vertical integration of value-added chains
A predictably decreasing number of established oil exporters and the growing importance of
big, financially strong oil companies in developing and threshold countries (“New Seven
Sisters”56) in view of peak oil could lead to promoting the creation of new monopolies.
In a sense, this would undo the liberalisation of oil markets following the crises of the 1970s.
After the oil crises, many producer countries expropriated Western oil companies, which had
virtually controlled their national oil resources. However, the initial result was not a growing
market power of the individual producer countries, but a strengthening of market
mechanisms and the establishment of a functioning global oil market for the first time. In
particular the break-up of the vertical integration of the oil industry, that is, the control over
the whole value-added chain from oil extraction to the operation of filling stations by a single
company, led to a noticeable relaxation on the oil market, which, under the circumstances at
that time, was in the interest of both producers and consumers. With the upstream and/or
downstream expansion57 of oil companies and depending on governmental influence, the
danger of a political instrumentalisation of dependences would grow.
55 Such a behaviour can be observed already today. In April 2008, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia ordered not to develop sources newly discovered at the time.
56 These are CNPC/ Petrochina, Gazprom, Petrobras, Petronas, Petróleos de Venezuela, National Oil Company of Iran and Saudi Aramco.
57 “Upstream” refers to activities in exploration and production, “downstream” refers to activities with a closer relationship to the consumer. Markets disappear due to the
integration of both components in big companies. For example, extracted crude oil is not sold to the highest bidder, but transferred to other divisions of the company. In
Greater difficulties in diversifying sources for importing countries
Against this background, oil-importing countries are likely to intensify their efforts to reduce
unilateral dependences and the resulting possibility of political instrumentalisation by
individual exporting countries by diversifying producer countries and energy sources. Due to
the future concentration of essential oil reserves in the Strategic Ellipse in conjunction with a
more intense competition between importing countries, it will become increasingly difficult
to diversify sources. As a result, the regions in the Strategic Ellipse would continue to become
more important for the future organisation of the oil and gas supply of many importing
countries.58 Overall, in view of peak oil, there is an increase in the probability of regional
interference by third countries using different instruments that are available to them. In
shaping their relationships with the countries of the Strategic Ellipse, Germany and Europe
are faced in particular with the commitment of important threshold countries such as China.
Special role of threshold countries depending on imports
In order to be able to satisfy the enormous appetite for energy of their rapidly growing
economies, threshold countries depending on oil imports in particular should be expected to
reinforce their commitment in countries with large oil reserves by relying on a broad range of
instruments. This commitment may take various forms – these countries may act as trade
partners, investors, suppliers of technology and weapons, lenders, “development aid
workers” or political advocates in international organisations. In light of global peak oil, it
can be expected that China, for example, whose policy is traditionally based on the principle
of non-interference, will intensify its pragmatic and regionally widely ranged foreign policy
with the purpose of putting a greater emphasis on securing energy (“going outward policy”).59
Since energy imports play such a vital role for sustaining its own economic growth and the
related issues of social and societal stability, China does not leave energy supply to the
markets, but already today tries to place it under government control.60 It also supports the
foreign operations of its national oil companies by providing regional, broadly based and
intensified energy diplomacy. The Chinese commitment in Africa might be the most
prominent example for the country’s attempts to position itself for sustainably securing its
national resource supply. In addition, Chinese oil companies have been making efforts to
obtain licences for a share of the reserves in the US for several years, and lately they have
been successful. On 12 October 2010, for example, the Chinese oil giant China National
global terms, this leads to the constraining of market mechanisms and thus to inefficient resource distribution. State-owned companies in particular increasingly prioritise
the physical availability of resources rather than their profit-maximising and efficient use. This phenomenon is not limited to companies based in producer countries, but
can also be observed in companies based in importing countries.
58 For more information, cf. Chapter 4.2.
59 Cf. Lin, Christina Y., “Militarisation of China’s Energy Security Policy – Defence Cooperation and WMD Proliferation Along its String of Pearls in the Indian Ocean”, in
International Relations and Security Network (ISN), Center for Security Studies (CSS) ETH Zürich, 18 June 2008, (accessed
on 11 October 2010).
60 Cf. Antje Nötzold, “China als Herausforderung für die Europäische Energieversorgungssicherheit”, in Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Auslandsinformationen 3/2010
(Sankt Augustin, 2010), 59-75 (here: 62), (accessed on 11 October 2010).
Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) bought into the Texan reserves of Chesapeake Energy in
Texas for several billions.61
The Indian energy sector, too, is heavily dominated today by state-owned companies like the
Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Oil India Limited (OIL) and the Indian Oil
Corporation (IOC). Like China, India is one of the “late bloomers in energy policy”62 who
boost their efforts in positioning themselves in the international competition for remaining
resources in order to maintain their rapid economic growth. In this context, the Indian
government has introduced the objective of annual economic growth of at least 8% until
2030 and anticipates an increasing demand for energy of 0.9% for every percent of economic
growth.63 According to a scenario established by the Indian government, the country’s
demand for primary energy will increase by a factor of four by 2032.64 India would become
the country most dependent on energy imports among the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia,
India and China), in particular with regard to oil.65 This increasing demand and its relevance
for the further development of the Indian economy and consequently the handling of India’s
massive social problems is unlikely to remain without effect for the increased competition for
limited oil resources brought about by peak oil. The Indian strategy for energy supply has so
far been characterised by a balancing act between internal economic factors and its foreign
policy preferences that have been shaped by India’s anti-imperialist identity.66 The growing
dependence on energy imports, however, is increasingly challenging traditional foreign policy
principles such as “self-reliance”6768. In view of peak oil, the predicted strong rise in the
demand for energy and the perceived need to reduce the unilateral dependence on only four
countries – Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Kuwait and Iran supply around two thirds of all Indian oil
imports – India could advance to be an increasingly active international actor for the benefit
of supply security. Already today, India takes a comparatively pragmatic approach towards
politically unstable countries and regimes seen as problematic by the West. Given the
61 Cf. “China versucht, in USA zu landen”, in Süddeutsche Zeitung online, 12 October 2010,
html (accessed on 13 October 2010).
62 In retrospect, the national oil companies of advancing threshold countries presented themselves relatively late as relevant actors on the international oil market. For
example, when China went from being a net exporter of oil to being a net importer in the beginning of the 1990s, the most abundant of the oil sources that were still freely
accessible had already been occupied by Western oil companies or were developed as joint ventures with the national oil companies (in particular in the Persian Gulf
region). Western companies (in particular the successors of the so-called (old) “Seven Sisters”; following mergers, today these are ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Royal
Dutch Shell) and the national companies of the producer countries had laid down the “rules” of the oil market. Companies like CNPC of China had to turn to areas that
were not yet developed or that other companies avoided for political reasons.
63 Cf. Government of India, Towards Faster and More Inclusive Growth: An Approach to the 11th Five Year Plan (2007 – 12) (New Delhi, December 2006), 49, (accessed on 11 October 2010).
64 Government of India, Integrated Energy Policy: Report of the Expert Committee (New Delhi, August 2006), 31, (accessed on 11 October 2010).
65 Cf. Sören Scholvin, “Die Energiepolitik regionaler Führungsmächte”, in GIGA Focus Global, No 5 (Hamburg, 2007), 1-8 (here: 4 f.), http://www.gigahamburg.
de/dl/download.php?d=/content/publikationen/pdf/gf_global_0705.pdf (accessed on 11 October 2010).
66 Cf. Joachim Betz and Melanie Hanif, The Formation of Preferences in Two-Level Games: An Analysis of India’s Domestic and Foreign Energy Policy, GIGA Working
Papers No 142 (Hamburg, July 2010), (accessed on 11 October
67 Since its independence, India has adhered to foreign policy principles such as non-alignment, non-interference in the internal affairs of third countries, independence
through confidence in its own powers and solidarity and cooperation between poor countries. Therefore, the principle of “independence of foreign policy” traditionally has
a high status in India, but it is increasingly called into question by the integration of India into the world market and goes hand-in-hand with new vulnerabilities, in
particular with regard to the dependence on energy imports.
68 Cf. Sascha Müller-Kraenner, China’s and India’s Emerging Energy Foreign Policy, Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik Discussion Paper, 15 (Bonn, 2008),$FILE/DP%2015.2008.pdf (accessed on 11 October 2010).
necessity to secure one’s own energy requirements in third countries, debates on the basic
principles of foreign policy could become increasingly frequent in India.69
Likewise, China’s increasing commitment in third countries is also based mainly on
pragmatic considerations and – according to the principle of non-interference in the internal
affairs of third countries – does not contain any normative political conditioning as practiced
by many liberal Western democracies.70 Already today, China is being accused of
undermining the principles of foreign and development policy of Western industrialised
countries.71 However, this should not be perceived as a provocation or the intentional
undermining of Western political approaches. It is in fact due to China’s (and also India’s)
described role as a late arrival on the global energy market und thus the extensive lack of
alternatives for securing energy supply while maintaining their own political principles.72
Regardless of the motivation behind China’s and India’s political approaches, in the face of
global peak oil and the fact that these threshold countries with their policy of noninterference
have, in terms of energy policy, successfully gained ground or are increasingly
trying to do so in regions that are most important in the future, industrialised countries could
face a loss of influence in the competition for scarce oil reserves. Against this background and
in view of the perceived need to secure the energy supply in the short term, pragmatism
might become an increasingly decisive element in international relations. Such a
development could have disadvantageous effects on predominantly Western nations’ foreign
policy approaches, which are based on ethical values and are designed to achieve long-term
The primacy of securing energy due to peak oil could thus lead to neglect or at least new
selectivity with regard to demands for the protection of human rights, good governance or
democratic and ecological development in the relations between countries dependent on oil
imports and producing countries. It can be assumed that the relations between Western
industrialised countries and countries that lack resources will remain unaffected by this
“moral decline”. Hence, in the service of energy security, pronounced double standards in
foreign policy could be the result of this development.
Reshaping supply relationships after global peak oil
In light of peak oil, the share of oil traded on the global, freely accessible oil market might
decrease in favour of oil traded via bilateral agreements. This could, to the detriment of freemarket
mechanisms, result in an increase in privileged partnerships and conditioned supply
relationships. To negotiate these privileged energy partnerships, an intensified energy
69 Cf. Christian Wagner, Energie, Sicherheit und Außenpolitik in Indien, SWP-Studie 12 (Berlin, May 2007), http://www.swpberlin.
org/common/get_document.php?asset_id=4014 (most recently accessed on 26 October 2010), 20.
70 Cf. Eberhard Sandschneider, Globale Rivalen: Chinas unheimlicher Aufstieg und die Ohnmacht des Westens (Munich, 2007), 213.
71 Cf. Antje Nötzold, “China als Herausforderung für die Europäische Energieversorgungssicherheit”, in Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Auslandsinformationen, 3/2010
(Sankt Augustin,2010), 59-75 (here: 63), (accessed on 11 October 2010).
72 Cf. Maximilian Mayer, “Warum Chinas „Energiehunger“ nicht zum „Krieg um Ressourcen“ führt”, in China aktuell, No 1, 2007, 57-75.
diplomacy and the provision of attractive compensations – whether material or political in
nature – by the importing countries would be of particular importance.
(1) Conditioned supply relationships and package deals
In view of a decrease in production and the producing countries’ need to satisfy their own oil
demands, it can be assumed that supply relationships would become increasingly selective,
and thus attractive return services beyond net sales revenues would become more important
as a criterion for selecting privileged recipient countries. Owing to this, the global oil market
could adhere to free market rules only to a limited extent. Just as before the oil crises in the
1970s, bilateral conditioned supply relationships and privileged partnerships would once
again come to the fore.73
Buyers with the ability to submit appropriate offers or to meet the particular conditions
would be in a position to undermine global market mechanisms and negotiate their own
pricing and supply agreements. This situation could lead to an increase in package deals.74.
In general, goods and services that – similar to oil – strengthen the economic power of the
producer countries or its possibilities to exert political influence would be particularly
suitable as compensations for such package deals.75 Producer countries could progressively
demand material and/or political trade-offs that might aid them in closing their technology
gap, in overcoming their economic stagnation or, in many cases, in emerging from their
political isolation. In international negotiations, for example, importing countries that are
represented in relevant bodies like the UN Security Council could act as an advocate for the
interests of countries that are rich in resources and influence or block relevant decision
processes in their favour. Even though such “deals” can be observed already, this trend might
grow considerably. With regard to important oil-producing countries such as Sudan and Iran,
China, for example, is already under suspicion of preventing sanctions and thus protecting
the regimes in Khartoum and Tehran by its voting behaviour in the UN Security Council.76
Goods that cannot be freely acquired on the international market, possibly including even
nuclear material, would be of particular interest for package deals. As a result of the
significance that these sensitive goods would presumably gain, sanctions and restrictions
with regard to these goods might be weakened, and alongside oil-exporting countries this
would lead to a betterment in the international system of countries offering these goods.
Importing countries could face another challenge if ideological aspects and differences also
played an increasingly important role in the choice of selective oil supplies and privileged
partnerships. Relations among oil-importing countries would not be characterised by straight
73 Already today, some OPEC member states insist on contract clauses that restrict the right of the buyer to resell oil to third countries.
74 A package deal is a business transaction (contract) which, in order to be finalised, includes the compulsory conclusion of a second business transaction (contract), thus
establishing a direct dependence between both business transactions or contracts.
75 These include defence materiel, technologies for oil production and transport, but also technologies for alternative energy supply, capabilities to secure critical
infrastructure, to explore non-conventional oil reserves and to carry out military operations in extreme climate zones. In addition, access to other resources and base or
transit rights are also possible compensations.
76 Cf. Cf. Frank Sieren, “Der letzte Freund”, in DIE ZEIT Online, No 9, 25 February 2010, (accessed on 11 October 2010).
interdependences, but would instead be in danger of being drawn even more into the
slipstream of competition for limited resources (in this case, oil) as hitherto.
(2) Intensifying energy diplomacy
Investing in oil fields that are not profitably recoverable at current market prices does not fit
in with the logic of private-sector actors. In view of the strategic goal of securing access to
energy resources, countries could fill this gap in the private sector today with subsidies thus
indirectly acquiring exploration rights in third countries. Such a strategically motivated
energy policy is considered relatively cost-intensive today.77 On the one hand, investment
decisions might possibly be made that would not have been made under purely private-sector
conditions. Exploring newly discovered deposits may thus meet the demand, but exploration
costs are often higher than the market price. On the other hand, hardly assessable political
costs may be generated, for example by cooperating with regimes that are perceived as
politically problematic by predominantly Western countries. However, peak oil would cause
an increase in the market price which would make such state interventions more attractive.
This calculation could thus change in favour of threshold countries that are already
expansionary in terms of resource policy.
The more this kind of resource security is perceived as a mercantilist zero-sum game (in
which, given the absence of functioning market mechanisms, one country loses when the
other wins), the more energy diplomacy, i.e. foreign policy activities in the service of national
energy interests, would come into focus. It is debatable if China does pursue a neomercantilist
approach with its external energy policy, as is often claimed.78 In view of peak
oil, the spread of this point of view in energy policy would be a plausible development if, as
described above, the amount of oil traded on the free market decreases relatively. Although,
in light of peak oil, strengthening market forces and thus increasing the distribution
efficiency of rare resources should be in the interest of the international community, the
moral hazard behaviour79 known in this context would have to be expected for individual
Resulting uncertainty shared by all actors could have negative consequences for contractual
fidelity and reliability in international energy relations. To protect oil supplies, for example
77 For example, German black coal mining is highly subsidised on grounds of strategic national interest.
78 In the international energy debate, the opinion that China pursues a so-called “neo-mercantilist strategy” to secure its energy supply is very popular. This point of view
implies that China pursues a strategy aimed at securing the country’s energy supply not in a market-based fashion, but by having immediate control over oil and gas
production overseas. Chinas commitment concerning oil and gas fields in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia and North America is considered evidence for this perception
In addition, many experts believe that Chinese oil companies are not profit-seeking companies, but rather the extended arm of national energy policy. Even though
attention should be paid to the “neo-mercantilist point of view”, a certain caution must be exercised with regard to the interpretation of Chinese energy policy in particular
and national energy policy in general. In order to make reliable statements about the nature of Chinese energy policy (or any other national energy policy), the shares of
equity oil (oil that is produced abroad under the control of Chinese oil companies) and market oil (oil that Chinese companies purchase on the world markets) in China’s
total oil imports would have to be clearly identified. Cf. Xuewu Gu and Maximilian Mayer, Chinas Energiehunger: Mythos oder Realität?, (Munich, 2007), 4f.; Cf.
Maximilian Mayer, “Warum Chinas „Energiehunger“ nicht zum „Krieg um Ressourcen“ führt”, in China aktuell, No 1, 2007, 57-75; Heinrich Kreft, “Neomerkantilistische
Energiediplomatie. China auf der Suche nach neuen Energiequellen”, in Internationale Politik, Vol.61, No 2, Februar 2006, 50-57.
79 A moral hazard may occur when a higher authority (e.g. a government) or a collective body (e.g. an insurance company) tries to enforce a collective rationality that is,
however, exploited by individual persons in favour of their own interests and thus likely to be circumvented.
80 For a discussion of the moral hazard phenomenon in the context of energy policy, cf. Chloé Le Coq and Elena Paltseva, Common Energy Policy in the EU: The Common
Hazard of the Security of External Supply, Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies (SIEPS) (Stockholm, February 2008), (accessed on 13 October 2010).
by bilateral agreements, the intensification of secret diplomacy also seems plausible. In view
of the developments outlined above, free and transparent access to national energy resources,
to markets and to the trading of energy services would become increasingly difficult.
Geopolitical implications: New strategic alliances and power shifts within
international organisations
With new strategic alliances such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation or the Gas
Exporting Countries Forum, some geopolitical upheavals are already looming. In the face of
peak oil triggered increased rivalry situation for oil and the rise of important threshold
countries, this could not only contribute towards the formation of a countervailing power
against Western organisations and the US as a regulatory power but also affect the supply
security of Western industrialised countries.
The growing number of countries that presumably have no more oil available or must or wish
to consume their available oil exclusively for their own needs within the reviewed period
could also bring changes to OPEC’s role and composition. Conceivable would be an
accelerated drop out rate of countries that have reached and far exceeded their peak oil as
well as the admittance of new members that could in future exploit non-conventional oil
reserves such as heavy oil, extra-heavy oil, oil sands or oil sheal.81
Owing to the economic rise of large threshold countries and the accompanying increase in the
global shaping will , continuous adaptation as to memberships, contribution, and voting
weights are expected in international organisations and multilateral associations.82
In this context, countries such as Russia will be able to further consolidate and even increase
this gain in influence due to their own wealth of resources because, against the backdrop of
peak oil, gas in particular will rapidly become increasingly important for global energy
supply.83 While wealth in natural resources alone does not yet make an influential
international actor, it can be assumed that, against the backdrop of peak oil and under
certain conditions, control over energy could increasingly be transformed into global shaping
power and determining influence on international rules.
As explained above, this applies even more the more successful the producer countries’
national oil companies are with regard to the already evolving process of vertical
81 Indonesia, for example, became a net importer as a result of a decrease in production quantities and an increase in its own consumption, and left the cartel in 2009.
Other OPEC countries, e.g. Nigeria, could follow this example due to high population growth coinciding with stagnating or even falling oil production quantities. The
question as to which OPEC members have already exceeded their peak is disputable due to intransparent data. Cf. Daniele Ganser, “Peak Oil. Erdöl im Spannungsfeld von
Krieg und Frieden”, in Philipp Rudolf et al., eds., Energie (Zürich, 2009), 45-60. For an extensive overview of the knowledge acquired so far about resources, reserves, the
production and consumption of oil (and other energy raw materials) still existing worldwide, cf. Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Reserven,
Ressourcen und Verfügbarkeit von Energierohstoffen (Hanover, 2009),
2009,templateId=raw,property=publicationFile.pdf/Energiestudie-Kurzf-2009.pdf (accessed on 11 October 2010).
82 Examples are the recently altered voting weights in the World Bank and in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in favour of threshold countries and at the expense
of industrialised countries as well as the replacement of the G8 by the G20 as a forum for vital world economy policy issues.
83 Cf. Chapter 3.1.3 of this study.
integration84 of other value-added chain components in the oil sector and the smaller the
share of oil traded on the global oil market becomes. As a conditio sine qua non for
expanding economic supremacy, energy becomes considerably more important for global
power shifts in the international system in light of peak oil.
Role of private-sector and state actors
Given the relative independence of private-sector actors, the developments described
(package deals, political instrumentalisation of oil supplies, political peaking) require
government intervention for the respective actions to be taken by either forcing private
companies or engaging state-owned corporations. Another likely result of global peak oil
would be greater government involvement in order to ensure control over the scarce
resource. The following section (3.1.2) therefore addresses in more detail the change to the
role of both state and private-sector actors that can be assumed in light of peak oil.
84 Federal Cartel Office, Sector Analysis Fuels, Interim Report (Bonn, June 2009), 3,
02%20Zwischenbericht_SU_Kraftstoffe.pdf (accessed on 18 October 2010).
3.1.2 Changed Distribution of Roles for State and Private-sector Actors
With oil becoming ever more important in the wake of peak oil, the roles and positions of
states and private business enterprises could undergo greater changes. While states are
likely to interlope more in securing oil supplies, private business enterprises on the other
hand could increasingly perform governmental functions and tasks. Focus would be placed
on three areas in particular: the more intense dispute about production licences, the
assumption of governmental security tasks, and the protection of oil infrastructures.
