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The Extent to Which Energy Insecurity Might Lead to Conflicts Both within and between Countries

Updated on June 28, 2016

Political conflict between Ukraine and Russia has been caused on numerous occasions in the past decade, when Ukraine has either refused to repay debt, or has taken too much natural gas from Russia; Ukraine is a transit country, with pipelines passing through to western Europe. When Russia cuts the supply of gas, much of Europe is affected; countries such as Finland and Latvia rely on Russia for 100% of their natural gas imports.

Russia has also been involved in political conflict in the east, with both China – which is attempting to move away from coal, which is causing large-scale environmental damage – and Japan – which has always had to look to foreign resource supplies due to its lack of domestic reserves – both arguing over Russia's Eastern-Siberia Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline, and which country will benefit.

Within the USA, conflict has occurred between oil companies and environmental groups. The oil companies planned to build a major pipeline from Canada's tar sands in Alberta, through the USA's central states. The American government eventually decided against the Keystone XL project.

Proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. | Source

The Arctic Circle is estimated to contain around 13% of the world's undiscovered oil deposits, and 30% of its undiscovered natural gas; many countries, including Russia and the USA, all have land claims, and the complexity of international territory law, and increasing energy insecurity due to diminished supply and increasing demand of fossil fuels, is likely to fuel future political conflicts, and may even spark outright military conflict.

Global demand for oil has driven conflict in Sudan, and lead to the separation of South Sudan; China has turned against its historical ethos of non-interference, and contributed 700 troops to support peacekeeping efforts in the region, albeit through the UN.

Chinese peacekeeping troops preparing to travel to South Sudan.
Chinese peacekeeping troops preparing to travel to South Sudan. | Source

China has also deployed its military to combat piracy off of the coast of Somalia; conflict with pirates is certain to result, as China aims to protect is oil tanker routes.


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