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What We Don’t Know About Energy Security Scares Me

by Michael Levi
June 15, 2010

The phrase “energy security” is on my business card, yet whenever anyone uses it, I scratch my head. About a year ago, I decided to plan a workshop that would try to identify what we actually know about the relationship between oil, gas, and national security. This past April, I hosted 36 experts on subjects including international relations, economics, political science, finance, and science and engineering, from academia, NGOs, government, and industry, to survey the state of knowledge and identify questions that need to be answered.

I found it to be an extraordinary two days. I’ve now written up the results here. The report lays out an agenda for research both into the problems of energy security and into potential solutions. The bottom line: there’s a heck of a lot that we don’t know. I hope that the study will encourage scholars and other analysts to explore some of the issues identified. I’ll be expanding on some of the questions in the report on this blog in the days ahead.

One last thing: the three people who religiously read every post on this blog might be wondering whether I’ve gone insane. After all, didn’t I just publish something this morning that claimed to measure energy security risk to one decimal place? (I’m probably not helping my case with a new piece at FP.com this afternoon titled “Gasbags”, arguing that we don’t really know what energy security is.) Let me clarify: the Slate piece this morning calculated what the Chamber of Commerce should think about the energy security impacts of the Kerry-Lieberman energy and climate bill. I myself am far less confident that I know what energy security is.

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