More intense dispute about production licences
In the event of a shortage of global oil supplies, the exploration of new oil reserves would
become a matter of particular importance. Given the fact that most conventional and nonconventional
oil resources are located on the territory of sovereign nation-states, it can be
assumed that most oil sources will continue to be under the direct control of national
governments.85 Those governments that are not able or willing to explore them themselves
via appropriate companies are already seeking partners who are granted appropriate
licences. It does not seem likely at present that this proven practice is going to change.
Oil is produced by both state-owned national oil companies (NOCs) and private
internationally acting oil companies (IOCs). Owing to the wave of nationalisation in the oil
producer countries in the 1970s, the share in global oil reserves held by national oil
companies currently lies at more than 80%.86 It is becoming increasingly difficult for the
IOCs to gain access to easily and inexpensively exploitable oil.
85 In cases where sources lie in international waters or controversial regions, cf. Chapter 3.1.3.
86 This, however, only refers to the land-based oil sources and not sea-based oil sources and must not obscure the fact that private international oil concerns also still have
a considerable influence. Cf. Hamburgisches WeltWirtschaftsinstitut (HWWI) und Berenberg Bank, Energierohstoffe – Strategie 2030 (Hamburg, 2005), 65, (accessed on 13 October 2010); Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural
Resources (BGR), Reserven, Ressourcen und Verfügbarkeit von Energierohstoffen (Hanover, 2009), 45 f.,,templateId=raw,property=publicationFile.pdf/Energiestudie-Kurzf-
2009.pdf (accessed on 11 October 2010); Anna Marohn and Fritz Vorholz, “Die Vernunft geht unter”, in DIE ZEIT Online, 12 May 2010, (accessed on 13 October 2010).
Figure 3: State Involvement in the 12 Largest National Oil Companies
Source: Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), 2009
Figure 3 – Glossary
Staatsbeteiligung an den 12 größten NOC State involvement in the 12 largest NOCs
Saudi-Arabien Saudi Arabia
Algerien Algeria
Russland Russia
Brasilien Brazil
Russland Russia
National oil companies are showing increasing efforts to internationalise their business and
hence are serious competition for the large international oil companies. This is not limited to
strategic partnerships with other NOCs or IOCs, the aim of expanding is also pursued by
obtaining shares in oil resources abroad or likewise by takeovers. Some NOCs are no longer
dependent on technology partnerships with private companies since on the one hand they
have acquired the necessary know-how and on the other hand have the necessary funds to
realise the strategic priorities of supply security and turnover growth. Examples are Petrobras
(Brazil), PetroChina and Gazprom (Russia).
Figure 4: Variance in the Relation between the State and State-owned
Source: Accenture87
As a result of peak oil and against the background of high demands for oil, it can be assumed
that negotiations about production licences will be characterised by increased competition
and more intensified disputes 88 between bidders. This would not only affect the allocation of
licences for newly to be exploited production regions in particular, but also re-negotiations of
existing licences upon untimely termination by governments or scheduled expiration.
Since, under the given circumstances, it is of vital interest for many states to maintain control
over the particularly essential resource of oil, the issue of nationalisation of strategically
important industries is likely to gain a new topicality and explosiveness in this context. In
addition to the nationalisation of oil and transport infrastructures in export and transit
countries, this would also be conceivable for central technology areas facilitating the economy
and industry transformation to a post-fossil age. Moreover, with regard to central oil
products the nationalisation of entire value-added chains cannot be ruled out in case it is no
longer possible to ensure sufficient supplies via market mechanisms.
Bidder competition for production licences could lead to drastic price spirals. The more
problematic the oil shortage for individual countries, the more intensive this competition
would be. In view of the possible dramatic effects and limited short-term alternatives, it must
be assumed that these countries will make forced efforts to cover their own oil requirements.
This would even further intensify the competition between NOCs and IOCs. In this case,
network structures and financial strength would have a very important part to play – either in
order to make use of already existing partnerships, to prevail over other bidders, or to gain
access to new strategic partnerships.
87 Cf. The National Oil Company – Transforming the competitive landscape for global energy, Accenture, 2006,
47EF-9D07-D43584763286/0/NOC_BrochureRVS.pdf (accessed on 13 October 2010).
88 These disputes, however, are by no means to be understood as violent conflicts.
In an extreme case, continuation of intensified competition between bidders is plausible even
after the licences have been awarded and could culminate in an attempt to persuade
companies to return or governments to terminate licences. One thinkable way to achieve this
purpose would be to instrumentalise the local population – particularly in regions with ethnic
or religious minorities – aiming at deliberately degrading the concerned oil companies’
working conditions. Such a development could result in uprisings similar to the one in the
Niger Delta region, where, since the end of the 1990’s, indigenous groups have been taking
action against the exploration of oil.89
Assumption of government tasks by private companies
In regions of fragile statehood in which governments do not perform their main tasks
adequately, actors are confronted with what is at least a partial vacuum of government
functions.90 In this environment, domestic and foreign companies that are active in such a
neglected region could be forced to assume certain government tasks in order to be able to
continue pursuing their actual task effectively. Some companies already use measures to
create legitimacy and to stabilise the situation in an environment that is characterised by a
low or dwindling governmental presence. In exceptional cases, as long as benefit prospects
are good, civilian companies take measures themselves to contain and overcome uprisings in
the event of local opposition.91. This can be referred to as “corporate counterinsurgency”.92 In
addition to a passive security dimension that comprises protecting their own infrastructure,
such an approach generally encompasses other dimensions such as targeted improvement of
the local population’s living conditions, increasing acceptance by promoting local projects, or
job creation. On the whole, these measures can comprise a wide range of activities and are
not subject to any clear and definite categorisation. In the final analysis, the spectrum of
possible tasks would include performing or directly commissioning and monitoring what are
actually sovereign tasks of governmental use of force. This, however, would foster legal grey
areas and further erosion of state sovereignty and institutions.93
Prerequisite for such a situation is always the prospect of economic advantages, without
which a private company would not be willing to continue working in conflict regions due to
89 The initially non-violent resistance has meanwhile developed into open insurgency.
90 Inadequacy as regards task performance can be attributed to deliberate withdrawal by the state and to institutional weakness. This deliberate neglect of certain
homeland regions on the part of governments is also referred to as “policy of the cunning state”. It makes it possible to concentrate national funds on regions that are
considered prioritised. Cf. Annette Weber, Kriege ohne Grenzen und das “erfolgreiche Scheitern” der Staaten am Horn von Afrika, SWP-Studie 26, September 2008, (accessed on 13 October 2010).
91 Mobile companies, as a general rule, leave such regions. In most cases, companies that are tied to the region due to raw material deposits make a cost-benefit analysis.
92 Cf. William Rosenau et al., Corporations and Counterinsurgency, RAND, 2009, 2. (accessed
on 13 October 2010). The term “counterinsurgency” (COIN) has repeatedly led to misunderstandings and dissent in Germany due to the fact that it is based on various
translations and interpretations. Often translated as “combating uprisings”, the term suggests military action against an uprising. Against the background and now
recognised assessment that only approximately 15-20% of the activities whose purpose is to put an end to an uprising are of a military nature and that the management and
majority of the necessary tasks are the responsibility of the civilian sector, preference is to be given to the translation “controlling uprisings”. The reason for this dissent is
the insufficiently consolidated historical parallelism between two schools of thought on controlling uprisings. While the enemy-centric COIN school of thought aimed at
ending the uprising with the use of repressive police, paramilitary or military measures against insurgents, the population-centric COIN approach focused on protecting the
population and gaining its support and – building on this – on gaining legitimacy. In the meantime, this form has prevailed and is used as a basis. In addition to offensive
measures taken by security forces against insurgents, the approach above all comprises issues concerning governance, guarantee of government services and improvement
of living conditions.
93 If the lack of government presence in the regions concerned is based on a lack of options, this could lead to conflict potential between the host country and the
enterprise However, since both actors wish to see the state performing its tasks itself, this conflict potential seems to be of a short-term or rhetoric nature because it can be
assumed that a cooperative solution can be found that involves the same objectives.
its fundamental philosophy.94 As a result, short-term “corporate COIN” campaign efforts and
expenditure for stabilising the environment are conceivable. In the long term, this is only
plausible if the economic benefit calculation, i.e. the profits that can be expected after taking
into account the investments already made, meet the company’s expectations or those of its
owners. In state-owned corporations, however, this condition could possibly be inapplicable
if the procurement of oil 95 is considered to be important enough and its significance is
measured lesser in terms of monetary profits than rather in terms of strategic perspective.
Today, some companies are already involved in local state-building measures, even though in
most cases only indirectly by strengthening local social structures or participating in
governmental programmes. In the event of peak oil with an assumed heavy burden on weak
countries in particular, national structures might fail completely or be deliberately withdrawn
in some regions leaving companies only the choice to either retreat or to solve problems
Increased importance of oil infrastructures
When peak oil is exceeded, not only oil immensely gains importance and attention but
particularly the needed transport infrastructure as well.96 Global transportation routes via
which oil is distributed with supertankers or long pipeline sections are, due to their broad
ramifications, difficult to protect and sometimes provide easy targets for interrupting the oil
supply. This would also increase the incentive to sabotage energy infrastructure. In this
context, the high return on investment of attacks on pipelines, ports or refineries97 is likely to
automatically put the oil industry in the focus of interest for any actor who seeks to reach his
goals by using force.98 Numerous countries will exceed their production maximum at some
point during their oil exploration. Since a major part of the oil reserves remaining after peak
oil is concentrated in the Strategic Ellipse, the oil infrastructure in this region is becoming
increasingly important for many countries. Interruption of these energy infrastructures
would also be an easy and worthwhile target for actors who are willing to use violence.
Particularly at the trouble spots of this region’s future energy infrastructure, a comparatively
huge amount of damage with global political and economic implications could be caused with
very little resources and at low risk (high return on investment). The series of attacks in
recent years in Nigeria already show these tendencies. Systematic attacks over an extended
period of time forced a restriction on production capacities, which even led to the closing of
94 Ideological, political or other motives by decision-makers which lead to functions also being assumed and performed without an advantage cannot be ruled out. Such
motives, however, are isolated cases, particularly because it is only possible to run a company without making profit for a limited period unless it is subsidised some other
95 As a general principle, this also applies to other resources that are of vital interest to a state.
96 Based on the assumptions taken as a basis in Chapter 2.3, Europe and North America have already experienced their regional peak oil. Other regions are also due to
reach their peak soon. In future, this would mean that the share of oil imports from the Strategic Ellipse will increase for most countries. Cf. Hamburgisches
WeltWirtschaftsinstitut (HWWI) und Berenberg Bank, Energierohstoffe – Strategie 2030 (Hamburg, 2005), 44, (accessed on 13 October 2010).
97 Attacks must not necessarily be characterised exclusively by acts of physical violence: “Stuxnet is a new Internet worm that specifically targets Siemens WinCC SCADA
systems: used to control production at industrial plants such as oil rigs, refineries, electronics production, and so on. The worm seems to uploads plant info (schematics
and production information) to an external website. Moreover, owners of these SCADA systems cannot change the default password because it would cause the software to
break down.” Cf. (accessed on 13 October 2010).
98 If oil supply is interrupted, the shortage of supply and the ensuing price increase provide an even greater incentive for more attacks resulting in an ever intensifying
cycle of violence.
pumping stations due to acts of sabotage. The rebel groups aim to achieve a larger share of
the local energy companies’ profits for the region’s population.99
The exploration of new conventional and non-conventional oil reserves in not yet explored
regions also brings about a diversification of transport routes.100 Although not likely to equal
the importance of the Strategic Ellipse, their complex global branching is expected to place
much higher quantitative demands on infrastructure security. As a result, it is hardly possible
to ensure comprehensive protection against a coordinated interruption of transport routes at
various points. Thus the oil infrastructure gains a considerably more important position
amongst the critical infrastructures (CI)101. However, highly industrialized societies,
technologically complex and highly differentiated in terms of labour division, react very
vulnerably to all types of interference with energy supply.102 In this context, the infrastructure
of gas as a partial substitute for oil and, at a later point, the electricity infrastructure, are
likely to develop even more into critical infrastructures and require increased protection.103
It must be assumed that both states and private companies will adapt to these growing
requirements and will increase the security of energy/oil production and transport routes as
well as infrastructure. This could lead to an increased degree of activity on the part of private
actors when it comes to creating security and stability – a task which originally is a
governmental responsibility.
If the industrialised countries’ dependence on oil persists, they can be expected to seek to
increase their influence on the countries of the Strategic Ellipse to ensure continued energy
supply and create a favourable environment for stable production and delivery. This would
not inevitably be achieved by military engagements, however, it would in principle generate a
further increase in the number of external actors.
In the three areas described above, a shift in the activities and functions of state and privatesector
actors becomes apparent. While states are likely to become increasingly involved in the
private-company sector or possibly make efforts to intervene in this sector as part of their
attempts to secure their oil supply, private companies could find themselves in a very strong
position in certain fields that would give them options of action at the same eye level as
governments but would also force them to occasionally assume originally governmental
functions in order to continue pursuing their primarily economic targets.
99 For an overview, cf. Redaktion Weltalmanach, ed., Der Fischer Weltalmanach 2010: Zahlen, Daten, Fakten (Frankfurt am Main, 2010),,3,0,Nigeria.html, (accessed on 27 October 2010).
100 Cf. Chapter 3.1.3.
101 Critical infrastructures are defined as “organizational and physical structures and facilities of such vital importance to a nation’s society and economy that their failure
or degradation would result in sustained supply shortages, significant disruption of public safety and security, or other dramatic consequences.” Cf. Federal Ministry of the
Interior, National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP Strategy) (Berlin, June 2009), 4, (accessed on 13 October 2010; the link refers to the German version).
102 Cf. ibid., 10. In addition, there is a “vulnerability paradox” that can be identified in these societies: increasing robustness and less susceptibility to failure leads to the
development of a very deceptive feeling of security. In this case, the effects of a “failure anyway” situation are disproportionately high: To the extent that a country seems to
be not very vulnerable to failure in terms of its supply services, each incident of failure has an even greater impact.
103 In this context, cf. Chapter 3.1.3. The increase in the importance of electricity infrastructure in efforts to achieve energy independence becomes particularly clear.
3.1.3 Exploration of Further and Alternative Energy Resources
Alternative energy resources increasingly gain importance due to dwindling conventional
oil reserves under peak oil conditions. This includes undeveloped and non-conventional 104
natural oil and gas deposits, coal and nuclear power as well as renewable energy from
biomass to solar energy. The use of such resources harbours security policy implications
and new challenges.
Conflicts over oil reserves in disputed regions and international waters
The exploration of non-conventional oil reserves in times of oil shortage will be subject to a
different economic calculus than in times of sufficient supplies. The costs for exploring
conventional deposits, especially in terms of environmental damage, are comparatively low.
However, with regard to non-conventional oil resources, this is frequently not the case. The
environmental damage caused would call a purely economically motivated exploitation into
question. Especially the complex processing of tar sands illustrates the economic and, above
all, ecological consequences this exploitation may have.105 Modern production technologies
and climate and environmentally friendly methods will increase in importance and bring
strategic advantages for actors with the respective high-technology.106 It would also be a
conceivable option that even environmentally conscious societies explore such reserves in
order to create a national strategic reserve that would, however, only be exported under
exceptional circumstances. Even though the exploration of such non-conventional resources
under peak oil conditions will probably increase considerably, it remains questionable
whether it would be effective to a large extent on the global market.
There is hardly any proven knowledge regarding the extent of oil reserves in international
waters and the Arctic. Yet these potential oil-producing areas will greatly increase in
significance.107 Even if the exploration of such non-conventional reserves requires technical
challenges to be overcome as well as financial efforts to be made, the exploitation of such
reserves, following global oil shortage and a consequential rise in prices, will become more
profitable and, from some actors’ point of view, necessary. Moreover, such exploitation would
be subject to a different risk calculus, as is demonstrated by the consequences of the
Deepwater Horizon accident.108 The exploration of the Arctic, an industrially largely
104 To understand the difference between conventional and non-conventional oil resources, cf. Frequently Asked Qustions #4, 111.
105 Tar sands are oil deposits that have the properties of bitumen. They are found near the surface and are mixed with large quantities of sand. In Canada, these
bituminous beds have a bitumen concentration of 15 to 20 per cent, exploited mainly in open-cast mining. In a complex process using natural gas, synthetic oil is extracted.
According to a report by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the quantity of about three million barrels oil per day extracted from Canadian oil sands is to be
doubled by 2020. The emissions from the extraction and use of synthetic oil from tar sands, however, are two to five times higher than with conventional oil. For more
information see Werner Zittel, Zukunft der weltweiten Erdölversorgung (Berlin, 2008),
21_EWG_Erdoelstudie_D.pdf (accessed on 11 October 2010).
106 In this context, cf. Chapter 3.1.1.
107 Even if “large deposits” are often reported, the extent of these energy resources, above all in the Arctic, is largely unknown. In 2008, a US geological survey study
assumed 13% of all undiscovered oil reserves to lie in the Arctic, which has meanwhile been adjusted downward. Cf. Bundeswehr Geoinformation Office, Erdölvorkommen
unter den Polkappen, Geopolitische Kurz-Info (Euskirchen, 2007), 6.
108 The Cluster of Excellence “The Future Ocean” at Christian-Albrechts-Universitität zu Kiel estimates the overall costs in exchange losses incurred by BP for the oil spill
of the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico to be at 54 billion euros. These comprise formal monetary costs expected in the market for damages attributable
to the company as well as penalties and stricter future constraints. Additional losses in the fishing and tourism industries are estimated at 5 billion euros. Potential damage
to health and lost public benefits that are not included in the BP stock exchange value have not been considered. It is assumed that the social costs of the accident are just
undisturbed region, may have unforeseeable consequences for the complex Arctic ecosystem.
This would, even against the backdrop of a dramatic oil shortage, meet with resistance by
globally active environmental pressure groups or groups that are less affected by oil shortage
in their respective states. Moreover, some deposits in the Arctic are located in regions, the
ownership of which is not yet settled.109 Conflicts and disputes about these areas which today
are still dealt with cooperatively might increase.110
However, the strategic significance in securing resources and the exploration of new and
controversial oil-producing areas may increase the probability of a further build-up of
military arsenals to enforce those claims. Efforts aimed at expanding military capacities for
the protection of own claims on the Arctic can already be seen today. Even if Russia’s current
activities are primarily aimed at positioning itself as a world power, and the activities of other
nations primarily serve to secure their national sovereignty in mostly vast regions, a relevant
increase in military expenditure can already be observed.111 It is still unclear whether NATO
will play a role in possible conflicts over Arctic resources; however, all adjacent states, with
the exception of Russia, are members of the Alliance. This may imply the involvement of the
Transatlantic Alliance in territorial conflicts of one or several member states with another
state not belonging to the Alliance, even if NATO would not take action in its function of
collective defence in low-profile, non-violent conflicts.
Most recently, China has also shown an increased interest in the Arctic, even if a connection
with the existing resources has been denied. However, this could be seen as a sign that
interference of additional actors can be expected, especially in the new and disputed regions
with strategic raw material deposits.112
Similar considerations apply to international waters. The growing possibility of deep-sea
resources exploration would increasingly bring unsettled territorial claims as a potential
cause of conflict to the fore, as can currently be observed in the territorial conflicts over the
South China Sea. Moreover, an exploration of deep-sea resources would lead to an increased
importance of maritime high technology. Actors with appropriate capabilities would
therefore experience a revaluation. Finally, with the exploitation of high sea deposits, the
significance of blue water navies would also increase.
as high as BP’s losses at the stock exchange. Cf. Emanual Söding, Friederike Balzereit, Kirsten Schäfer, Die Ölkatastrophe im Golf von Mexiko – was bleibt?, Cluster of
Excellence “The Future Ocean”, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (Kiel, 9 August 2010), 36f.
109 A list of boundaries and claims can be viewed at the International Boundaries Research Unit of Durham University,
(accessed on 13 October 2010). In 2007, the Kremlin effectively asserted its claim for parts of the Arctic in the media. Just like Norway, Canada and Denmark, Russia has
also requested the external border of its continental shelf to be extended. In the Arctic, the claims of ownership have not been settled yet. On the high seas, claims for areas
by various states collide due to an uncertain legal situation. This may lead to a controversy about increasingly important resources and a considerable potential for conflict
between adjacent states and other states asserting their claims.
110 The presence of conflicts does not automatically lead to the conclusion that wars and armed conflicts will increase since these conflicts do not necessarily have to end in
violence. Conflicts about the territorial control over production regions must be separated from conflicts over the actual exploration of oil. In this context, cf. Chapter 3.1.2.
111 Russia has established a paramilitary unit for the protection of the Arctic territory under the auspices of the internal secret service FSB, Canada has started the
construction of several patrol boats suitable for the Arctic and has established a naval port and a training centre for operations under Arctic conditions.
112 According to a report by the Stockholm SIPRI-Institute, China has increased its efforts to research the Arctic in order to take account of the political, economic and
military consequences of an ice-free and navigable Arctic, including access to expected resources. However, China’s strict policy of non-interference in the affairs of third
states makes conflictive action against adjacent states improbable. Cf. Linda Jakobson, China prepares for an ice-free Arctic, SIPRI Insights on Peace and Security,, (accessed on 27 October2010).
Natural gas as an extension of the oil era
Due to its chemical properties, natural gas is seen as a substitute for oil in many fields.
