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A New Index of Energy Security

by Michael Levi
June 2, 2010

The Chamber of Commerce has released a new “Energy Security Index”. They’ve taken 37 indicators related to energy and security and combined them to create a master index of energy security risk. I encourage people to wade through the data and analysis – there’s a lot of interesting and provocative stuff there. (I’ve barely scratched the surface myself.)

I must admit that I’m instinctively skeptical of the bottom line. For example, 1973 – right before the established oil order started crumbling – turns out to be a far less risky year (by their measurement) than 2010. (I suspect that this is largely because energy was cheaper then.) 1980, meanwhile, is the most risky year on record, despite the fact that it presaged a couple decades of relatively low and stable oil prices. Their definition of the environmental dimensions of security is a bit odd too: more secure coal markets, for example, somehow count as an environmental benefit.

Bottom line aside, though, I think this is an important piece of work. Energy security is a notoriously slippery concept to define. As a result, people too often adjust their definitions to fit their arguments on particular policy matters. It’s thus admirable that the Chamber has put such a specific and complex definition out in public – it will be force them to measure future policy prescriptions against a pre-defined set of criteria. It will be interesting, for example, to see how various energy and climate bills being debated in Congress score on their metric. Anyone with an economic model want to take up that challenge?

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