Energy Crisis: Definition & Solutions

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
Since the mid-1960s, the world has faced numerous energy crises. Faced with the eventual end of carbon-based fuels like oil and gas, oil exporters and importers should work together to find a solution. In this lesson, we will look at what an energy crisis is and explore conservation and innovative ideas that might provide nearly inexhaustible energy.

Two Definitions of An Energy Crisis

In Mad Max, the world has gone through an apocalyptic tragedy. Bands of roving marauders with blinged-out cars attack each other for an ever dwindling supply of gasoline. It is quite possible that there is still lots of gasoline, but no one is shipping it any more. Tina Turner solves this energy crisis by using methane from pig droppings.

Human-Made Energy Crisis

While we are not quite yet to Tina Turner, Bartertown and Thunderdome, the world has suffered many energy shocks. Most of these shocks have fallen under the definition of a human-made energy crisis. During consecutive wars and political drama in the Middle East, upon which the world is still heavily dependent for oil, the world's largest consumers of oil, the United States, Western Europe and Japan/South Korea, endured either shortages or eye-watering sticker shock at climbing prices. This happened following the 1967 Six-Day War (Arabs vs. Israel), the 1970 peak of US production, the 1973 Yom-Kippur War (Arabs vs. Israel) and the Iranian Revolution of 1979.


In 1960, a consortium of oil-producing countries joined together to manage and control their exportation of oil, creating the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, more commonly referred to as OPEC. During these human-made energy crises, OPEC either embargoed, officially banned trade with other countries, oil-importing countries or increased oil prices dramatically.

For developed economies, the solution to these crises came over long periods of economic pain. While it took a long time to get there, all three economic groupings eventually began to squeeze more economic life and fuel savings out of their spent petrol dollars; a perfect example being the auto industry finally beginning to build smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. However, if things aren't controlled properly, there can sometimes also be too much of a good thing. In 2015, an 'opposite' energy crisis occurred when places like Norway, Mexico, Russia, and even the United States, through oil shale fracking (oil recovery from rock), produced too much oil, which drove down the price of oil and created havoc for the energy producers, ultimately trickling-down and affecting individual consumers.

Depletion of Natural Energy Resources Crisis

The second definition of an energy crisis is not just for individual nations or states, but for the planet. Overpopulation, inefficient energy grids and waste are a huge cause for concern because one day the oil is going to run out. Even though technology and steps towards conservation have pushed that date off many times, it is a race that inevitably we will lose. Either the planet will move to sustainable, renewable energy supplies and face the end of the oil age, or we may find ourselves in the greatest energy crisis of all.

Modern Solutions From Old Ideas

Classical four elements: Earth WIND Water Fire

The simplest solution to stretching the world's energy supply might be to turn off the light when leaving a room. Conservation, using a resource carefully to prevent waste, works. Anyone who has been to Japan knows Japan loves electricity. Shinjuku, an area in central Tokyo, is legendary for the amount of electricity its billboards consume. After an undersea earthquake and a subsequent tsunami took out the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan in early 2011, the Japanese government appealed to the general public's sense of goodwill and unity to stop possible rolling blackouts. Japan, in its 2011 setsuden (saving electricity) program sometimes managed to cut it energy usage by nearly 10% from its 2010 consumption level by turning down billboards, turning off unused computers and raising the thermostat on air-conditioners.

Classical four elements: Earth Wind WATER Fire

While these measures reduce demand for carbon-based energy, it does not increase a finite, limited, supply. Even with new discoveries such as near endless advances in recycling 'dead' oil fields and remarkable jumps in technology like oil shale, oil will run out one day. The trick is getting the world's economy beyond its dependence on carbon-based fuel and into new energy sources before that happens.

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