Despite a high uncertainty about existing reserves, natural gas is expected to last longer than
oil. Natural gas will therefore be one of the most important fossil fuels of the future and will
have to replace oil to a considerable extent, at least for a transition phase.113 Natural gas
reserves are usually located near oil reserves, a fact that, first and foremost, leads to security
policy challenges that are already present today, due to the geographical position of the
“producer countries”.114
As oil production decreases, similar technologies and infrastructures may initially be
employed to expand the use of natural gas. Contrary to oil, natural gas cannot simply be
shipped but must be transported as gas via a pipeline or, after compression or liquefaction
(liquefied natural gas (LNG)), with special-purpose tankers. Pipeline systems, however,
which currently carry the major part of natural gas produced to the consumers, are regionally
restricted. Instead of one world market for natural gas there hence are, in fact, several
regional markets with limited options for the diversification of supplier relationships, in
addition to associated energy security challenges. The pipelines, favoured for transport of
natural gas to the customer countries, do not only span countries and regions but frequently
also political and economic alliances and cultural areas. Therefore, conflicts over routes,
construction and the security of pipelines may gradually increase. This does not only concern
the bypass of states and regions that are considered to be unsafe. States that will not be
included in the economic development of the reserves or the construction of pipelines also
have to be dealt with.115
As with oil, we can expect producer countries to try to occupy increasing value-added shares
in the processing of natural gas –which, for example, comprises the conversion into liquid
hydrocarbons (gas-to-liquids (GtL)) and the further use of natural gas as raw material for the
chemical industry. At first, this may relativise the falling revenues and destabilising effects
that producer countries may experience due to peak oil conditions. Equally, the current
marked increase in the use of LNG technology which enables natural gas to be transported
with tankers may result in new trade routes and new buyers of natural gas.
Furthermore, there are substantial non-conventional deposits of natural gas. One of them is
methane hydrate – a gaseous methane enclosed in an icelike compound – that lies in the
seabed or in perma-frost soil. Under peak oil conditions, the use of these reserves will
probably become more attractive commercially. The ecological risks and security policy
113 According to information provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), natural gas will become the most important fossil energy source by 2080 with a
share of more than 50%.
114 Cf. Figure 1, p. 7
115 The tensions between Germany, Russia and Poland over the construction of the Baltic Sea pipeline demonstrate the associated potential for conflict. Cf. also Chapter
3.1.2. We also have to anticipate that even with routes through stable and safe regions, the infrastructure may be increasingly jeopardised by terrorists. Thus, the necessity
for a geo-strategic stabilisation of larger regions may grow.
challenges resulting from the location of natural gas deposits in the sea and in northern
regions will be the same as with the extended exploitation of non-conventional oil reserves.
Expansion of nuclear energy and increased proliferation
Further, partially massive expansion of nuclear energy, which has become apparent in some
countries already today, has in the past been seen as an answer to and part of the way out of
the oil crisis. If the energy structure is “electrified” further, nuclear energy as well as
renewable energies, above all, can make a substantial contribution as a substitute to receding
fossil energy sources.116 There are varying estimates as to how long nuclear raw materials,
such as uranium ore, will last but these lie mostly above the estimates for oil.117 Leaving the
problems of safety and ultimate waste disposal aside, many countries see nuclear energy as a
comparatively cheap form of energy which also helps to reduce CO2 emissions. However,
more nuclear energy would at least increase the statistic probability of accidents occurring
which, if exceeding a certain severity, may have dramatic and destabilising regional ecological
consequences with global impacts. This holds true even more when further threshold or even
developing countries with other, partially “weaker”, institutional security mechanisms and
technological competences start exploiting nuclear power. In addition, external ecological
effects of uranium mining, detrimental to the environment already today, the use of natural
water resources to cool nuclear power plants, the dismantling of old, shut-down plants and
the problem of the ultimate waste disposal render an ecological overall view even more
Above all, the expansion of nuclear energy aggravates the problem of proliferation. Given a
deteriorating energy situation, it will become more and more difficult for the world
community to restrict or control access to nuclear technologies or their use by “critical” states
or crisis countries. Despite the efforts of the international community to establish effective
monitoring and control mechanisms, these could increasingly be circumvented and sanctions
become increasingly less enforceable. Moreover, given declining national oil reserves, the
economic incentive to sell or transfer nuclear technology and/or nuclear material may grow
substantially, not only in oil-exporting countries. Even oil-importing, industrialised countries
may be inclined to transfer their nuclear technology in return for energy resources as part of
a political package deal. Despite all efforts to prevent uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear
technology which can always be used for military purposes, such incentives or even simple
economic opportunities and necessities may put existing contractual obligations or even
alliance memberships into perspective. Thus, as a tendency, more states may turn into
potential or actual nuclear powers – with impacts on international and regional balances and
alliance systems.
116 This concerns the primary energy consumption by industry and households as well as the transport business due to a more intensive use of rail transport and expansion
of electromobility.
117 According to calculations by the Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD, it will last between 50 and 70 years. A report entitled “Uranium: Resources, Production and
Demand”, issued by the Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD (OECD/NEA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and also known as the “Red Book”, is
published every two years. Cf.: Daniel Lübbert and Felix Lange, Uran als Kernbrennstoff: Vorräte und Reichweite, Deutscher Bundestag, Info-Brief (Berlin, 2006), (accessed on 13 October2010).
With an increasing transfer of nuclear technology, odds may rise that further states,
including “critical” and fragile ones, may use such technologies and material for military
purposes. Actors of such states may pass nuclear weapons or at least nuclear material directly
on to other state, sub-state or non-state actors. Given the growing amounts of fuels generated
during the processing and final waste disposal, there is also an increased probability of theft
of serious amounts of nuclear material by terrorist groups or organised crime. It will become
more important but also increasingly difficult to control nuclear fuel cycles. The risk that
terrorist groups come into possession of simple nuclear weapons or larger amounts of
nuclear material could grow.
Competition for land area in energy raw materials and food production
Under peak oil conditions, a massive expansion of the production of renewable raw materials
for energy purposes as well as material use can be expected.118 However, the agricultural land
area required is limited. The significantly expanded cultivation of renewable raw materials
would increase global competition for agricultural land and water.119 Plants for energy
generation compete with plants for the food industry and animal feed crops. Infrastructural
measures, urban sprawl and, in some cases, urbanisation tendencies like, for instance, in
Cairo, often lead to further cutbacks in potential land use. The massive rise in oil prices due
to peak oil would add to the expenses of energy-intensive agricultural supplies such as
fertilisers and pesticides as well as to the transport of agricultural intermediate and finished
products.120 This may lead to constantly rising costs for food or at least to an increased
volatility of food prices.121 Low-income strata in the cities and the rural population would
suffer first and foremost, widening social gaps even further. In the light of continuously
growing populations predominantly in developing countries, regional food supply shortages
may be aggravated and eventually culminate in food crises.
Since potential cultivation areas are limited, the high demand for energy raw materials in
industrialised states will, in general, not be fully met by domestic production but will require
additional imports. Agricultural areas for bio-energy production mainly exist in threshold
and developing countries, for instance in sub-Sahara Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America,
and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Thus, on the one hand, the export of
renewable raw materials would present an economic opportunity for threshold and
118 Renewable raw materials are primarily used for energy purposes such as fuels or for efficient decentralised cogeneration of electricity and heat. As an easily storable
and constantly available energy source, it constitutes a very important component of an accelerated energy transition toward renewable energy. In addition, the material
use, for example in the chemical industry, is growing in significance. Conceivable magnitudes for a biomass cultivation range from 200 to more than 700 hexajoule/year
(Worldwatch Institute) which amounts from one fifth to well over half of the world energy needs and even beyond. At present, it is expected that under global conditions
the maximum sustainable increase in primary energy produced by biomass can only be doubled by 2050; cf. Gerald Kanuf and Imke Lübbeke, Food security and the use of
biomass for energy purpose, Platform Sustainable Biomass Discussion Paper, December 2007,
pdf_neu/nachhaltige_biomasse.pdf (accessed on 13 October 2010).
119 Today, 70% of the freshwater are already used for agricultural production. Additionally, the production of meat and milk requires three to four times as much fertile
120 Cf. Alex Evans, Rising Food Prices. Drivers and Implications for Development, Chatham House Briefing Paper, April 2008,, (accessed on 13 October 2010).
121 The so-called “tortilla crisis” in Mexico in 2007 has, for example, shown the consequences that a shift in the price structure may have for threshold and developing
countries. As the demand for biofuels rose rapidly, promising lucrative business, competition ensued for the limited cultivation areas to grow wheat and plants for the
production of biofuels. This led to a shortage and rise in costs for wheat so that the poorer strata of the local population could hardly afford to pay for tortilla which
constitutes a basic food. There were massive protests against those price increases. 4 out of 10 Mexican families spend more than 10% of their income on tortilla. Prices
increased within the range of 20%.
developing countries. On the other hand, however, these countries, especially the ones
lacking own oil and gas supply, would, above all, also have to ensure their own food supply.
Given the energy poverty of large parts of the population, they would have to reduce their
dependence on depleting oil reserves while at the same time ensuring their supply with both
food and bio-energy.122 However, frequently these countries have too little infrastructure to
produce, process, store and transport agricultural raw materials. Investments into irrigation
systems and streets have long been neglected. Poorly developed state structures and socioeconomic
or humanitarian crises complicate even further a better and more equitable supply
with food and energy.
Thus, pressure on, and competition for, agricultural land should rise disproportionately.
Provided that it has not been possible to achieve a globally sustainable production of
biomass, increased disputes about land as a strategic resource would ensue – one of the oldest
causes of conflict. In particular, poverty-stricken and rural population groups in threshold
and developing countries are forced to develop other and new land areas to grow food crops
already today. As forest is converted into farmland, the indigenous population in particular is
also jeopardised since they lose their original homeland. State-imposed resettlement
programmes in connection with the cultivation of bio-energy crops may even lead to the
expropriation of settlement areas.123 Displacements and unrest bordering on civil war may be
the consequences.
Even today, globally acting states and enterprises accelerate the expansion of agricultural
land by buying or leasing land worldwide (see Figure 6). As these strategic commitments in
the agricultural sector are expected to expand, it will not be easy to distinguish state from
private-sector or even sub-state actors and interests in terms of land acquisition. Thus, a lack
of land titles, for instance in Africa, apparently makes it easier for investors to purchase land,
but exacerbates land conflicts as well.124 External state or private-sector actors can therefore
be expected to exert increasing influence on the development and security policy.125 In many
cases, conflicts could thus ensue due to competition for the use of the “agricultural land”
122 Under peak oil conditions, less-developed countries in particular will have to spend more of their financial resources on food imports as well as oil. Already today,
threshold countries such as India use a large portion of their export revenues to import oil; cf. Thomas Fritz, Entwicklungspolitische Folgen des Welthandels mit
Agroenergie, “Brot für die Welt” Discussion Paper (Stuttgart, April 2008), 5, http://www.brot-fuer-diewelt.
de/downloads/fachinformationen/diskussionspapier_agroenergie.pdf (accessed on 13 October 2010).
123 This has, for example, already happened in Indonesia where land was confiscated and resettlements were carried out in connection with an expansion of oil palm
plantations. Cf. ibid, 9ff.
124 “As a result, the money being invested in agrofuels in Africa is focused around large-scale plantation agriculture, tightly integrated into transnational corporate
networks.24 And, as in any other sector of agribusiness, corporate profit with agrofuel crops is best assured when these plantations are on the most fertile lands, close to
major transportation routes.25 Millions of small farmers still occupy these lands, however, and they have become the main obstacle in the path of the agrofuel rush. It is
becoming clear that, whenever agrofuels are on the agenda, the pressure on farmers to leave their land intensifies.” African Biodiversity Network, Agrofuels in Africa –The
impacts on Land, Food and Forests, July 2007, 22ff,, (accessed on 26 Oct. 2010). 2010).
125 Cf. Chapter 3.1.2.
Figure 5: International Land Leases
Source: UNEP/GRIP – Arendal
In addition, excessive biomass production without sustainable agricultural solutions would
exacerbate the impact of climate change. A more intensive agriculture, especially with highyield
crops grown as monocultures, will have additional negative effects especially on those
regions that are already facing acute water shortages.126 The degradation of soil due to
erosion, compression, salinisation and desertification may progress considerably. With the
destruction of intact eco-systems and the loss of biodiversity the natural regeneration
potential of the biosphere would decrease on a local and global level. Without sustainable
solutions127 the rapidly growing production of renewable energy raw materials could intensify
economic and ecological crises in many regions of the world.
126 An intensive agriculture with industrialised high-technology systems places heavy demands on irrigation, fertilisation and use of pesticides etc.
127 This includes decentralised approaches, organic farming, synergistic effects and new technologies in the production of energy raw materials, participatory land use etc.
The quest for energy independence, critical infrastructures and wide-area
“energy regions”
Energy independence means that a region, a state or a union of states can secure their energy
supply with resources existing on their own territory or the territory of the union of states.
Thus, imports of energy raw materials or energy itself can be significantly reduced or even
completely avoided. Given the concentration of fossil oil and gas resources in the Strategic
Ellipse, this means that Europe, for example, but also China would use coal, nuclear power
and alternative energy sources to generate energy.
As a fossil source of energy, coal will last significantly longer than oil and gas and is
distributed more evenly globally. Yet, it is also finite.128 The mining site and the place of use
(conversion into electricity, steel production etc.) are spatially adjacent or at least located
within safe delivery routes. Thus, a massively intensified exploitation of coal would initially
not lead to additional direct security policy challenges.
If technologies for a climate-friendly coal power generation (carbon capture and storage
(CCS) etc.) are not used globally to the necessary extent in the period under review, the CO2
concentration in the atmosphere will increase considerably and accelerate climate change
with all relevant consequences, also in the field of security policy. The same is true for coal
liquefaction which can be used on a large scale but with the current state of the art is
relatively inefficient energetically and harmful to the climate.129 Although oil prices in excess
of just $50 per barrel are expected to make coal liquefaction generally cost-efficient, the setup
of such plants at short notice will involve high economic and political costs. Complex
planning and approval procedures and negative impacts on the environment despite process
improvements may pose potential obstacles. In view of global oil shortage, a rise in world
coal prices would be expectable so that domestic hard coal or even brown coal must be relied
upon. Moreover, it takes longer to (re)develop coal resources than it takes to build a
hydrogenation plant. Thus, coal liquefaction would rather be imaginable as a “last resort” to
supply the industry, transport systems and armed forces with fuel, as the historic example of
Germany during the Second World War shows.
Therefore, the quest for energy independence will, in the foreseeable future, be directed
towards regenerative energy sources, the expansion of which is forging ahead rapidly. The
generation of energy using wind, sun, geothermal power and biomass is facilitated by the
respective geographical features. However, one region or one state alone hardly ever has
conditions favourable for all kinds of regenerative power generation. The goal, therefore, are
composite projects which diversify the energy supply transnationally and over a very large
128 Coal is, above all, used in the primary industry and for electric energy production. However, some expect the “peak coal” to occur already after 2030.
129 The coal-to-liquid technology (CtL) has a history of almost a hundred years. F. Bergius patented a method to produce liquid or soluble organic compounds from coal as
early as 1913, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1931. The indirect coal liquefaction technology, developed by F. Fischer and H. Tropsch, was filed
as a patent in 1925. In Germany, the chemical industry developed both technologies for large-scale production in the 1920s and operated a few plants. During the Second
World WarI, up to four million tons of hydrocarbons were produced every year. In the aftermath of the oil crisis, pilot plants for coal refinement (gasification and
liquefaction) were planned and put into operation until the 1980s. However, due to low oil prices and an unfavourable economic and ecological balance, fewer plants were
built than intended. Yet, the last, very small plant was decommissioned only in 2004.
area, adapting it optimally to the geographic features – wind power at the coasts, solar energy
in southern latitudes, hydropower at suitable locations, and biomass on available farmland.
The focus in that matter is set to electric power generation by solar technology and wind
power, as the example of DESERTEC shows.130 In this context, the continuing
“electrification” of power generation and distribution is designed to achieve efficiency gains
and to enable “energy transport” over large distances (intra- and intercontinentally) via highvoltage
direct-current power transmission.131 Moreover, (partially) liberalised electricity
markets and currently being established intelligent power network combinations – so-called
smart grids – aim to ensure load balancing and optimal electricity distribution. Thus, energy
independence will only be gained by means of these spacious and complex electric
infrastructures – the so-called supergrids. This additional infrastructure, however, does not
only need to be established, but also protected and may therefore become a critical factor.132
Such an extended and diversified transregional infrastructure for the generation and
distribution of power does not only touch on geographical borders of countries and alliances
but also on political, economic and cultural systems and is therefore more than merely a
technological and economic challenge.It requires a long-term stable economic and (security)
policy environment.
130 The Desertec Foundation is an initiative that supports the transmission of solar and wind power from desert and coastal regions to Europe. Other energy sources will
be added later. The goal is to achieve a sustainable power supply in EUrope, the Middle East and North-Africa (in short: EU-MENA).
131 These “new grids” include further decentralisation of energy supply, for example via cogeneration of electricity and heat.
132 Moreover, in case of a massive expansion of energy infrastructures, other raw materials (such as copper, rare earths, lithium, tantalum, coltan etc.) will be in demand.
As these only last for a limited time period and also due to the location of the producer countries, they become “strategic raw materials” which will result in a global
competition for their exploitation. Further “peaks” of these raw materials are possible.
3.1.4 Intra-societal Risks of Peak Oil
Since modern national economies strongly rely on inexpensive fossil raw materials, in
particular oil, peak oil would pose considerable challenges to most countries and societies in
the event of an incomplete or insufficient post-fossil transformation process. These
challenges could entail restrictions in the mobility systems, interruptions in economic
structures as well as an erosion of confidence in state institutions.
Restrictions in private and goods transportation
Given that no sufficient alternatives on the basis of regenerative energy sources have been
established for transportation, peak oil is likely to cause a substantial rise in costs and
possibly huge restrictions in motorised private transportation. This would have immediate
effects on the functional mechanisms and ways of life of modern industrialised societies.
Sudden shortages could be eased with the use of regulatory or voluntary measures (“mobility
vouchers”, “car-free Sunday” etc.). However, suburban settlement structures in industrialised
countries in particular (living in the suburb – working in the city centre) hamper a rapid
transformation of private transportation.133 If the restrictions are considerable, all economic
sectors concerned – from the automobile industry through the construction business to
tourism – would experience a downturn. The “mobility crisis” could turn into an important
new aspect of the economic crisis.
An increase in goods transportation costs could also have serious implications. Modern-day
international division of labour, which involves global process and goods chains of all kinds
of commodities, has largely been made possible by the technological progress in the field of
freight traffic (container ships, trucks, cooling systems), which is in essence based on fossil
fuels. 134 Compared with local public transport and, in parts, private transportation, the task
of sufficiently switching all goods traffic over to alternative energy sources is much more
complex with today’s common means of transportation and technology.135 Mobility on the
basis of fossil fuels is therefore likely for a long time to remain a basic requirement of
economic cycles that are highly diversified both globally and regionally. Restriction of this
mobility would have immediate effects on global division of labour, trade and price
structures. A possible consequence would be bottlenecks in the supply of existentially
important goods.
133 Cf. Lester B. Brown, Plan B 2.0 Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble (New York, 2006), 36f., http://www.earthpolicy.
org/images/uploads/book_files/pb2ch02.pdf (accessed on 13 October 2010).
134 There are different views regarding the theory that the maritime transport revolution has caused globalisation due to a considerable decrease in transportation costs Cf.
David Jacks, Christopher M. Meissner and Dennis Novy, “Globalisation and the costs of international trade from 1870 to the present”, in VOX, August 2008, (accessed on 13 October 2010); Davis S. Jacks and Krishna Pendakur, Global Trade and the Maritime Transport
Revolution, Simon Fraser University, Working Paper (Burnaby, BC, July 2007), (accessed on 13 October
2010). It is, however, indisputable that oil prices determine transportation costs, in particular when it comes to the transportation of small quantities of goods by land.
135 From a present-day perspective, fully electric trucks are neither ecologically nor economically efficient. An increase in the practice of transporting goods via rail, which
per se is electrified, would require the same kind of rail network density as the one that used to exist back in the middle of the 20th century before it was thinned out in
favour of goods transportation by road, which is more flexible. What is more, the potential increase in goods transportation is already limited today. Radical expansion of
combined traffic, i.e. a combination of rail and road transportation, is not an easy task
Food sector uncertainties
If nothing else, existentially important goods include food. Although countries such as
Germany are almost self-sufficient when it comes to the basic supply of foodstuffs, peak oil
could well have serious consequences in some areas of agriculture. Potential supply
bottlenecks would above all jeopardise countries with high food import quotas since the cost
of importing food is bound to become very high.136 After peak oil, there would be significant
differences from past food shortages or crises in this context:
– The crisis would concern all food traded over long distances, not just single regions or
products. Regions that are structurally already at risk today would however be
particularly affected (see figure 5).
– Crop yields also depend on oil. The abdication of machines or oil-based fertilizers and
other chemicals to increase crop yield would therefore have a negative effect on
– The increase in food prices would be long-term and would not be the result of a oneoff
crop failure or a similar situation.
– Competition between the use of farmland for food production on the one hand and for
the use of producing biofuels on the other hand could worsen food shortages and
136 For a detailed classification of countries with regard to their food security, cf. Bingxin Yu, Liangzhi You and Shenggen Fan, A Typology of Food Security in Developing
Countries under High Food Prices, Working Paper (Beijing, August 2009),,
(accessed on 14 October 2010).
137 After the Korean War, the USSR helped North Korea to develop a modern and productive agriculture. When the USSR collapsed, the inflow of cheap oil suddenly dried
up. Between 1989 and 1998, the crop yields dropped by more than half. Cf. Markus Noland, Famine and Reform in North Korea, Institute for International Economics
Working Paper 3-5, July 2003, 5, (accessed on 14 October 2010).
138 On the effects of biofuels on food security, see also Chapter 3.1.2.; cf. also Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The State of Food and Agriculture.
Biofuels: Prospects, Risks and Opportunities (Rome, 2008), 72ff.
Figure 6: Food Security Levels in the Face of High Food Prices
Source: Bingxin Yu, Liangzhi You and Shenggen Fan (2009)139
The probability of serious supply crises with relevance to security policy would climax where
the food security levels are already low. Price fluctuations induced by peak oil would lend
more weight to problems concerning domestic production or generally insecure trade
relations. However, food shortages could also develop into a problem in countries that are as
such self-sufficient if food production methods in various parts of the country vary greatly
and distribution is inefficient or perceived unfair.
139 Cf. Bingxin Yu, Liangzhi You and Shenggen Fan, A Typology of Food Security in Developing Countries under High Food Prices, Working Paper (Beijing, August
2009), Figure 5 in the Annex to this study,, (accessed on 14 October 2010).
Upheaval in economic structures
Since oil is needed directly or indirectly for the production of more than 90% of all industrial
goods, effects would show across the entire economic structure. Since an increase in the price
of oil would bring about a shift in almost all price relations, consumption and, in turn,
domestic production and foreign trade would have to permanently adapt to the new oil prices
(cf. Fig. 6).
Figure 7 : German Imports and Exports Classified by Commodity Groups
Figure 7 – Glossary
In absoluten Zahlen und Anteile in Prozent,
In absolute figures and proportions in
Import, in Mrd. Euro Imports in billion euros
chemische Erzeugnisse chemical products
Erdöl und Erdgas oil and natural gas
Kraftwagen und Kraftwagenteile motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts
Import insgesamt: 818,6 Mrd. Euro (100%) Total imports: 818.6 bn euros (100%)
Metalle und Halbzeug daraus metals and semi-finished products thereof
Maschinen machines
Nachrichtentechn., Rundfunk- und
Fernsehgeräte sowie elekr. Bauelemente
telecommunications equipment, radio and
television sets and electronic components
Erzeugnisse des Ernährungsgewerbes food-sector products
Geräte der Elektrizitätserzeugung und –
verteilung u.a.
electricity generation and distribution
equipment etc.
Sonstige Fahrzeuge other vehicles
Export, in Mrd. Euro Exports in billion euros
Kraftwagen und Kraftwagenteile motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts
Maschinen machines
chemische Erzeugnisse chemical products
Metalle und Halbzeug daraus metals and semi-finished products thereof
Export insgesamt: 994,0 Mrd. Euro (100%) Total exports: 994.0 billion euros (100%)
Geräte der Elektrizitätserzeugung und –
verteilung u.a.
electricity generation and distribution
equipment etc.
Medizin-, mess-, steuerungs-,
regelungstechnische und optische
Erzeugnisse; Uhren
medical, measuring, control, regulation and
optical products; clocks
Erzeugnisse des Ernährungsgewerbes food sector products
Sonstige Fahrzeuge other motor vehicles
Metallerzeugnisse metal products
Mrd. Euro billion euros
Quelle: Statistisches Bundesamt:
Source: Federal Statistical Office:
Lizenz: Creative Commons by-nc-nd/3.0/de Licence: Creative Commons by-nc-nd/3.0/de
Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 2009,
Federal Agency for Civic Education, 2009,
Source: Federal Statistical Office
For this reason, the transmission channels of a price shock are as varied as the various
possibilities for using oil and the options available for value chain differentiation. The
German automobile industry may serve as an example: The costs for producing as well as
marketing and using motor vehicles would increase in such a way that it would become
necessary for the sector to undergo a fundamental reorganisation process.140
Due to the increased dynamic force in adapting the economic structures that becomes
necessary as a result, it is not possible to rule out considerable frictions on the labour
market.141 New economic sectors, jobs and market opportunities can indeed develop in the
wake of post-fossil transformation. This economic upheaval could, however, initially result in
significant transformation unemployment. It is regarded as a special form of structural
unemployment that can evolve as a result of profound changes in transformation countries.142
Most importantly, a devaluation of employees’ human capital may occur because the change
in structure causes thus far fully adequate qualifications to be replaced by other qualification
requirements. Depending on its scope and duration, transformation unemployment could
develop into a major economic problem.
Societies that are in the process of transformation can in part resort to the anchor function
and orientation aid of countries and societies that have already completed the transformation
process and from whose successes and failures consequences can be drawn for their own
actions.143 The intended transition towards a post-fossil society, however, confronts everyone
with the same challenge because there are no best-practice models. Owing to the novelty of
the situation there cannot be any such models yet.144 In addition, there will be a whole series
of differences between the transformation countries, e.g. as regards the existing economic
structures, the energy policy efforts made so far to create more energy-efficient and postfossil
structures. Also of significance will be the willingness to undergo a reform, the
respective economy-policy priorities, and the institutional capacities of the countries,
including their form of government.
Loss of confidence amongst society
In such a case, the affected populations would be faced with two unfavourable developments.
They would, on the one hand, experience a lowering of living standards due to a distinct
increase in unemployment and mobility costs. Historical case studies reveal that only
continuous improvement of individual living conditions provide the basis for tolerant and
open societies.145 Empirical studies for the OECD region also prove that setbacks in economic
140 For an illustrative example of a value chain, cf. David Korowicz, Tipping Point. Near-Term Systemic Implications of a Peak in Global Oil Production. An Outline
Review, The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, March 2010, 20ff., (accessed on 13
October 2010).
141 During the oil crisis in the mid-1970s, unemployment in West Germany increased fourfold although all actors were aware that this crisis was finite. The latter would not
be the case in a crisis induced by peak oil.
142 More profound causes lie on the one hand on the consumer’s side, e.g. as a result of collapsed labour markets, faulty supply conditions or even budget restrictions, and
on the other hand on the supply side due to the employees lacking qualification, or adequate qualification.
143 The transformation economies of Central and Eastern Europe of the 1990s have oriented themselves greatly on West European models and in part received strong
support from West European countries to build their institutions. During their transformation into post-fossil economies, some EU countries, including Germany, lead the
way in partly differing areas. Such efforts can also be observed in China, for example.
144 Most importantly in the US, there are already programmes available on a local level that deal very seriously with the preparation for peak oil. Overall, there is a trend in
some population groups towards “resilient communities”. A very good example is a study carried out by the city of Bloomington (Indiana), (accessed on 13 October 2010).
145 Cf. Benjamin N. Friedman, “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth”, in Society, January/ February 2006, (accessed on 13 October2010).
growth can lead to an increase in the number of votes for extremist and nationalistic
On the other hand, it cannot be ruled out that the people’s confidence in state institutions as
well as politics would be considerably shaken. This confidence is likely to dwindle even more
in societies in which it is already weak – in particular if it is becoming obvious in crisis
regions that governments have in the past failed to develop suitable solution strategies and
provide orientation for society during this period of transition. This personalised loss of
confidence, which can express itself, for example, in “dressing down” politicians, could –
depending on intensity and duration – consolidate into a general and lasting crisis of
confidence towards central national institutions and their ability to solve problems. A society,
however, cannot survive without confidence.147 Sullenness with politics can give rise to
lethargy or fatalism and can increase the likelihood of growing political instability and
extremism.148 Via indirect legitimisation chains, this national loss of confidence could also
have a negative impact on the legitimisation, functionality and actionability of supranational
organisations and institutions as well.
146 Cf. Markus Brückner and Hans Peter Grüner, “The OECD’s growth prospects and political extremism”,in VOX, May 2010, (accessed on 14 October 2010).
147 Cf. Martin K. W. Schweer, “Politisches Vertrauen: Theoretische Ansätze und empirische Befunde”, in Politische Vertrauenskrise in Deutschland: eine
Bestandsaufnahme (Münster, 2000), 9-26 (here: 9ff.
148Empirical studies for Europe reveal that loss of confidence in state institutions is more likely to occur in countries with great income differences and a population that
tends to belong to the left political spectrum. Cf. Christopher J. Anderson and Matthew M. Singer, “The Sensitive Left and the Impervious Right: Multilevel Models and the
Politics of Inequality, Ideology, and Legitimacy in Europe”, in Comparative Political Studies 41, January 2008, 564-599,
(accessed on 14 October 2010).
3.2 The Systemic Risk of Exceeding the Tipping Point
One fundamental problem when it comes to deriving the security challenges posed by peak
oil is the systemic nature of the risk of scarce resources or high resource prices in a complex
economic environment. Peak oil can have dramatic consequences for the global economy.
The transmission channels of an oil price shock involve diverse and interdependent economic
structures and infrastructures, some of which are of vital importance. Its consequences are
therefore not entirely predictable. Initially, it will be possible to measure the extent of these
consequences, although not exclusively, by a reduced growth of the global economy. The scale
of potential peak-oil-induced setbacks in economic growth can include what is referred to as
a “tipping point”, which determines whether or not an ex-ante analysis of peak oil effects
remains possible or not.
The phenomenon of tipping points in complex systems has been known for a long time and is
referred to as “bifurcation” in mathematics.149 Tipping points are characterised by the fact
that when they are reached, a system no longer responds to changes proportionally, but
chaotically. Currently, reference is made to potential “tipping processes”150 most notably in
the field of climate research. At such a point, a minor change to one parameter – in the case
of the climate, a change in temperature – would have a drastic effect on an ecosystem.151
At first glance, it seems obvious that a phase of slowly declining oil production quantities
would lead to an equally slowly declining economic output. Peak oil would bring about a
decline in global prosperity for a certain length of time, during which efforts could be made to
develop technological solutions to replace oil. Economies, however, move within a narrow
band of relative stability. Within this band, economic fluctuations and other shocks are
possible, but the functional principles remain unchanged and provide for new equilibriums
within the system. Outside this band, however, this system responds chaotically as well.
From the perspective of economics, at least one border of the band can be identified: an
economic tipping point exists where, for example as a result of peak oil, the global economy
shrinks for an undeterminable period. In this case a chain reaction that would destabilise the
global economic system and cause a clear shift in the analytical framework for all other
security consequences would be imaginable. The course of this potential scenario could be as
149 Bifurcation theory refers to the qualitative change of state in non-linear systems under the influence of a parameter μ. Cf. (accessed on 13 October 2010).
150 Cf. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, “Tipping elements in the Earth System”, in PNAS, Vol. 106, No. 49 (December 2009), (accessed on 13 October 2010).
151 The Gulf Stream would thus not become slower in proportion to global warming but would come to a complete and sudden halt. Similarly, the monsoon would stop at
a certain point rather than just become less powerful.
152 Cf. David Korowicz, Tipping Point. Near-Term Systemic Implications of a Peak in Global Oil Production. An Outline Review, The Foundation for the Economics of
Sustainability (March 2010), 30 ff., (accessed on 13 October 2010).
The overall production of conventional and unconventional oil would decline.
1. Peak oil would occur and it would not be possible, at least in the foreseeable future153,
to entirely compensate for the decline in the production of conventional oil with
unconventional oil or other energy and raw material sources. The expression
“foreseeable” is very important in this context. Ultimately, it leads to a loss of
confidence in markets.
In the short term, the global economy would respond proportionally to the
decline in oil supply.154
1. Increasing oil prices would reduce consumption and economic output. This would
lead to recessions.
2. The increase in transportation costs would cause the prices of all traded goods to
rise.155 Trade volumes would decrease. For some actors, this would only mean losing
sources of income, whereas others would no longer be able to afford essential food
3. National budgets would be under extreme pressure. Expenditure for securing food
supplies (increasing food import costs) or social spending (increasing unemployment
rate) would compete with the necessary investments in oil substitutes and green tech.
Revenues would decrease considerably as a result of recession and necessary tax
153 Cf. Robert L. Hirsch, Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling, Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management (February 2005), 57 ff., (accessed on 11 October 2010). This study assumes that the economy would take approximately 20
years to adapt to the conditions of a post-peak-oil world. Sufficient investments 20 years before that peak occurs could prevent negative consequences. If the first
investments coincide with the peak, the ensuing transition phase would also take 20 years. It is thus implicitly assumed in this context that the respective investment
environment for switching to green tech is generally comparable in both cases. In the light of the systemic considerations described here, this assumption should be
regarded as a highly disputable simplification. At any rate, however, it shows that the transformation period would be very long, which means that the uncertainty
presumed here seems plausible.
154 Cf. Ibid., 24 ff.
155 For ways of substituting oil-based fuels, cf. Chapter 3.1.3.
In the medium term, the global economic system and all market-oriented
economies would collapse.
1. Economic entities would realise the prolonged contraction and would have to act on
the assumption that the global economy would continue to shrink for a long time.156
2. Tipping point: In an economy shrinking over an indefinite period, savings would
not be invested because companies would not be making any profit.157 For an
indefinite period, companies would no longer be in a position to pay borrowing costs
or to distribute profits to investors. The banking system, stock exchanges and
financial markets could collapse altogether.158
3. Financial markets are the backbone of global economy and an integral component of
modern societies. All other subsystems have developed hand in hand with the
economic system. A disintegration can therefore not be analysed based on today’s
system. A completely new system state would materialise.
Nevertheless, for illustration purposes here is an outline of some theoretically
plausible consequences:
 Banks left with no commercial basis. Banks would not be able to pay
interest on deposits as they would not be able to find creditworthy companies,
institutions or individuals. As a result, they would lose the basis for their
 Loss of confidence in currencies. Belief in the value-preserving function
of money would dwindle. This would initially result in hyperinflation and
black markets, followed by a barter economy at the local level.
 Collapse of value chains. The division of labour and its processes are based
on the possibility of trade in intermediate products. It would be extremely
difficult to conclude the necessary transactions lacking a monetary system.
 Collapse of unpegged currency systems. If currencies lose their value in
their country of origin, they can no longer be exchanged for foreign currencies.
International value-added chains would collapse as well.
156 Although society has great confidence in the market economy system and has little understanding for complex relations, and although the assumption of rational
economic systems is debatable, we can presume that as of a certain point during this global recession, all insecurity will give way to the realisation that a critical point has
been crossed.
It is not possible to predict exactly how this realisation process will occur. A potential scenario is that initially, massive fluctuations of cash flow will clearly expose the “real
economy” consequences of a financial crash, causing panic to break out amongst investors. Resorting to raw materials will neither be possible nor sensible for everyone.
Huge quantities of assets will be destroyed. The lack of logical alternative ways out of this situation may then result in the consequences described above.
157 In theory, there are industries that could profit from the situation. The oil industry or companies in the green-tech sector would certainly have an increasing demand
for capital. Given the companies’ environment, in particular the dependence of these industries on (international) value chains and infrastructures, as well as the
dramatically changing conditions on the demand side, it would be implausible to expect “islands of stability” which continue to exist on a “micro level”.
158 The term “financial markets” encompasses all markets on which capital is traded. In addition to the capital and credit market, this includes the exchange market and
the money market.
 Mass unemployment. Modern societies are organised on a division-oflabour
basis and have become increasingly differentiated in the course of their
histories. Many professions are solely concerned with managing this high level
of complexity and no longer have anything to do with the immediate
production of consumer goods. The reduction in the complexity of economies
that is implied here would result in a dramatic increase in unemployment in
all modern societies.
 National bankruptcies. In the situation described, state revenues would
evaporate. (New) debt options would be very limited, and the next step would
be national bankruptcies.
 Collapse of critical infrastructures. Neither material nor financial
resources would suffice to maintain existing infrastructures. Infrastructure
interdependences, both internal and external with regard to other subsystems,
would worsen the situation.
 Famines. Ultimately, production and distribution of food in sufficient
quantities would become challenging.
The developments shown here make it clear that it is essential to secure the supply of energy
to the economic cycle in sufficient quantities to enable positive economic growth. A
contraction in economic activity over an indefinite period of time represents a highly
unstable state that will cause the system to collapse. It is hardly possible to estimate the
security risks that such a development would involve.
An oil supply conversion will not be possible to an equal extent in all world regions before
peak oil occurs. It is likely that a large number of countries will not be able to make the
necessary investments in good time and to the required extent.
Germany is one of the most globalised countries worldwide.159 The resulting complexity of
our society excellently facilitates adaption to our modern-day environment.
In view of their degree of globalisation, all industrialised countries – including Germany –
face a high systemic risk, regardless of their individual energy policies.
There is a potential “risk of infection” between different subsystems that use the same
infrastructures. One example is the spread of recession from one country to another. To know
the transmission channels of an oil price shock as well as their interdependences is thus
decisive for effective and timely government action. Complex structures must be sustained
with energy (in the broadest sense of the term). In complex systems, an energy withdrawal
will not necessarily lead to a proportional reduction in complexity alone but, in extreme
159 Cf. KOF Index of Globalization, (accessed on 13 October 2010).
cases, to a collapse. The danger of such a loss of energy must be minimised. Against this
backdrop, one possible option would be to revaluate the status of energy policy, above all in
relation to environmental and climate objectives or mere economic efficiency
considerations.160 In complex systems, a systemic risk leads to unpredictable consequences.
This unavoidable structural uncertainty places high demands on security policy action in the
sense of preparation for challenges that cannot yet be identified today.
Germany’s actionability depends on functioning infrastructures. A targeted preparation for
unknown challenges is difficult but not entirely impossible. From a systemic perspective,
there are approaches from various scientific areas that can to a certain extent be transferred
to security policy. First of all, one option is to analyse the dependences of vital infrastructures
and subsystems on the economic system and the oil market. More knowledge about and a
selective reduction of these dependences in order to stabilise individual, particularly
important subsystems can maintain the ability to act. Establishing platform-independent
communication systems with a low level of integration can, for example, be an important
control system in cases of crisis. Another suitable tool is the creation of redundancies. Very
frequently, centralisation for reasons of efficiency comes at the expense of system stability.
There is no doubt, for example, that one large power plant can work more efficiently than
several small power plants. If it fails, however, there is no network that can replace it. A
strengthening of society’s self-organisation capabilities and opportunities on a local level is
thus a possibility, comparable to the concept of voluntary fire brigades.
The transgressing of a tipping point and the resulting extensive systemic crisis is a special
case among potential oil-related conflict constellations. The following Chapter (3.3) describes
how peak oil could affect the conflict constellations detailed in Chapter 2.2.
160 Nel and Cooper come to a similar conclusion: “Our analysis proposes that the extent of global warming may be acceptable and preferable compared to the socioeconomic
consequences of not exploiting fossil fuel reserves to their full technical potential.” Cf. Willem P. Nel and Christopher J. Cooper, “Implications of fossil fuel
constraints on economic growth and global warming”, in Energy Policy 37 (1) (January 2009), 166–180, here 166: Ugo Bardi also offers an overview of scientific debate
about the role of fossil resources in climate change: “Fire or Ice? The Role of Peak Fossil Fuels in Climate Change Scenarios”, The Oil Drum: Europe (March 2009), (accessed on 13 October 2010).
3.3 Oil-related Conflict Constellations
The oil-related conflict constellations described in Chapter 2.2 manifest themselves in
different ways in the cause-effect relations described in Chapters 3.1.1 to 3.1.4. Since a
detailed analysis of how exactly each conflict constellation will develop under peak oil
conditions is impossible, these cause-effect relations only permit some basic statements. If oil
is assumed to be the main – if not the only – conflict-generating factor in these
constellations, the effects of this factor will of course intensify under peak oil conditions. This
does not mean, however, that the conflicts related to it will automatically intensify as well.
How constellations will develop also depends on other context factors and their interactions.
All in all, it must be expected that the presented conflict constellations – (1) between oil
importers and exporters, (2) between importers, (3) between exporters and (4) in exporting
countries – will initially be subjected to a different dynamic by peak oil (A). In addition,
factors within these constellations could fundamentally change (B). The relations among and
the significance of actors within these conflict constellations could also change considerably
(C). Finally, new conflict constellations could arise (D).
(A) Changed conflict dynamics
It can be assumed that conflicts already existing today within exporting countries could
intensify under peak oil conditions particularly if factors such as the problem-solving
capacity or the stability of the country in question are stagnant or declining. This includes
socio-economic issues regarding the distribution of raw material income.161 New conflicts
could arise likewise from these constellations, quite possibly in precisely those countries that
are already proving somewhat fragile and in which oil reserves have only recently started to
be developed to a significant extent. Much the same applies to conflict constellations between
exporting countries, which could intensify if other factors such as fragile statehood or
unsolved territorial disputes come into play. In this context, increasing exploration of
unconventional resources, for example in the maritime environment, could also play a role
(Chapter 3.1.3).
Conflict constellations between oil importers and exporters and between oil importers would
change in that the gap between supply and demand would increase if the oil demand of
importing countries – including threshold countries developing on the basis of oil – were to
remain constant or to increase and, at the same time, the ability of exporting countries to
supply were to decline. In addition, following a regional peak oil, countries on the supply side
would drop out as exporters and change over to the net importer side, while niche suppliers,
exploring deposits that were unprofitable before, could become exporters with low supply
capacities. The largest concentration of reserves, however, would still be in the Strategic
Ellipse. With this new constellation of actors, there would thus be intensified competition for
dwindling and unevenly distributed resources.
161 Cf. Matthias Basedau, “Erdölkriege – Kriege der Zukunft?”, GIGA Focus Global, No. 6 (Hamburg 2007), 5, http://www.gigahamburg.
de/dl/download.php?d=/content/publikationen/pdf/gf_global_0706.pdf (accessed on 11 October 2010).
Conflicts can arise when the global market becomes malfunctional or prices are rising so high
(cf. Chapter 3.1.1) that some importing countries can no longer afford fossil resources. In this
case, the shortage could no longer be seen only as a global economic problem of distribution,
but could be defined as a national security issue. Such a politicisation (or “securitisation”162 )
acts like a catalyst for the conflict potential of scarce resources.163 With peak oil approaching,
it is likely that the securitisation of access to and secure supply with strategic resources (cf.
Chapter 2.1), which can already be observed today, will increase. This may also encompass an
increased risk of conflict or a manifestation of conflicts that have thus far been latent.
As a general principle, resources are regarded as “divisible” conflict subjects, in contrast to
conflicts of identity or values, which are indivisible conflict subjects based on ideology or
ethnic-religious disputes. If these subjects of conflict meet, however, a new dynamic can be
assumed for all the conflict constellations described. This new dynamic would have
consequences for the finding of solutions such as amicable distribution mechanisms (cf.
Chapter 3.1.1).164
Peace and conflict researchers point out that competition for scarce resources could also
provide a promising starting point for de-escalating conflicts and that scarce resources could
also create cooperation potential.165 Given the above-mentioned basic divisibility of the
subject of conflict, an amicable agreement on a fair distribution mechanism for scarce
resources could give rise to cooperation and conflict solutions, which, at best, could even
have spillover effects on indivisible conflict subjects.166 Conditions under which cooperative
patterns in the area of resources may have positive effects on an entire conflict dynamic as
well as conditions under which the overall conflict dynamics complicate or even prevent an
agreement would have to be clarified specifically for each conflict situation.
Targeted monitoring of these factors and subjects of conflict and their interplay would
provide indications as to where during the period of examination potential peak-oil-induced
conflict hotspots could arise. This could also contribute towards early detection. In addition
to the essential divisibility of fossil resources, which can have a conflict-preventing effect in
the presence of functioning distribution mechanisms that are experienced as being fair, the
substitution of resources and the resulting reduced dependence on oil could also prevent
162 Cf. Barry Buzan, Ole Waever and Jaap de Wilde, Security. A New Framework for Analysis (Boulder 1998).
163 Cf. Solveig Richter and Jörn Richert, “Kooperation oder Eskalation? Warum Rohstoffknappheit nicht zwangsläufig zu Konflikten führt”, in Internationale Politik
(November/December 2009), 10-16, here 13 ff.,–wind—
fire/download/1dec21cc7b552a8c21c11dea75b65d7b87564156415/original_11_richter_richert.pdf (accessed on 13 October 2010).
164 Cf. Solveig Richter and Jörn Richert, “Kooperation oder Eskalation? Warum Rohstoffknappheit nicht zwangsläufig zu Konflikten führt”, in Internationale Politik
(November/December 2009), 10-16, here 15,–wind—
fire/download/1dec21cc7b552a8c21c11dea75b65d7b87564156415/original_11_richter_richert.pdf (accessed on 13 October 2010).
165 The addition of new and significant importing countries such as the large threshold countries will not necessarily lead to conflicts either. Cf. Chapter 4.5. and
Maximilian Mayer, “Warum Chinas ‘Energiehunger’ nicht zum ‘Krieg um Ressourcen’ führt”, in China aktuell No. 1 (2007), 57-75.
166 Richter and Richert refer to the Middle East in this context, where an agreement on the division of water could also give new incentive to peace negotiations. Cf. Solveig
Richter and Jörn Richert, “Kooperation oder Eskalation? Warum Rohstoffknappheit nicht zwangsläufig zu Konflikten führt”, in Internationale Politik
(November/December 2009), 10-16, here 15f.,–wind—
fire/download/1dec21cc7b552a8c21c11dea75b65d7b87564156415/original_11_richter_richert.pdf (accessed on 13 October 2010).
(B) New conflict factors as a result of substitution
Owing to new or changed factors – in particular efforts to substitute oil – the described
conflict constellations could shift and thus expand their complexity. Oil as a conflict factor
could be replaced in different constellations, for example by the possible factors natural gas
and nuclear energy as early as within the next decades, or, in the long run, by renewable
energies or resources for renewable energies (cf. Chapter 3.1.3). Since future natural gas
deposits will be largely congruent with the Strategic Ellipse, most current oil producer
countries would be relevant for natural gas. Specific differences in the transportability and
usability of gas resources imply, however – as described in Chapter 3.1.3 – different
consequences or cause-effect relations in some cases, for example with regard to the stability
of supply relationships. Nuclear energy could factor in all four of the conflict constellations
above, not so much regarding nuclear fuel or the energy produced, but rather regarding
associated technologies or their risks such as the abuse of nuclear material.
Renewable energies are hardly ever associated with the terms “resource conflict” or “conflict
resource”, owing to their decentralised character and local availability, their environmentally
friendly and sustainable nature. They are generally not finite, which means they can be
exploited over and over again and in this regard are also “divisible”, combine ecological and
economic advantages under favourable conditions, and open up opportunities for economic
and social development. Nevertheless, they – or rather their efficient usage – are often not
distributed equally on the global or regional level. In this context – albeit in a different
manner – importers and exporters could thus evolve, and, along the constellations as
described above for oil, competition between them or even conflicts within exporting
countries could develop. The production of bioenergy in particular is often associated today
with conflicts in the relevant exporting countries. Likewise, intensified conflicts between
importing countries could develop, for example when the exploration of or direct access to
cultivation areas is at stake.167 Regarding the creation of wide-ranging joint projects to
harvest solar energy, there are possible points of reference with all four conflict
constellations, even though the intention of such projects is often a combination of energy
security for importing countries with development chances for exporting countries. For
critical infrastructure relevant in connection with substitutes it would be possible to draw
conclusions similar to the ones for oil-critical infrastructures, albeit of a slightly different
nature (cf. Chapter 3.1.3).
(C) New player relations in conflict constellations
The potentially shifting relationship between state and non-state actors under peak oil
conditions (cf. Chapter 3.1.2) could also change those conflict constellations that have so far
mainly applied to state actors. The spectrum ranges from relations between state institutions
and large energy companies to the actions of non-state, commercial actors in fragile
statehood environments. New conflict lines could thus also emerge within these
167 Cf. Solveig Richter and Jörn Richert, “Kooperation oder Eskalation? Warum Rohstoffknappheit nicht zwangsläufig zu Konflikten führt”, in Internationale Politik
(November/December 2009), 10-16, here 10,–wind—
fire/download/1dec21cc7b552a8c21c11dea75b65d7b87564156415/original_11_richter_richert.pdf (accessed on 13 October 2010).
constellations, which would be visible, for example, along the different and partly extremely
divergent agendas, characters, organisational cultures, time horizons, means and objectives
of state, non-state and sub-state actors.
(D) Possible new conflict constellations
In addition to a change in conflict factors and players within the constellations described
above, the spectrum could also expand to include new conflict constellations under peak oil
conditions. These would primarily be conflicts in importing countries, which may have to
deal with a difficult process of transformation into a post-fossil society and economy, and in
which this change could lead to considerable social challenges and shifts, as described in
Chapter 3.1.4. In the worst case, even systemic crises in the form of tipping points as
described in Chapter 3.2. could arise. These crises are likely to emanate from highly
industrialised importing countries and, as a result of their global effects, to create a
fundamentally new conflict constellation involving only rudimentarily analysable security
policy implications.
And so, while the conflict constellations frequently discussed in connection with oil will not
inevitably intensify under peak oil conditions, they will change in terms of conflict-generating
factors, interaction, actors and conflict dynamics, and possibly expand to include new
constellations and complexities. This may make their containment, if need be, more difficult.
From the possibly changing conflict factors, players and lines, however, potential for
cooperation and conflict solution may arise as well. New integration dynamics could be
created, for example, if closer institutional and economic cooperation became necessary for
the functioning of increasingly volatile energy markets beneficial to all market players.
Although the transition towards post-fossil societies can, as described in Chapter 3.1.3 and
Section (B), involve conflict potential, an acceleration of the transition to renewable energies
and raw materials could nevertheless also promote cooperative approaches, for example as
part of technology exchange and transfer activities, particularly under integration of nonstate
actors such as global companies that could considerably push forward such a process.
As a result, a virtually globally supported and, to a certain extent, considerably accelerated
transition towards renewable energies could be associated with “win-win” situations
combining economic, social and ecological interests and which would be nourished by the
involvement of many and, most importantly, cooperating players. In this context, greater
involvement on the part of non-state actors might not only considerably increase the
complexity but also the dynamics of relevant constellations – both in conflictive and in
cooperative direction.
4. Security Policy Implications
4.1 Germany’s Supply Relationships and Possible Dependences
Under peak oil conditions, oil could become a primary instrument of power projection and
a determining factor of new dependences in international relations. Natural gas could
perpetuate the security challenges of peak oil and thus become a second political currency.
Natural gas supply relationships may therefore gain political importance.
Implications for Germany: Generally speaking, strong ties with individual countries
would have to be avoided in order for Germany to cope with peak oil and, if necessary, with
the loss of some of the oil supplies. It is thus sensible to diversify oil supplies as widely as
possible. Both intentional and capacity-related failures to deliver by exporting countries are
possible. Attempts should therefore be made to avoid at least politically motivated delivery
failures by maintaining long-term delivery agreements and establishing resilient and reliable
partnerships even across ideological divides.
Germany imports approximately 80% of its oil from six countries, with Russia (35%), Norway
(14%) and the UK (11%) being the biggest suppliers. The remaining share is imported from
Libya, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. At 6%, the Middle East has so far only been a niche
supplier. A certain degree of diversification has thus already been achieved. It is almost
impossible to determine the maximum allowable percentage of oil imports from one single
country necessary to avoid a politically exploitable dependence. Failures to deliver by the
three largest suppliers, however, could not be easily dealt with in the short term.
Owing to the close economic and political ties with these countries, Norway and the UK can
be considered particularly reliable suppliers. It is assumed that both countries have already
passed their national peak oil. However, according to assessments by the Federal Institute for
Geosciences and Natural Resources, both may be able to continue producing the same annual
amount of oil as in 2008 for more than another 25 years.168 By that time at the latest, the
German demand for oil would have to be lower or covered otherwise. The German demand
for oil has been dropping for a few years and will likely continue to do so; however, this will
hardly be enough to make up for the running dry of European production in the long term. If
and under what conditions a “political peaking” may occur in the context of peak oil is
impossible to predict. It can, however, be assumed that Germany’s close cooperation with
these two countries would be conducive to finding a consensual solution to such a challenge.
Should this happen, Russia, with its already considerable supply quantities could become the
focus of attention. Although, in general, Russia’s vast reserves could make up for the failure
of other suppliers to deliver oil to Germany, a further increase in Russian deliveries may tip
the existing relationship – which is currently emphasised as being largely mutual – in favour
of Russia and put a strain on the relationship with other customers along the pipeline.
168 Cf. Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR), Reserven, Ressourcen und Verfügbarkeit von Energierohstoffen (Hanover 2009), 35 ff.,,templateId=raw,property=publicationFile.pdf/Energiestudie-Kurzf-
2009.pdf (accessed on 11 October 2010)
Germany could achieve further diversification with potential suppliers Tunisia, the Republic
of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Sudan, since these countries
still possess considerable resources. The Arabian peninsula, however, stands out as the
largest potential supply area by far. The countries in what is referred to as the Strategic
Ellipse would thus play a special role for oil, but also gas supply in the future.
The expected partial substitution and perpetuation of oil by gas will increase the importance
of relevant supplier and transit countries. Despite the expected extension of liquefied natural
gas (LNG) capacities, the mainly pipeline-based supply of natural gas causes more mutual
dependences than oil. A substantial change in deliveries at short notice would thus not be
easy and it can be assumed that one side will prioritise reliable supplies while the other will
seek constant revenues. As a consequence, while there would be dependences, these could
only to a limited extent be exploited for one-sided political conditioning owing to their
Current gas suppliers to Germany include almost half of its European neighbours and Russia
(37% of imports). The EU partners among these are considered particularly reliable
suppliers, which ensures a comfortable basic supply for Germany and does not constitute a
critical dependence within the EU’s tight-knit political and economic network.
The constant and fair cooperation necessary to ensure reliable deliveries of oil from Russia
would also be beneficial for securing Russian gas supplies. In View of the resources of one of
Germany’s most important suppliers dwindling (the Netherlands with 17% of German
imports), the countries of Northern Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia must
nevertheless be considered as potential future gas suppliers.169
Owing to the large share of European suppliers, Germany’s oil and gas supply has so far been
based on a reliable foundation. In the long term, however, reorganisation in order to
substitute declining European production as well as partnerships with non-European
countries are needed. For this, the relationship with Russia is above all essential for
Germany’s oil and gas supply alignment. Furthermore, it must be determined to what extent
energy partnerships can be established and supply relationships can be developed and
consolidated with countries of the Caspian region, the Middle East and Northern Africa.170
169 In particular, gas-rich countries such as Iran, Qatar and Iraq in the Middle East, Algeria, Libya and Egypt in Northern Africa, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and
Azerbaijan in the Caspian Region, as well as Nigeria qualify. Cf. Ibid., 230f.
170 See the following chapter (Chapter 4.2).
Further issues / need for research:
1. How can – also regarding the EU context – a greater diversification of oil and
gas imports be achieved in future? Which countries and regions will this
involve in particular and what would be the effects on relationships with other
2. Where do Germany’s interests lie when it comes to security policy, and what
actual role does the securing of resources play in this context – beyond the
fairly generally phrased interests in documents like the German White Paper?
3. How must energy relationships be shaped in order to avoid one-sided
dependences and a possible political exploitation?
4.2 Shaping Supply Relationships with Countries of the Strategic Ellipse
Since the remaining conventional oil reserves are concentrated predominantly within the
Strategic Ellipse, a diversification involving sources outside of this region is difficult to
achieve. Thus, (1) a revaluation of the oil-producing countries in these regions is likely, as
well as (2) increased interference from external powers trying to secure their interests and
resources in these regions. It cannot be ruled out, on the other hand, that oil-producing
countries may exploit their position of power for (security) political purposes to the point
where alliances are forming along ideological lines of conflict and may take a more
aggressive approach to achieving their objectives.
Implications for Germany: In view of the dominant role these countries play in German
imports, stable and reliable supply relationships with the “northern dimension” of the
Strategic Ellipse, in particular with Russia, will continue to play a central role in shaping
German energy relations.
For Germany, this involves a balancing act between stable and privileged relations with
Russia on the one hand and the sensitivities of its eastern neighbours on the other hand. The
enormous test of endurance for intra-European cohesion that this balancing act can entail is
illustrated by the conflicts surrounding the construction of the Nord Stream, Nabucco and
South Stream gas pipelines. Gaining Moscow as a partner while achieving close energy
interdependence and considering an even tighter integration may prove to be decisive for the
future of German and European supply security. In this context, it may be necessary to
consider whether and how the European and Transatlantic security architectures could be
adapted accordingly. A common European strategy towards this neighbour and its claim to
superpower status as well as a concerted external energy policy could reduce the danger of
Russia exploiting energy deliveries for power politics and of a corresponding intra-European
potential for political division.
In principle, it can be expected that actionable alliances allowing for joint performance, thus
impeding the exploitation of individual countries, will partially mitigate the weakening of
Western industrialised nations presumably caused by their dependence on imports. For
Germany, a self-determined, advantageous bilateral energy partnership with Russia may be
an alternative to such a collective strategy. This could, however, contribute to a division of
Europe, at least in terms of energy policy. In spite of some occasional tension, Germany has
so far managed to combine both approaches of consolidating existing bilateral energy
relations with Russia and strengthening European cohesion in difficult times. Among other
things, this can be attributed to the complexity of the European multi-level system, that is, its
numerous players as well as different levels and channels of relationships to third players. As
long as the systemic complexity allowing these approaches’ coexistence persists, a
prioritisation of the approaches is unlikely, even when peak oil hits.
Given Russia’s significance for German and European supply security, maintaining reliable
relations with Moscow is a central task for German and European politics. Even today, it is
Germany’s strategy to attempt to reduce one-sided dependences by promoting
interdependences at company level. In a European context, there are two obstacles to be
overcome before a similar course of action can be taken. Firstly, there is a large
implementation problem at the EU level regarding a common EU energy policy, which has so
far prevented the comprehensive implementation of otherwise well-thought-out concepts.
Secondly, Russia installs partly or entirely state-owned companies in strategic key positions
on the EU energy market by applying existing industrial policy provisions.
Unless mutual and thus stable dependences can successfully be formed, the danger of
political exploitation by focusing on a few main suppliers and Russia in particular will
fundamentally increase. In addition, Russia requires a considerable and growing proportion
of the fuels it produces for its own population and its energy-intensive industries. Germany’s
interests in energy supplies from Central Asia as well as from the Middle East and North
Africa (MENA) could therefore further increase. This applies to oil as well as to natural gas
and in the case of the MENA countries also to renewable energies, in particular solar power.
Because of its geostrategic location and fossil resources, the Caspian Region draws the
interest of different powers such as Russia, China and the United States, but also regional
players like Turkey, India and Iran. The EU, in turn, is increasingly making an effort to
develop closer relations with countries in this region. Kazakhstan is the country with the
largest oil resources in Central Asia, and the development of the large Kashagan offshore oil
field171 could lead to a further increase in oil production and export quantities. Today, around
11% of German oil imports come from Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Germany could be
interested in expanding supply relations with these countries, but would find itself faced with
the involvement of large investors such as Russia and China.
Russia still considers itself a major regulatory power and uses its monopoly over the regional
pipeline infrastructure to exert considerable influence on the countries in this region. China’s
involvement in the region is growing. In the first half of 2010, about 5 million tons of oil were
delivered from Kazakhstan to China, which represents an increase in supply quantity of 50%
compared to the same period in the previous year. The Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline, which
was brought into operation in 2006, is the first pipeline between China and a foreign country.
It was followed by the opening of the ambitious pipeline project between Russia and China in
October 2010. For China and Russia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation already
constitutes a discussion platform for the Central Asian region. However, the Central Asian
countries are trying to avoid a one-sided external domination of the region as exercised –
albeit decreasingly so – by Russia. The Georgian crisis has contributed to further damaging
Russia’s reputation in the region and has increased the efforts of Central Asian countries to
cooperate with other players such as China and the EU. At present, China seems to be the
preferred partner, since it is investing large sums in the energy sector without demanding
political reforms, as the EU does. In contrast, Russia lacks economic resources and a long-
171 In addition to Kashagan, the Tengiz and Kamchagarak oil fields are also promising. While oil has been produced at Tengiz and Kamchagarak for several years, the start
of extraction at Kashagan has been postponed to 2012. There are numerous problems regarding the development of the oil fields, primarily the particularly high content of
sulphur in the oil, severe environmental contamination, difficult extraction conditions and correspondingly high costs. For these reasons, the British oil corporation BP,
among others, has pulled out of the development consortium. Cf. Jörg Schindler and Werner Zittel, Zukunft der weltweiten Erdölversorgung (Berlin 2008), 64 f., (accessed on 11 October 2010).
term strategy for the development of the region, which could have an advantageous effect on
the growing influence of China and possibly of the EU. To achieve this, the Central Asia
strategy, which was established in 2007 during Germany’s EU Presidency and which has not
been very successful so far, and the Eastern Partnership would have to be translated into
specific initiatives with interesting incentives for the countries in this region, and
investments in these countries would have to be intensified, in particular in the field of
developing fossil resources. A lack of willingness to invest as well as demands for political
reforms and for a human rights dialogue, which collide with the interests of current local
political decision-makers who aim at maintaining the status quo, have so far severely
restricted the effectiveness of the EU’s regional involvement.172
At present, deliveries from the politically unstable Middle East only play a secondary role in
Germany’s total oil imports. This could, however, change with peak oil, declining production
rates in other supplier countries (in particular the European ones) and the resulting pressure
to compensate. The realisation that this region is becoming increasingly important for
Germany in terms of energy policy has so far not been translated successfully into an
appropriately active and target-oriented policy.173 Yet, actively shaping (energy) relations
with Middle East countries would have its sensitive aspects. Germany’s involvement in this
region is characterised by its special relationship with Israel, which has historical reasons and
first of all represents a normative constant of German foreign policy. With peak oil, a new
dynamic could develop in the relation between interest-based and value-based foreign policy
(cf. Chapter 4.3). While the relationships with Arab countries on the one hand and Israel on
the other hand are not a zero-sum game, intensifying relations with oil-producing countries
like Iran and Saudi Arabia, which possess the largest conventional oil reserves in the region,
for purposes of energy security could turn out to be a special challenge for German Middle
East policy. The integration of Middle East policy into a European framework provides
Germany with political leeway that it would not be able to create on its own or at least not
without considerable political costs.
However, closer energy relationships with countries of the Middle East, in particular with
countries in the Persian Gulf region, are by no means determined by German or European
action options alone. Similar to the situation in Central Asia, these relations must be
established in an environment that is increasingly influenced by the regional involvement of
other countries such as China, Russia and India, which shape their partnerships with the
region’s countries mostly without demanding ethical values or political conditions and which
are thus preferred as partners.174 The intentions and interests of the increasingly influential
oil-producing countries must also be taken into consideration. The largely unknown political
172 Cf. Stefan Meister, Zentralasien – Eine Region von strategischer Bedeutung zwischen Russland, China und der Europäischen Region, Analyse (12 February 2010),
und_der_europaischen_union/ (accessed on 14 October 2010).
173 Cf. Guido Steinberg, Deutsche Nah-, Mittelost- und Nordafrikapolitik. Interessen, Strategien, Handlungsoptionen, SWP-Studie (15 May 2009), http://www.swpberlin.
org/common/get_document.php?asset_id=5977 (accessed on 14 October 2010).
174 Cf. Jochen Steinhilber, “Öl für China: Pekings Strategien der Energiesicherung in Nahost und Nordafrika“, Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft (IPG) 4 (2006), (accessed on 14 October 2010); Cf. Thorsten Wojczewski und Melanie Hanif, „Indiens neue Energiepolitik und ihre
geostrategische Bedeutung“, GIGA Focus Asien, No. 9 (Hamburg 2007), http://www.gigahamburg.
de/dl/download.php?d=/content/publikationen/pdf/gf_asien_0809.pdf (accessed on 13 October 2010).
future of many countries in this region represents a particular challenge. The
democratisation of the regimes of some countries such as Egypt, which Western players
generally consider worth supporting in the long term, could in the medium term not only
lead to at first increased instability in the region, but also to a government takeover by
increasingly fundamentalist powers, thus posing a special challenge for international
Ideological differences, for example regarding the importance of religion, state, nation and
country as well as the use of violence as a political instrument complicate the development of
stable and trusted international relations. Peak oil is expected to lead to an increase in
importance and formative power of the predominantly Islamic producer countries of the
region, thus potentially enabling them to exploit their supply relationships along ideological
lines of conflict. This is not to explicitly suggest the controversial idea of a potential “clash of
cultures”, fought by means of energy resources. However, instances of exploitation of energy
relations triggered by political events such as the controversy surrounding Danish caricatures
of the prophet Muhammad are indeed conceivable.175
Furthermore, the wealth accumulated through oil production in the Gulf States could
potentially exacerbate ideological and political differences between Western, liberaldemocratic
industrial nations on the one side and Islamic states on the other. Various studies
on the phenomenon of rentier states as well as Thomas Friedman’s “First Law of
Petropolitics” point out that oil prices, respectively a country’s oil riches and the resulting
wealth of oil-producing countries potentially correlate to slow or non-existing democratic
development.176 Based on this assumption, it could be concluded that peak oil promotes the
undermining of democratic developments, which in turn could greatly invalidate the efforts
of Germany and the European Union for democratisation in producer countries. In light of
the demographic intermingling of Germany and Europe with Islamic countries, an increasing
aggravation of ideological lines of conflict would also add to conflict potential within society,
thus underlining the necessity for dialogue and the establishment of resilient partnerships.
Against this backdrop, the need for Western actors to gain a nuanced overview of the political
and social structures of countries in these regions and to identify and support those powers
that peacefully advocate change in their countries arises.177 The above already points to the
conflict between self-interest and ethical values in foreign policy, which will be discussed
further in Chapter 4.3.
175 In September 2005, controversy surrounding these caricatures led to violent protests and calls for boycott in parts of the Arab world. Iran severed all trade ties with
Denmark. Especially in a case like this, but also in the context of increasingly selective supply relations in general, it is questionable whether liberal democratic industrial
nations such as Germany would be among the favoured recipient countries. While intercultural dialogue should not be a means to an end but the end itself, this example
nevertheless underlines the urgent necessity for dialogue between the “West” and the Islamic world.
176 Cf. Michael Lewin Ross, “Does Oil hinder Democracy?”, World Politics, Vol. 53, No. 3 (April 2001), 325–361; Thomas L. Friedman, “The First Law of Petropolitics”,
Foreign Policy, Vol. 154 (May/June 2006), 28-39.
177 Volker Perthes of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) points out that this includes accepting that civil society is not made up only of
players that engage in secular discourse, but also of conservative Islamic powers. According to Perthes, without the national moderate powers of Islam, there can be no
lasting political reform in the Arab world. Cf. Volker Perthes, “Perspektiven auf den radikalen Islamismus. Generationen des Zorns”, Qantara (September 2008), (accessed on 14 October 2010)
Since conventional oil resources are largely located within the Strategic Ellipse, the
diversification with regards to energy resources continues to grow in importance. National
idiosyncrasies and restrictions, which make an increased commitment and the establishment
of close links with the countries of the Strategic Ellipse (above all Russia and the Middle East)
especially demanding for Germany, thus further underline the need for a speedy energy
Further issues / need for research:
1. The current situation can not be seen as one of a homogenous “alliance of
suppliers” and a homogenous “alliance of importers”. Which groups, alliances
and strategic partnerships can be identified in the areas of policy, economy or
even ideology that may be relevant in the future and which would form,
consolidate or dissolve in view of global peak oil?
2. How does Germany shape its relationships with the countries of the Strategic
Ellipse today and how could it face new political challenges brought on by
peak oil?
3. How can partnerships with the most active importing countries within the
Strategic Ellipse be shaped?
4.3 Balancing out Interest and Values in Foreign Policy
Peak oil promotes the primacy of energy security, which could foster pragmatism and selfinterest
in international relations to the detriment of foreign policy based on values.
Implications for Germany: Although the necessity of balancing out self-interest and
ethical values in foreign policy is already relevant today, peak oil could introduce a new
dynamic to the situation. The then possible new selectivity in supply relationships may lead
to some countries appearing to be more convenient partners; that is, those whose foreign
policy is deeply rooted in the principle of non-interference in other countries’ affairs, and
thus in the absence of political conditionality. In light of global peak oil and efforts to
establish strong, reliable relationships with oil-producing countries, value-based concepts of
foreign, security and development policy may increasingly become subject to pressure to
conform to more pragmatic rival models, like those already pursued by China and India.
A security policy more strongly focused on (economic) self-interest would be subject to
special restrictions in Germany and, as evidenced by the discussions surrounding
Bundeswehr operations abroad and Horst Köhler’s resignation as Germany’s Federal
President, to extensive debate in politics and society. Especially in the Middle East and North
Africa, Germany struggles to define its interests, which involve an element of power politics
that has strong negative connotations in Germany and is irreconcilable with recent German
history. Particularly in these regions, which are most important for future global energy
security, Germany is thus mindful to emphasis ethical values as an important motivation.
The possible field of tension between self-interest and ethical values based policies, often
taking effect at different time horizons, becomes apparent for example in the conflicting goals
of necessary short-term cooperation with authoritarian regimes in the field of energy and
security on the one hand and the long-term interest in bringing about a change in these
regimes on the other.178 Depending on the energy supply situation in the affected importing
countries, this could not only lead to double standards in foreign policy, but also to
compromises in efforts of democratisation and political conditionality when dealing with
producer countries, which would diminish the credibility of importing countries and could
become tantamount to support for authoritarian regimes. However, there is evidence that
policies based on self-interest and ethical values are not necessarily mutually exclusive. A
combination of both approaches, however, would be a special challenge for German security
policy particularly in light of peak oil, which could shift the alignment of political efforts in
the short term towards a focus on achieving supply security.
Due to limited capacities in security policy actionability – which will most likely be further
reduced with peak oil – a focused definition of security policy interests irrespective of
enduring values is essential and the only option to establish security policy priorities, not
least in view of future military operations conducted in a multilateral network. This is true
both on national and European level. Given the limitations of military capacity, the
178 Cf. Guido Steinberg, Deutsche Nah-, Mittelost- und Nordafrikapolitik. Interessen, Strategien, Handlungsoptionen, SWP-Studie (15 May 2009), http://www.swpberlin.
org/common/get_document.php?asset_id=5977 (accessed on 14 October 2010).
uncertainty of future defence budgeting, and the insufficient definition of genuinely common
interests among EU member states, an intense debate about the nature of military operations
the EU is willing and able to perform is both difficult and overdue.
All things considered, the integration of economic interests and aspects of supply security
into security policy and interministerial cooperation in this field is likely to be the central
issue of security discourse in the years to come. In Germany, such discussions of interests
have – owing to national sensitivities – so far not been proactive, open, unbiased and
transparent but have rather taken the form of short-lived debates in the wake of specific
events, such as following the resignation of former Federal President Horst Köhler.179 A clear
cut long-term definition of national interests and a balance between ethical values and selfinterest
in politics is, however, of vital importance for a coherent foreign, security and
development policy promoting long-term goals that otherwise would yield to the short-term
goal of supply security, compelled by problems resulting from peak oil.
179 On the difficulties of an open discussion about security policy that includes economic interests, cf. the media response to recent statements by the Minister of Defence
at the 9th Congress on European Security & Defence in Berlin on 9 November 2010,
1717b988f2ee.htm (accessed on 11 November 2010), and: Bundesverband für Sicherheitspolitik an Hochschulen, Schwerpunkt Wirtschaft und Sicherheit, “Interessen ohne
Alternativen?”, ADLAS, Magazin für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik, Vol. 4, No. 3/2010.
Further issues / need for research:
1. Which concepts and alternatives can be prepared and developed for the future
relation between value and self-interest based foreign policy in Germany?
2. Which potential problems or dangers are inherent in the integration of
economic interests such as energy security into strongly value-oriented areas
of policy including, for instance, development, security and defence policy?
3. How can a society-overarching discourse on Germany’s security interests be
shaped, and which specific challenges will policymakers be faced with in this
4.4 Potential for Conflict and Cooperation in and with Producer Countries as
well as other Importing Countries
Under peak oil conditions, fragile producer states being susceptible to domestic and
transnational conflicts will most probably more often be set in the focus of international
stabilisation efforts. The stabilisation of these states and regions could become relevant for
Germany in the context of its alliances and may likewise foster new forms of cooperation
given the involvement of large threshold countries.
Implications for Germany: Under peak oil conditions, traditional producer countries and
regions will initially become more important. At the same time, producer countries that have
so far contributed little to the world oil supply (referred to as niche countries) will also
receive more attention. While this means a broader geographical and political spectrum of
producer countries and regions significant to oil-importing countries, the largest oil reserves
are nevertheless still concentrated in the Strategic Ellipse.180
On the one hand, growing oil revenues could contribute to increased national stability in
many producer countries, given the presence of other economic, political and social factors,
such as distributive justice. On the other, in the absence of those other factors, an increased
importance of fossil oil and an associated increase in prices could potentially lead to a higher
risk of instability and conflict, especially in states or regions that are already fragile or
weak.181 Besides national conflicts over the distribution of initially increasing revenues,
transnational conflict over cross-border crude oil deposits or transport routes could also
With weak statehood, the probability of political and administrative tasks, even including the
use of force, being exercised by third-parties could increase in these countries. Relevant
players could be state, non-state or sub-state actors. The spectrum of consequences could
extend from displacement of or dominance over fragile state structures by non-state or substate
actors to interventions by foreign national powers.
Stabilisation efforts, obliged to take into account non-state actors as well as the increasingly
involved state actors like influential threshold countries, could thus become more important
in fragile producer states and regions.
The issue of handling non-state actors, ranging from rebel groups to private military service
providers, proves to be largely unresolved thus far. Special challenges would arise, for
example, if non-state actors were to forcefully take over and control national resources or if
private military service providers were to get involved in armed conflicts.
180 This “geographical broadening” would include Arctic regions, which could become increasingly important for oil production. Uncertainties as to the property situation
regarding Arctic regions and their resources may increase tension between neighbouring states, especially when peak oil is reached. Since all of the neighbouring countries
laying claim to Arctic regions with the exception of Russia are members of NATO, any event perceived by one of these member states as a threat to its national sovereignty
would most likely lead to an involvement of NATO bodies. Even if in cases of low-threshold, non-violent conflict, NATO does not act in collective self-defence, Germany
might be forced to take a stand as part of a decision made by NATO on the issue.
181 Context factors increasing such risks include fragile statehood, bad governance and a low level of development. Cf. Matthias Basedau, “Erdölkriege – Kriege der
Zukunft?”, GIGA Focus Global, No. 6 (Hamburg 2007), (accessed on
11 October 2010).
Today, possible foreign state interventions are primarily perceived in conjunction with the
growing involvement of large threshold countries such as China and India in producer
countries with newly gained significance and – by tendency – in transit regions and are likely
to become even more important in the future (see Chapter 3.1.1). While this increasing
importance and the growing demands of large import-dependent threshold countries are
likely to be tangent to the interests of other importing countries, this will not necessarily lead
to conflict potential in the different constellations.182 Whether energy security is pursued in a
conflictive or a cooperative manner depends, among other things, on whether it is perceived
as a zero-sum situation or a win-win situation and on whether the other side is defined as an
opponent or a partner, as exemplified by China’s widely differing attitudes towards the
United States and India in the context of energy. China and India have committed themselves
to a concerted approach based on partnership.183 Contrary to the often cited “China threat”
theory, which states that China’s energy policy is expansive and uncooperative and makes use
of any available means, nowadays a coexistence of conflict and cooperation is visible in
China’s relations with other importing as well as producer countries.
Particularly when it comes to stabilising fragile producer countries and protecting transport
and sea routes there is likely to be a large overlap of shared interests among importing
countries, which will gain new importance under peak oil conditions. It must be considered
that with peak oil, the political, economic and military resources of all importing countries
are likely to decrease, which would restrict their international involvements.184
Especially in democratic industrial nations, a high domestic pressure to find solutions to
severe economic imbalances caused by peak oil could arise. In light of this, the already
selective approach to supporting international organisations, fragile states or developing
countries could become even more discriminating. This could affect the entire spectrum of
development policy activities, bilateral and multilateral humanitarian aid operations and UN
mandated stabilisation operations secured by military. States may choose recipients of and
partners for aid and support measures more selectively and minding exclusively their own
interests and benefits. This could lead to bilateral support or cooperation only being achieved
in areas where states can expect support for their respective own causes. Besides nations that
export oil and other energy resources, certain other states that are of significance in
transporting these goods would thus grow in importance.
Given the immense expenses for extensive stabilisation measures, especially combined with
the pressure of cost and difficult prevailing circumstances of peak oil, a targeted development
of training capabilities for security forces of supported states (military assistance / foreign
internal defence) could be considered. This “stabilisation light” could potentially reduce the
182 Xuewu Gu and Maximilian Mayer, Chinas Energiehunger: Mythos oder Realität, (Munich 2007), 6.
183 Cf. Maximilian Mayer, “Warum Chinas ‘Energiehunger’ nicht zum ‘Krieg um Ressourcen’ führt”, in China aktuell, No. 1 (2007), 57-75, 68.
184 Not just states, but international organisations (IO), too, could quickly reach the limits of their potential. Means for humanitarian assistance are already limited and
could further decrease if donor countries have to restrict themselves more. Non-governmental organisations (NGO) could be similarly affected by economic and financial
shortages induced by peak oil, which would compromise their work. Aid provided by NGOs and IOs could thus potentially become less and at the same time more selective,
possibly leading to clientele politics. This narrowing of the field of activity of such organisations in the face of altogether decreasing possibilities, thus undermining the
ambition and moral strength of NGOs and IOs, could lead to a change in their relevance which would have an impact on the international system.
total number of deployed armed forces and would thus be more commensurate with the
Western industrial nations’ potentially limited actionability under the conditions of peak oil.
Considering the geographical distance to producer and transit countries, the scale of
potential tasks and Germany’s traditional multilateral integration, which is presumed to
remain a constant of German security policy even when peak oil is reached, the support and
stabilisation of fragile producer countries and their societies seems only plausible and
worthwhile for Germany if carried out within existing systems of alliance.
Another domain that could trigger new types of cooperation to prevent conflict between oilimporting
countries would be the transition to a post-fossil economy. In this process,
technologies for the transformation of the energy industry as well as energy-efficient methods
and technologies will continue to strongly gain importance, also and especially for large
threshold countries. Technological expertise available in Germany and in European partner
states could thus also have a positive influence on the development of bilateral relations with
fast-growing economies with high energy requirements. However, since Western industrial
nations by no means hold a monopoly on energy-efficient and oil-independent technologies,
this could, depending on further developments, create new and more intense competitive
situations, especially with regard to investments in research and development in various
countries. Thus, new conflict constellations, yet also a dynamic, productive and in parts
cooperative competition for post-fossil transformation may emerge.
Further issues / need for research:
1. Which are the fragile producer countries of the future and how is Germany, be
it as individual state or as part of existing alliances, already involved in these
countries? Which decisive priorities for action will evolve during the
investigation period for the multilateral alliances that Germany is part of,
especially NATO and the EU?
2. Which conditions and context factors would have to be given for peak oil to
lead to energy cooperation instead of conflicts?
3. What potential for cooperation is in existence with regard to 1) producer
countries and 2) import-dependent threshold countries that have been
identified as particularly relevant? How can this cooperation potential be
developed and used, for example in stabilising fragile producer countries or
for post-fossil transformation?
4.5. The Proliferation of Nuclear Technology and Material
Consequences of peak oil may include a greater reliance on nuclear energy, which could
promote the expansion and proliferation of nuclear technology and materials. This would
not only increase the number of real or potential nuclear powers, but also the risk of
nuclear accidents or the use of nuclear material for terrorist purposes.
Implications for Germany: Germany, as a peripheral player in matters of nuclear power,
can only become involved in international treaties and mechanisms for the prevention of
proliferation as part of a multinational effort. However, the impact of such non-proliferation
and control regimes is very much dependent on context. A central issue is the enrichment of
nuclear fuel, which can potentially lead to the development of nuclear weapons. Large
nuclear powers frequently offer an exchange of enriched fuel elements to states wanting to
use nuclear energy in the future, thus promoting a multilateralisation of the nuclear fuel
cycle.185 As a supplier of key technologies, which, as dual-use technologies, could be equally
used to enrich nuclear material or build nuclear weapons, Germany would have to continue
to fulfil its responsibility by exerting control over exports. The transfer of technological dualuse
expertise is even harder to detect and prevent than the export of goods – especially in
these times of global networking. Moreover, the enforcement of – usually economic –
sanctions to prevent nuclear armament or proliferation will probably become ever more
difficult under the conditions of peak oil. International obligations and alliance memberships
are likely to be overtaken by emerging bilateral economic relations. Especially the nuclear
ambitions of “problem states” may cause new dynamics of proliferation, including in
cooperation with non-state actors. In this regard, the active prevention of proliferation will be
even less a matter of international treaties. The pursuit of nuclear weapons and the fight for
resources could turn into a self-perpetuating spiral.186
In light of the threat posed by terrorist attacks and accidents, comprehensive protection of a
nation’s own nuclear facilities and materials is an enduring obligation.187 Since incidents
involving nuclear material can easily have cross-border consequences, international
cooperation in this field is becoming increasingly important. This concerns not only
institutional cooperation but also the exchange of technologies and mechanisms for
radiological security, in Germany’s case especially with Eastern European states.188 Assuming
that the smuggling of nuclear material will increase further, Germany may in future play an
even greater role as a transit country, owing to its location in Central Europe. The (cross-
185 This recently occurred between the United States and the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, as well as between Russia and Iran. Cf. Sascha Albrecht and Oliver
Trähnert, “Die Multilateralisierung des nuklearen Brennstoffkreislaufs”, SWP-Aktuell 31 (April 2010), http://www.swpberlin.
org/common/get_document.php?asset_id=6948, (accessed on 14 October 2010).
186 Cf. Bundesnachrichtendienst, Proliferation von Massenvernichtungsmitteln und Trägerraketen, (Berlin/Pullach 2002).
187 This includes not only nuclear power plants but also enrichment and reprocessing plants, transport routes, temporary and permanent repositories and especially
research reactors as well as the large number of sources of radiation for civilian and industrial use, which are even harder to monitor. In addition to active facilities, disused
facilities or sources must be factored in.
188 The security of nuclear sources and facilities is generally considered to be a national responsibility. While there are few international treaties on the subject, the
international harmonisation and coordination of security standards and safety measures is a continuing task. Cf. Gebhard Geiger, Radiologische Sicherheit.
Sicherheitspolitische Gefährdungspotenziale radioaktiver Materialien, SWP-Studie 24 (June 2004), 15, http://www.swpberlin.
org/common/get_document.php?asset_id=1408 (accessed on 14 October 2010). As part of international cooperation, this may involve the training of security and
emergency response personnel and their cross-border cooperation.
border) control of nuclear material and the detection and investigation of relevant critical
activity will thus likely become increasingly important.189 Non-state actors, such as terrorist
or sectarian groups and organised crime, which increasingly cooperate, could become more
relevant.190 A potential for blackmail, based on real or ostensible nuclear threats, might be
The threat to radiological security would thus not decrease, both in Germany and elsewhere.
The focus is expected to be on prevention, that is, on both forestalling and investigating
possible threats, and on quick intervention in the event of crises.191 Since future threats could
increasingly emanate from a non-military environment, a further strengthening of
cooperation and interoperability between relevant national security institutions both in legal
and practical terms would be necessary – including on an international level.
Crisis management as well as crisis aftercare capacities remain indispensable in case of
damage, accident or attack in order to prevent panic and a resulting paralysis of public life
and in order to preserve the state’s capacity to act in the event of such a crisis. This would
primarily remain a task of civil protection, but would probably also involve relevant
capabilities and capacities of the Bundeswehr.
189 In Germany, this is the task of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, but could include the use of intelligence agencies, and in case of risk events, the capacities of
the German military wherever appropriate. Cf. Bundesnachrichtendienst, Proliferation von Massenvernichtungsmitteln und Trägerraketen, (Berlin/Pullach 2002).
190Use of nuclear weapons or terrorist attacks with larger dirty bombs cannot be ruled out but are considered to have little chance of success for logistic and technical
reasons, especially because of the large amount of nuclear material that would have to be acquired. The use of radioactive chemical elements such as caesium or radium as
weapons material is more relevant, as these materials are much easier to procure. Cf. Gebhard Geiger, Radiologische Sicherheit. Sicherheitspolitische
Gefährdungspotenziale radioaktiver Materialien, SWP-Studie 24 (June 2004), 5, (accessed on 14
October 2010).
191 This equally applies to irradiation, atmospheric dispersion, dispersion with explosives (“dirty bomb”), improvised nuclear weapons or sabotage of nuclear power plants.
Cf. Wolfgang Rosenstock, Nuklearterroristische Bedrohung und Gegenmaßnahmen, Fraunhofer Institut für Naturwissenschaftlich-Technische Trendanalysen (INT)
(Euskirchen 2002).
Further issues / need for research:
1. Where can special efforts to expand nuclear energy be expected in the next
decades, that is, in which countries and under which (political) conditions?
2. How will this affect political systems and constellations (regional balances,
alliances, etc.) and how may that in turn affect the foreign and security policy
of Germany?
3. How would the scope and nature of proliferation change and how could
proliferation be thwarted/prevented more effectively? Which conclusions can
be drawn for cooperation within national and multilateral security institutions
and which contributions should Germany make?
4.6 Critical Energy Infrastructure
Under conditions of peak oil, the appeal of energy infrastructures as targets for violent
attacks or political blackmail will probably increase. These infrastructures will thus become
even more critical and will require direct and indirect protective measures and therefore
capital investment. Non-state actors could take on a substantial role in this scenario.
Implications for Germany: With prices and supply rates increasingly fluctuating after
peak oil, an interruption of the supplies of fossil or electric energy would have profound
consequences for all economic cycles. As a result of peak oil, the protection of critical energy
infrastructures would thus become more important in order to prevent further disruptions
that could possibly threaten the system. To prevent disruption of oil and natural gas supplies,
which could influence the national economy considerably, the protection of import and
delivery channels will likely become increasingly relevant to importing countries such as
Germany. This would not only affect oil infrastructures – mainly sea routes and ports – but
gas infrastructures, too, caused by the expected substitution effect at a later stage. Natural
gas infrastructures do not only include pipelines on land and at sea, but also, owing to the
spread of LNG technology, sea routes, ports and liquefaction plants. Besides protective
measures for pipelines and sea routes in Germany, the support of or cooperation with trade
partners in matters of security will most likely become increasingly important to ensure a
steady supply of oil and natural gas. This would also bring maritime aspects into focus.
Ocean-going naval forces providing escort and protection could become significantly more
important for keeping open international sea routes in cases of emergency. In this context, as
in the protection of transnational supply lines, international cooperation between affected
states seems sensible in order to reduce the burden on individual states.
With the transition to renewable energy sources and the increasing electrification of energy
supplies, the electrical energy infrastructure is becoming ever more important for modern
society and will most likely be brought further into the focus of national security. Electric
power grids will thus become even more critical infrastructures. This does not only concern
grids on national territory.192 To make the European electricity network more stable and
resistant to disruption, mains systems are necessary that can withstand partial failures or
fluctuations without major cascade effects and provide various redundancies and regulation
mechanisms. Especially the further development of renewable energies requires such flexible,
robust and both efficient and extensive distribution grids, including decentralised electricity
storage. Given the ramified European network, close multilateral cooperation on this issue
will most likely become more important. In light of the transition to renewable energies,
considerable investment into the modification and expansion of energy infrastructure is
expected. Considering their increasing criticality, investment into the security of these energy
infrastructures will thus also be necessary, which will, however, be faced with consistently
tight national budgets and economisation goals that affect national security institutions, even
in Germany. The capabilities and capacities of the Bundeswehr could nevertheless become
more relevant to the protection of these infrastructures.
192 To protect these grids, sensor-based remote monitoring systems for electricity pylons and stations are for instance already being developed in the United States.
Non-state actors could also increasingly play a part in securing critical, increasingly
transnational infrastructures. Closer and stronger cooperation between national and private
institutions regarding the security of critical infrastructures would thus be conceivable.
National authorities should be prepared for this. Suitable foundations and parameters for an
expanded cooperation and clear structures regarding responsibilities in and limits of
cooperation are necessary, thus reinforcing the networked approach. This includes resolving
legal status issues and agreeing on a frame of action for relevant meetings or cooperation.193
193 In order to prevent tactical and strategic friction and against the background of lessons learned in armed conflict during the last decade, any activities in the same areas
with these players must not take place unprepared or as cooperation merely resulting from a lack of alternative options, but should be based on predetermined principles
from the outset.
Further issues / need for research:
1. Which contributions could and should national security institutions make
towards the protection of transnational energy infrastructures (sea routes,
pipelines, terminals, grids, etc.) and where are relevant “hotspots”?
2. Which forms of cooperation, both between states and with domestic and
foreign private institutions should be established, and which further
international agreements are or will foreseeable be necessary?
3. Which contributions would national security institutions have to make in the
future to cope with major incidents or disasters in critical energy
infrastructures? What political and legal parameters would be necessary for
cooperation between civilian and military bodies?
4.7. Extended Energy Regions
The process of creating and expanding extended energy regions based on renewable
energies is not just a technological and economic challenge but is also tied to processes of
(security) policy and aims at creating stable conditions in a consequently changing
geopolitical context.
Implications for Germany: The expansion of renewable energies implies the existence of
extended energy regions that connect energy sources and consumers through transnational
and partly transcontinental energy networks. This widens the expansion and the nature of
critical infrastructures (see Chapter 4.6). In the future, this may not only involve the
transport of renewable energy via power lines, but also transport infrastructures for solarproduced
hydrogen or processed solid or gaseous biomass. Technologically, these
infrastructures resemble those for fossil energy sources and are thus located in similar
geographic regions. States with the ability to contribute to and benefit from such energy
networks owing to their geographical, climatic or technological situation will strive for
cooperation and integration options which may increasingly affect security policy. This could
create opportunities for less developed states or regions as well as for supra-regional stability,
but could also draw new lines of separation and conflict. Against this background, the
incorporation of states – perhaps bordering those energy regions – that are unable to
participate in energy networks for lack of capabilities will be a special challenge and could
carry potential for conflict in case of failure.
The cooperation of the EU with countries in North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) could
develop into such an extended energy network, beginning with the DESERTEC project. The
scope of this network would not only require a targeted and stable cooperation within
Europe, but also cooperation on issues of security policy with partner states of the MENA
region. Furthermore, depending on its intensity, stability and level of institutionalisation, the
purpose-oriented cooperation of heterogeneous players (e.g. EU and MENA) in such an
energy network could entail socialisation processes and spillover effects onto other areas of
cooperation. Constructivists argue, for instance, that in international institutions, processes
of socialisation occur that may influence the conduct, standards and even preferences of
players. Institutions thus become “sites of socialisation” where, as a consequence of social
interaction and cooperation, players internalise transnational norms and values (e.g. human
rights and democracy).194 Should cooperation within the context of wide-ranging energy
regions become institutionalised, similar effects on cooperation in energy networks are
conceivable, albeit on a different scale than in highly integrated systems such as the EU. The
United States appear to be developing a continental energy network with Central and South
America that is tendentially self-contained and resembles the DESERTEC project.195
194 Cf. Emanuel Adler, “Constructivism and International Relations”, in Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse and Beth Simmons, eds, Handbook of International Relations
(London 2002), 95-118; Jeffrey Checkel, “International Institutions and Socialization in Europe: Introduction and Framework”, in International Organization 59 (4)
(2005), 801-826; Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink, “International Norm Dynamics and Political Change”, in International Organization 52 (4) (1998), 887-917;
Alastair Iain Johnston, “Treating International Institutions as Social Environments”, in International Studies Quarterly 45 (4) (2001), 487-515.
195 Following up an invitation by President Obama of April 2009, the United States initiated the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA). The aim of the
ECPA is to foster cooperation between the countries of the Americas on matters of energy security and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Among other things,
Concentrating energy relations in large-scale alliances that, although transnational and
sometimes transcontinental, are still regionally oriented at their core, would reduce the need
for securing or stabilising distant access points to energy resources in remote (on a global
scale) regions. This focus combined with limited capacities for international involvement
caused by peak oil could promote an already visible regionalisation of international relations,
thus possibly changing not only the role of traditional players in energy policy, such as OPEC,
but also affecting traditional alliances. Against this background, cooperation in extended
energy regions could as well change the focus and perspective of German and European
foreign and security policy.
initiatives promoted by ECPA are directed at developing what is referred to as the “clean energy sector”. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) of
the US Department of Energy “is involved in several projects currently underway, including a renewable energy center and solar power project in Chile, energy efficiency
centers in Peru and Costa Rica, wind energy in Mexico, renewable energy strategy development in the Caribbean, and wind power in Dominica.” Apart from this, bilateral
projects with Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru and other countries are underway. Cf. US Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable
Energy/International Activities,, (accessed on 27 October 2010).
Further issues / need for research:
1. Which challenges for foreign and security policy would result from the
development of extended, tendentially self-contained energy regions based on
renewable energy sources (e.g. effects of the DESERTEC project on German
2. How do these developments in turn affect existing political, economic and
security alliances both world-wide and in individual regions?
3. Beyond securing critical infrastructures, which contributions to the
development and expansion as well as to the long-term security of these
energy regions would national security institutions have to make in the next
4.8. Effects of Peak Oil on Armed Forces
Severe impediments to mobility as a consequence of peak oil would have a considerable
effect on all German security bodies, including the Bundeswehr.196 In the long run, not only
all societies and economies worldwide but armed forces as well will be faced with the
various and difficult challenges of transformation towards a “post-fossil” age.
Implications for Germany: A markedly reduced mobility of the German Armed Forces
would have various consequences – not only for the available equipment and training, but
also for their (global) power projection and intervention capabilities. Given the size and
complexity of many transport and weapon systems as well as the high standards set for
qualities like robustness in operation, alternative energy and drive propulsion systems would
hardly be available to the necessary extent in the short term. One of the consequences to be
initially expected would be further cutbacks in the use of large weapon systems for training
purposes in all services, thus raising the need for more “virtualised” training. However,
effects on current and planned missions would most likely be even more severe. Deployment
to the theatre of operations, the operation of bases and the mission itself are considerably
more energy- and above all fuel-intensive than the mere upkeep of armed forces.197 Rapid
operations of highly mobile forces, which are regularly deployed by air, would be particularly
affected, as well as air force missions, laying severe restrictions upon these types of
operations. Despite being common practice, alternative solutions for deployment like
increased rail transport or a markedly more efficient transport of equipment, supplies or even
personnel by ship are unlikely to provide full substitution.198 Especially with regard to
deployments from railway stations and sea ports into the operations area (“the last mile”)
and deployments within theatres of operations lacking access to sea or railway, combustion
engine based drive propulsion systems will not as easily be substitutable. The same applies to
tactical mobility.
While conflicts in (remote) troubled regions could thus potentially increase with peak oil (see
Chapter 3.3), the corresponding world-wide – including humanitarian – involvement of
armed forces could be even further restricted in terms of resources. Such involvement could
thus become even more politically and economically controversial and harder to put through
– especially if it requires a relatively large commitment of equipment and personnel by the
military in order to succeed. National, non-mission-related deployment over a wide area,
196 In addition to economic problems, some states could see challenged their armed forces’ capacity to act.
197 Currently, especially the transport of fuel to the area of deployment ties up considerable logistic and ultimately military resources. “The example that I like to use is
getting a gallon of gasoline to a Marine front line unit in Afghanistan. You have to put that gallon of gasoline on a tanker. You’ve got to take it across the Pacific. You have to
put it into a truck, and truck it over the Hindu Kush and down through Afghanistan. Now, as you do this, you’ve got to guard it.” Ray Mabus, SECNAV Discusses Future Of
Alternative Energy Sources, Navy News Service, June 2010; “Although fuel costs represent less than 3 percent of the Defense Department budget, indirect costs such as
those for transporting fuel to battlefields and distributing it to the end-user, add to the total. When the cost of the army’s entire logistics network is added to the cost of
delivered fuel, gas prices are $13-$19 per gallon. In the air force, these costs can be much higher, military grade jet fuel delivered through aerial refueling costs upwards of
$42 a gallon.” Sohbet Karbuz, “Can the U.S. military move to renewable fuels?”, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,
us-military-move-to-renewable-fuels (accessed on 14 October 2010).
198 Such as the current relocation of US armed forces from Iraq, with partial relocation of materiel to Afghanistan by sea and rail.
which is connected with mobility and energy in various ways, could also come into question
in the medium term.199
In order to prevent a restriction of capabilities and deployment options of the Bundeswehr,
alternative solutions to oil-based fuels would be necessary in the short term. While these
solutions, such as coal liquefaction or in some cases natural gas liquefaction, are possible and
conceivable in principle, they would entail considerable political and economic efforts.200
They would require considerable investments and radical industrial policy decisions.
Considering the challenges society as a whole would face as a result of peak oil, it seems
unlikely that this could be accomplished even in case of an emergency. Moreover, worldwide
(re-)initiation particularly of coal and gas liquefaction would further expedite both the
shortage of fossil fuels and climate change. Even though cooperation in international
alliances may hold benefits when it comes to technologies or coal and gas reserves, it would
turn coal and gas into even more important and strategic resources and make their national
exploitation a priority.201 Especially coal could potentially become a “strategic reserve” for
Germany.202 Besides ensuring the availability of alternative fuel solutions such as liquid coal
or gas at least in technological terms, building up large strategic reserves of fuel for all kinds
of Bundeswehr vehicles, ships and aircraft should be considered in order to bridge supply
shortages for an extended period of time if necessary.
Since armed forces without mobility are utterly inconceivable, the necessity for a long-term
transition to post-fossil forms of mobility is greatly increased. This may even include
dimensions of technological transformation of the armed forces. In the civilian sector, the
transformation of mobility systems towards post-fossil forms and renewable energy has
gathered a lot of momentum – within in the armed forces it has at least begun.203 Military
systems and especially vehicles can profit from civilian developments in technology in many
ways. For one, increases in efficiency and performance can be achieved through optimisation
of conventional drive propulsion systems. This includes their partial electrification for
combat and transport vehicles and the development of the “More-Electric Aircraft” (MEA)
and the “All-Electric Ship” (AES), which contribute to reducing not only fossil-fuel
consumption but maintenance expenses as well. The trend towards hybridisation of drives is
evident in the military as well, although complete electrification of these drives most likely is
still a distant prospect.204 The trend towards remote operation, (partial) automation and
autonomisation of reconnaissance and weapon systems (UGV, UAV, UUV) accompanied by a
reduction in size and/or weight also indicates a growing potential of alternative, more
electrified drive propulsion systems. Which type of alternative drive and energy storage will
prevail in the very long term is yet to be determined. The broad use of hydrogen drive
199 Competition for resources with non-military transport services adds to this – they, too, need fuel.
200 In principle, procedures and technologies for coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids conversion are well understood and mastered. Several tests have shown that the
resulting synthesised fuels are well suited for military equipment.
201 Especially natural gas would have to be largely imported, thus merely prolonging the security challenges of the “oil era”.
202 Approx. 50% of worldwide coal extraction is done by China and the United States.
203 As shown (mostly abroad) by countless experiments with or prototypes of fuel cells, biofuels, etc.
204 This is mostly a consequence of the high cost of batteries and a lack of electrical energy infrastructures at locations of deployment. Nevertheless, the United States are
experimenting with an “electrified brigade”.
technology, for instance, which just a decade ago was propagated as the technology of the
future in the civilian sector, is currently still a long way away.205
The major part of military mobility in the Bundeswehr will thus most likely remain
dependant on fluid fuels in the next decades. In the wake of peak oil, the use of fuels derived
from biomass will become increasingly attractive. The capacities of such fuels are currently
being expanded all over the world. This includes classic biofuels produced from agricultural
products and/or waste materials. Their further development promises considerably higher
yields per hectare. However, the use of these biofuels in particular has security implications,
as discussed in Chapter 3.1.3. There have also been reports of promising attempts to produce
biofuel from algae.206 Such systems could possibly have another advantage: fuel could be
produced where it is required, thus reducing the need for transport into the area of
deployment.207 A further advantage of the extensive use of biofuel would be that the drive
propulsion systems of numerous transport and weapon systems – from aircraft to ships to
main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles – would not necessarily have to be changed
fundamentally but would merely have to be adapted.208
Especially at military facilities, the post-fossil transformation of the armed forces can be
advanced. Relevant pilot projects have commenced. Particularly in this context, the use of
renewable energies (wind and solar energy as well as geothermics, biomass or natural gas)
will probably steadily increase and offer a potential available on short call. This could provide
targeted support and acceleration to a further diversification of energy sources of the German
and respectively the European economies. In principle, more extensive use of wind and solar
energy in deployment areas (base camps) seems possible, thus further reducing the ecological
footprint of operations.
For the Bundeswehr as well as German and European armaments industries, the priority is to
quickly adapt post-fossil civilian technologies and to promote important developments that
are exclusive to the military environment (e.g. in ships, submarines and aircraft), both
independently and as part of international cooperation. All things considered, however, the
post-fossil transformation of the armed forces is not merely a technological but rather a more
comprehensive process, which necessarily involves radically new system approaches and
utilisation concepts.
205 Although especially Germany has a unique position when it comes to fuel cell drives for submarines.
206 Microalgae use sunlight, water and minerals for growth and bind carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis. They grow quickly and can be harvested daily
through extraction of the water, 90% of which is reusable. 100 kg of algae biomass yield approx. 20 litres of biofuel. The use of fallow land and waste water or salt water
avoids competition with food production. Cf. Daniel Wetzel, “EADS lässt Flugzeug mit Algentreibstoff fliegen”, Welt-Online (3 June 2010), (accessed on 14 October 2010).
207 This would require robust, scaleable and mobile systems of fuel production from algae.
208 Regarding biofuel tolerance of motors and/or turbines, quality and long-term stability of the fuels themselves, etc.
Further issues / need for research:
1. How would a “German Green Forces Roadmap 2050”, operationalising the
post-fossil transformation process of the armed forces, look like in the view
of national and international climate protection guidelines and measures as
well as the transformation of energy systems?
2. How could the long-term goal of a complete transition of the armed forces
towards renewable energies with minimal CO2 emissions be accomplished
by the year 2100?
3. How would short-term alternative solutions such as coal and gas
liquefaction or the accumulation of large strategic fuel reserves for armed
forces have to be handled?
5. Conclusion
Gaining an illustrative picture of a subject is very much a matter of habit. When
considering the consequences of peak oil, no everyday experiences and only few historical
parallels are at hand. It is therefore difficult to imagine how significant the effects of being
gradually deprived of one of our civilisation’s most important energy sources will be.
Psychological barriers cause indisputable facts to be blanked out and lead to almost
instinctively refusing to look into this difficult subject in detail.
Peak oil, however, is unavoidable. This study shows the existence of a very serious risk
that a global transformation of economic and social structures, triggered by a long-term
shortage of important raw materials, will not take place without frictions regarding
security policy. The disintegration of complex economic systems and their interdependent
infrastructures has immediate and in some cases profound effects on many areas of life,
particularly in industrialised countries.
According to the results of this study, the developments in the wake of peak oil will involve
major uncertainties for Germany. While it is possible to identify specific risks, this does
not conceal the fact that the majority of the challenges we are facing are still unknown.
Besides adapting economic and energy supply policy at an early stage and not only in
highly industrialised countries, the probably most effective solution strategies are thus not
concerned with specific countermeasures but with systemic “cardinal virtues” such as
independence, flexibility and redundancy. Efforts must be made on a cross-government
and multi-level basis to better understand and control the complex dependences of
infrastructures and highly differentiated value-added chains. In this connection, it is
necessary to rethink evaluation standards. Not only efficiency but also, to an increasing
extent, robustness becomes a criterion of sustainable policy.
In terms of German security policy, the most significant foreseeable change will be the
increased importance of the Middle East, Africa and the Caspian Region for the country’s
resource security. Conducting a political dialogue with producer and transit countries,
including in a multilateral framework, increases the importance of German foreign and
security policy as well as its options. For this purpose, however, (1) German interests
would have to be clearly defined, (2) traditionally divergent approaches within Europe, in
particular in relation to the countries of the Middle East and Africa, would have to be
overcome, and (3) opportunities to involve influential players such as China in the process
of finding political solutions for the regions, thus ensuring their participation in
negotiation forums and regional security arrangements, would have to be seized.209 At the
same time, it is necessary to exploit options of closer bilateral cooperation.
209 Cf. Jochen Steinhilber, “Öl für China: Pekings Strategien der Energiesicherung in Nahost und Nordafrika”, Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft (IPG) 4
(2006), 101, (accessed on 14 October 2010).
The development of an external energy policy with regard to Russia that strikes a balance
between European and national interests could assume greater importance in the wake of
peak oil. Moscow should be given the option of pursuing a differentiating external energy
policy towards EU countries, if the alternative for Germany were a potential deterioration
of bilateral relations. At the same time, this approach must not cause Russia to unduly
divide Europe when it comes to decisive energy security issues. The strategy used so far,
namely to cultivate links between companies, still seems promising but should be placed
in a wider European context.
Transformation towards post-fossil societies depends to a major extent on the availability
of non-fossil technologies. In this context too, sustainable solutions seem problematic.
Substituting one dependence for another, such as, for instance, a dependence on rare
metals, is not an effective long-term approach. In any case, however, non-fossil energy and
drive technologies will become a key competence in post-fossil societies.
Peak oil also holds considerable challenges to mission-critical capabilities of the armed
forces. The focus of interest must be on guaranteeing strategic deployability and tactical
mobility as well as on reducing general functional restrictions caused by systemic
dependences. In order to maintain the armed forces’ capacious operational readiness as
far as possible, it is therefore not enough to optimise and further develop their existing
supply chains and methods in order to achieve reduced mobility dependence on oil.
Rather, future changes must be geared towards reducing systemic
dependences and, insofar as possible, at fully avoiding such dependences in
new structures. Uncovering these dependences requires fundamentally new
methods and implicitly needs further in-depth analysis.
To reach conclusions about new, general conditions underlying future Bundeswehr
operations based on a thematically focussed study like this one is of course not
comprehensive enough. Yet, peak oil – in conjunction with the context factors described
above – could reinforce or even give rise to fragile statehood and humanitarian crises.
Owing to the global nature of peak oil, it is difficult to regionally localise consequences.
The Middle East and parts of Africa, however, stand out in many respects: While parts of
the Middle East are likely to profit from global peak oil and become more significant,
particularly Central African countries that lack resources and are dependent on oil would
have to counter major problems. Partial or complete breakdowns of economic cycles,
undersupply, and humanitarian emergencies would very likely lead to major crossnational
political upheavals. Weak national structures increase this risk even more, and
the general conditions of peak oil would make it difficult even for industrialised countries
to counter it. In this context, the study has (1) determined that there is a special threat in
the food sector of these regions, (2) pointed out the existing political instabilities, and (3)
addressed the need to develop closer relations with these regions in terms of resource
policy. In addition, Northern Africa and the Middle East are located on the external
borders of NATO and EU and hence are of great importance for Germany with respect to
security policy.
The results of this study provide starting points for further research (cf. Chapter 4). This,
however, should not conceal the fact that the most difficult part of preparing for drastic
shortages in the resource base of the German economy will probably be the task of
implementing suitable preventive measures. The paradigm shift connected with this – less
efficiency, more robustness – contradicts economic logic and can therefore only partly be
left to market forces.
Even if the developments described in this study do not occur as depicted, it is still
necessary and sensible to prepare for peak oil. The time factor may be decisive for a
successful transformation towards post-fossil societies. In order to accelerate democratic
decision processes in this respect, it is necessary to embed the dangers of an eroding
resource basis in the public mind. This is the only way to develop the necessary problem
awareness for prospective settings of the course. In general, decentralised solutions can
indeed be encouraged by centralised agencies, but not developed and implemented. At the
same time, Bundeswehr internal options for preparation must be evaluated and exploited.
Frequent questions
#1 What Does Peak Oil Mean? …………………………………………………………………………………….. 95
#2 How Do Critics Argue against Peak Oil? …………………………………………………………………… 98
#3 What Types of Resources are there? ………………………………………………………………………. 102
#4 What is the Difference between Conventional and Unconventional Oil and how Is it
Recovered? …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 104
#5 How Important are New Oil Discoveries?……………………………………………………………….. 105
#6 How Do Oil Refineries Work? ……………………………………………………………………………….. 106
#7 What Is the Significance of EROI for the Price of Oil? ……………………………………………….107
#8 Are there Ways for the Bundeswehr to Deal with Peak Oil? ……………………………………… 108
#1 What Does Peak Oil Mean?
“Peak oil” denominates the maximum oil production. It is the point in time when the
production rate of a single oil field or of an entire producing region has reached its
absolute maximum. This is usually the case when approximately 50% of the recoverable
oil has been extracted. In order to predict global peak oil, it is necessary amongst other
things to estimate how much recoverable oil, including newly discovered deposits, is
available and how much, over time, can be produced per day. Using his own calculations
as a basis, the US geoscientist Marion King Hubbert claimed as far back as the 1950s that
the total production of several oil sources would form a curve resembling the shape of a
bell – the Hubbert curve.
Figure 8: A Comparison of Peak Oil Predictions
The grey area in Figure 8 shows the world-wide production of oil. The diagram shows a
mean and a median prediction of 15 peak oil studies, all of which forecast that the peak
will be reached before 2020. The variability of these predictions is shown by the yellow
area. The magenta-coloured area represents a population-based model of the
International Energy Agency (IEA), which assumes that oil production will grow in
relation to the population. Peak oil critics, in particularly the IEA itself, assume that the
grey curve will remain congruent with the magenta-coloured population-based predictions
and that there will therefore be no unanticipated shortages. Peak oil advocates believe that
the grey area will develop within the yellow zone.
The general explanation for the existence of peak oil is the fact that fossil resources are
finite. Most of the oil produced today comes from conventional oil reserves.210
Conventional oil, however, is only available to a limited extent, because it is a finite natural
resource. There is therefore no dispute that there will be a “depletion point” – at least
when it comes to conventional oil. Nobody knows for certain how peak oil will take course,
however. A possible initial scenario, for example, would be a prolonged plateau of oil
production, a stagnant global production rate. It is suspected that increasing oil prices
could result in more investments being made in recovery systems, new recovery
techniques, oil substitutes and energy-saving technologies. Technical progress also has its
limits, however, for example if there is not enough time available for research.
New technologies help to estimate the exploration potential, and as regards production,
technical progress enables the production rate to be maintained at a higher level over a
prolonged period. So far, even with new technologies, however, a large proportion of the
oil that is stored in reservoirs cannot be recovered owing to capillary action. The flow is
naturally restricted. In order to maximise recovery, use is made of additional methods
such as the injection of steam, water, gas, surface-active agents or heat. But even these
methods are not suitable for all oil fields.
A further important point in this connection is the depletion rate, that is, the rate at which
oil production will shrink following peak oil. The following graph shows the relation
between relevant models and the assumed point in time when peak will occur. The graph
reveals that the estimations made by the various organisations differ greatly in some cases.
The depletion rate will have a decisive role to play in whether there will be sufficient time
for a transformation towards a post-fossil society and whether economic growth can be
stabilised or not during this phase.
210 For an exact definition, see Question #4.
Figure 9: Peak Oil Predictions and Estimated Depletion Rate
Source: Energy Policy
#2 How Do Critics Argue against Peak Oil?
One argument against peak oil is confidence in the various options for substituting oil.
And indeed there are some promising approaches that seem to have the potential to
reduce or even counterbalance the effects of a peak oil situation. The Pentagon, for
example, recently promised that it would in future be possible to replace kerosene for
combat aircraft with algae biofuels.211 The German Research Foundation has set up a
special research programme intended for developing new production methods for
currently oil-based chemicals using renewable raw materials.212
Figure 10: Conventional and Unconventional Oil
Especially in Canada, investments are being made in the extraction of unconventional oil
from oil shale or tar sands. The quantities of oil locked up there would, in theory, suffice to
allow a peak oil situation to become a marginal problem in the long run. Again, critics are
expressing their doubts, however, as to whether the expected decrease in the production of
conventional oil can be counterbalanced with the development of oil shale and tar sands.
What is more, this alternative involves high production costs and also places a burden on
the environment.
Any substitution measure and almost any cost-cutting measure initially entail
technological effort and investment. Investments made under uncertainty are frequently
endangered to be too small. When peak oil is reached, this could affect expensive
technologies and infrastructures on which high hopes have occasionally been pinned as
regards the production of unconventional oil. At the least there is a serious risk that it
211 Cf. Jason Paur, “Pentagon Researcher Promises Cheap Biofuel for Jets”, blog entry (19 February 2010),
promises-cheap-biofuel-for-jets (accessed on 13 October 2010).
212 Cf. Max-Planck-Institut für Dynamik komplexer technischer Systeme, Entwicklung von ressourcenschonenden chemischen Produktionsverfahren, press release
(20 November 2009), http://www.mpimagdeburg., (accessed on 14 October 2010).
could take several years or even decades before the necessary investments have sufficient
Critics of the peak oil theory also argue that in the event of an increase in oil prices,
additional reserves will become available owing to the fact that mining them will then be
profitable. If the world market price of oil is lower than the production costs for a specific
oil field, mining is not profitable. Such a field is not even regarded as a recoverable
resource. If the price of oil exceeds the production costs, however, recovery becomes
economically affordable. In the event of a decrease in oil production and an increase in
price, additional oil would become available. This argument is agreeable only to a very
limited extent, since it ignores the fact that this new oil will no longer be inexpensive oil.
Its price will remain high and will continue to increase. As a result, electricity, fuels,
plastics and food will also become more expensive. Possible consequences could be
recession, increasing unemployment, and even a breakdown of the financial system. The
imminent danger is not the end of oil but the end of inexpensive oil and thus,
coincidentally, the end of our economic system, which is dependent on the use of
inexpensive oil. Many critics cite past predictions that failed to come true claiming that oil
supplies would already be exhausted by the end of the 20th century. This criticism,
however, does not take all the relevant factors into account. On the one hand, there were
predictions in the 1970s that oil reserves would be exhausted by the end of the 20th
century or even before. On the other hand, however, there were also widespread
predictions that oil production would not be exhausted around the end of the century but
would have reached its maximum. There are even indications that this prediction would
have come true if the oil crisis in the 1970s had not led to a temporary decrease in
production. Many critics refer to the first statement regarding the exhaustion of oil
supplies because they are not aware of the difference between peak oil and the exhaustion
of oil supplies. They therefore assume that a general prediction has been made that global
supplies will be exhausted by the year 2000. Table 1 contains a list of various sources
whose predictions differ up to 20 years. In most cases, however, a production maximum
for conventional oil has been predicted for the period beyond 2000, which means that
predictions from the recent past are similar to those from the 1970s and have not, as is
often argued, been adjusted in any way.
213 Cf. Robert L. Hirsch, Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling, Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management (February 2005), (accessed on 11 October 2010).
Table 2: Predictions regarding developments in oil production
Past predictions about oil production developments
Date of prediction Source Peak production
of conventional
Assumed total
1972 ESSO “Oil will become
increasingly scarce
after the year 2000”
2100 gigabarrels
1972 Report to the UN
Conference on the
Human Environment
“Likely that
production will have
been reached by
2500 gigabarrels
1974 SPRU, University of
not specified 1800–2480
1976 British Ministry of
Peak oil: “ca. 2000” not specified
1977 Hubbert Peak oil: 1996 2000 gigabarrels
1977 Ehrlich et al. Peak oil: 2000 1900 gigabarrels
1979 Shell “Production plateau
within the next 25
not specified
1979 BP (“Oil crisis…
Peak oil (non-
Communist world):
not specified
1981 World Bank “Production plateau
around the turn of
the century”
1900 gigabarrels
1995 Petroconsultants Peak oil: 2005 1800 gigabarrels
1997 Ivanhoe Peak oil: 2010 approx. 2000
1997 Edwards Peak oil: 2020 2836 gigabarrels
1998 IEA World Energy
Outlook 1998
Peak oil: 2014 2300 gigabarrels
(sample case)
1999 US Geological Survey
(USGS) (Magoon)
Peak oil: ca. 2010 approx. 2000
1999 Campbell Peak oil: ca. 2010 2000 gigabarrels
(including polar and
2000 Bartlett Peak oil: 2004 or
2000 or 3000
2000 IEA World Energy
Outlook 2000
Peak oil: “after
3345 gigabarrels
(from USGS)
2000 Energy Information
Administration (US
Department of
Peak oil: 2016–2037 3003 gigabarrels
(from USGS)
2001 Deffeyes Peak oil: 2003–2008 approx. 2000
2002 Smith Peak oil: 2011–2016 2180 gigabarrels
2002 “Nemesis” Peak oil: 2004–2011 1950-2300 gb equiv.
#3 What Types of Resources are there?
– Resources are the total quantity of oil still available, regardless of whether it has
been discovered or not and of whether it is recoverable or not.
– Recoverable resources are the share of oil that is considered recoverable. The
quantity depends on
1) the price of oil. It is not profitable to recover oil if the price of recovery is higher
than the selling price. An increase in the price of oil, however, can make it
economically profitable to recover resources that have hitherto been regarded
as unprofitable, thus increasing the resources recoverable at market prices.
2) the state of exploration and recovery technologies.
Figure 11: Ultimately Recoverable Reserves
Figure 11 – Glossary
Noch zu Entdecken yet-to-find
Reserven reserves
Kumulative Produktion cumulative production
Maximal Förderbar ultimately recoverable
– Reserves are recoverable resources that have already been discovered but have so
far remained untouched.
– Yet-to-find reserves are recoverable resources that have not yet been discovered.
– Cumulative production refers to resources that have already been recovered and
have either already been consumed or are being kept in stock.
– Ultimately recoverable reserves are all resources that can be recovered. Thus:
Ultimately recoverable resources = yet-to-find resources + reserves + cumulative
#4 What is the Difference between Conventional and Unconventional Oil
and how Is it Recovered?
– Conventional oil is oil that is generally easy to recover, in contrast to oil sands, oil
shale, heavy oil, deep-water oil, polar oil and gas condensate. Conventional oil
reserves are extracted using their inherent pressure, pumps, flooding or injection
of water or gas. Approximately 95% of all oil production comes from conventional
oil reserves.
– Unconventional oil is oil that is technically more difficult to extract and more
expensive to recover. The term unconventional refers not only to the geological
formation and characteristics of the deposits but also to the technical realisation of
ecologically acceptable and economical usage.
 Oil shale is a sedimentary rock that is saturated with oils and bitumen and has
not transformed into crude oil. The liquefaction process encompasses mining,
crushing and heating the shale. Its net energy yield is rated as low and its ecobalance
as poor.
 Oil sands (tar sands) are sandstone containing some viscous heavy and extraheavy
oils that are recovered by surface-mining and liquefied through heating
and separation. The recovery process is very elaborate but more efficient than
that of oil shale.
 Heavy crude oil is oil containing less than 17.5º API (API gravity) but more
than 10º API (extra-heavy crude oil). Its production rate is limited by technical
factors rather than by the quantity available of the resource.
 Deep-water oil refers to underwater oil reserves from a water depth of 500 m.
Its recovery is technically very complex and expensive.
 Polar oil refers to the oil reserves along the polar circle. It is extracted mainly
in Alaska and Siberia and also requires complicated techniques.
 Coal-to-liquid or gas-to-liquid products are liquid hydrocarbons that are
synthesised from the conversion of coal or natural gas.
#5 How Important are New Oil Discoveries?
Experts are of the opinion that it is important not to rely on finding undiscovered
resources. Matthew R. Simmons, former energy adviser to the Bush government and
advocate of the peak oil theory, believes that all big oil fields have already been found and
are being exploited.214 There are still new oil discoveries, but these tend to be small fields
with a lower production volume. What is more, new oil fields are increasingly difficult and
expensive to develop.
Discoveries of new oil reserves reached their highest in the 1960s. Since then, both the
number and size of newly discovered fields have continued to decrease. There is a growing
gap between discovery and consumption. In the words of geologist Colin J. Campbell, “We
now find one barrel … for every four we consume”. 215
Figure 12: Annual Oil Discoveries
Figure 12 – Glossary
Milliarden Barrel pro Jahr billions of barrels per year
Technisch mögliche Ölförderung technically possible oil production
Tatsächliche Ölförderung actual oil production
Prognose prediction
Jährliche Erdölfunde (10 Jahresmittel) annual oil discoveries (10-year average)
214 The discovery trends of recent years also make clear that there will not be any major new discoveries in future.
215 Cf. Colin J. Campbell, “Die Erschöpfung der Weltölreserven”, talk at Clausthal University of Technology (December 2010),
(accessed on 14 October 2010)
#6 How Do Oil Refineries Work?
The oil that is extracted from the reservoirs is prepared for transportation to the refinery,
by essentially separating it roughly from sediments and water. Following these initial
processing stages, it is referred to as crude oil and delivered by ship or pipeline to the
refinery. The liquid mixture is processed into saleable products using special distillation
methods. Advanced technology makes it possible that none of the substances contained in
crude oil remains unused.
In an oil refinery, the oil undergoes cleaning, distillation and conversion to make products
such as petrol, diesel fuel, heating oil or kerosene.
Oil purification / desalting
Oil is freed of sand and water already at the reservoir site. To protect the processing
facilities from corrosion, the crude oil is desalted (salt content < 10 ppm). By adding
water, an emulsion of crude oil and water is produced, in which the salt dissolves. In an
electrostatic desalter, the emulsion is then separated again. The saline water settles on the
floor and is fed into appropriate processing systems. The desalted crude oil is pumped to
the distillation unit.
Primary processing
After being desalted, the crude oil is heated to a temperature of up to 400°C. The heated
oil is separated into its components using a thermal separation method (rectification) in a
distillation tower (column) measuring up to 50 m in height. The crude oil enters the
column in a two-phase flow (gas/liquid). The temperature decreases towards the top and,
in accordance with their density, the individual components settle on the various levels in
such a way that, from top to bottom, the following products are formed: liquid gas, petrol,
kerosene, diesel, heating oil, bitumen and lubricants.
Conversion process
Following the primary processing phase, a series of refining processes is used to separate
catalyst pollutants and to improve the quality of the intermediate products. Almost all oil
products that come from the refinery have not been distilled or rectified from oil only.
Various intermediate products and components are mixed together to produce for
example motor fuel, diesel fuel and heating oil.
#7 What Is the Significance of EROI for the Price of Oil?216
To generate energy, energy is needed. EROI – Energy Return on Investment – specifies
the relation between the energy generated and the energy that is used directly and
indirectly for energy production. Net energy is the energy that remains after the energy
production costs have been deducted. Energy production costs not only include the energy
input necessary for recovering oil (direct) but also the input needed to find new sources or
for the transport of energy (indirect).
The EROI is decreasing, because oil is increasingly found in reservoirs that are difficult to
access, coal with lower energy content is used, and longer oil pipelines have to be built
through difficult terrain. It is difficult to accurately calculate the EROI, but there are
estimates that the EROI of American oil fell from 100:1 in the 1930s to 30:1 in the 1970s
and eventually to between 11:1 and 18:1 today, and that the EROI of global oil and natural
gas production lies at 18:1. These are average values. The value of new production
facilities, however, is even lower. Oil shale, for example, has an EROI of 1.5:1 to 4:1.
With conventional oil decreasing in quantity, unconventional oils from biofuels, tar sands,
etc. are used (no mutual dependences assumed). 100 joules of conventional oil with an
EROI of 11:1 cost 9 joules to manufacture and provide 91 joules of usable energy. If this oil
were replaced with bioethanol, 25 joules would be needed for production with an EROI of
4:1, which only yields 75 joules. The result is an even more rapid decrease in usable energy
and, thus, an increase in energy costs.
Figure 13: EROI Estimation for Energy Sources
Source: cf. Heinberg, R. 217
216 Cf. David Korowicz, Tipping Point. Near-Term Systemic Implications of a Peak in Global Oil Production. An Outline Review, The Foundation for the Economics
of Sustainability (March 2010), 13 ff., (accessed on 13 October 2010).
#8 Are there Ways for the Bundeswehr to Deal with Peak Oil?
Failsafe performance of social, political and economic systems plays a central role in
security policy. Securing failsafe performance and thinking in terms of redundancies are
basic components of military action. For the case of peak oil this concept has to be refined
for the armed forces in order to maintain operational capability. Securing failsafe
performance is particularly crucial in remote operational areas to which the major part of
expendables must often be transported over long distances. Redundancies as well as local
solutions for achieving partial material self-sufficiency can help satisfy resource
requirements and, consequently, eliminate problems brought about by price increases or
resource shortages. Particularly in most often prolonged stabilisation operations in areas
with rudimentary infrastructure, meeting demands locally is preferable over a centrally
homeland-managed, extensive and centralised supply.
The following examples of a community in the United States218 can provide suggestions for
and examples of a possible reduction in direct or indirect oil demand for Bundeswehr
barracks and field camps and may provide a basis for further considerations.
217 Cf. Richard Heinberg, Searching For a Miracle. Net Energy Limits & the Fate of Industrial Society. Forum on Globalisation & The Post Carbon Institute
(September 2009), 55, (accessed on 14 October 2010).
218 Cf. Dave Rollo et al., Redefining Prosperity: Energy Descent and Community Resilience. Report of the Bloomington Peak Oil Task Force (October 2009), (accessed on 14 October 2010).
Further Recommended Reading on Peak Oil
Ranking of US federal states that depend significantly on oil as well as of those that have
taken measures to free themselves from this dependence:
Gardiner, David et al., Fighting Oil Addiction: Ranking States’ Oil Vulnerability
and Solutions for Change. National Resources Defense Council, July 2008, (accessed on 14 October 2010).
Study based on the research hypothesis that some US cities are better prepared than
others for an increase in oil prices and a potential disruption in oil supply (ranking):
Karlenzig, Warren, Major US City Preparedness for an Oil Crisis: Which
Cities and Metro Areas are Best Prepared for $4 a Gallon Gas and
Beyond?, Common Current, March 2008,
(accessed on 14 October2010).
Description of the energy supply situation in the form of trends with a focus on
implications for the American armed forces:
Eileen T. Westervelt und Donald F. Fournier, Energy Trends and Their
Implications for U.S. Army Installations, Engineer Research and
Development Center, September 2005,
(accessed on 14 October 2010).
This study, which was compiled for the US Department of Defence, identifies four areas
(strategic, operational, fiscal, ecological) in which there is a gap between the practice of
current energy consumption and the requirements for achieving future strategic
Thomas D. Crowley et al., Transforming the Way DoD Looks at Energy. An
Approach to Establishing an Energy Strategy, LMI Government
Consulting, April 2007,
(accessed on 14 October 2010).
Further Peak Oil Task Force Reports:
Portland, Oregon: Descending the Oil Peak: Navigating the Transition from Oil and
Natural Gas, March 2007, (accessed on 14
October 2010).
San Buenaventura, California: Transforming Urban Environments for a Post-Peak
Oil Future. A Vision Plan for the City of San Buenaventura, 2007,
services/resources/post‐peakoil.pdf (accessed on 14 October 2010).
Oakland, California: Oil Independent Oakland Action Plan, February 2008, (accessed on 14
October 2010).
San Francisco, California: San Francisco Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force Report,
March 2009, (accessed on
14 October 2010).
Berkeley, California: Berkeley Energy Descent 2009-2020: Transitioning to the Post
Carbon Era, April 2009, (accessed on 14 October

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