Energy Insecurity

Manila Bulletin, April 21, 2013 | Go to article overview

Energy Insecurity


Asia is predicted to emerge as the global economic powerhouse by 2050, hence the coming era is hailed the Asian century. But it is a prospect mired in energy insecurity. The Asian Development Bank, in its flagship annual report Asian Development Outlook, has sounded the alarm this early.

By then, Asia will account for more than half of the world's gross domestic product - and much of global energy use. By 2035 alone, Asia could be consuming 51 percent to 56 percent of the world's energy production from just one-third in 2010, putting into question Asia's capability to engineer economically and environmentally sustainable growth.

Energy use, of course, fuels economic growth. Massive fossil fuel use accelerated industrialization - and brought on the climate problem. The developing world is now under immense pressure to continue growing without exacerbating climate change.

That is obviously a tall order. ADB estimates that though renewable energy use will rise, its contribution to Asia's energy mix will pale by comparison to the demand for non-renewables. Coal demand will rise by 81 percent, oil use will double, while natural gas use will treble - and therein lies the risks.

While Asia has proven coal and natural gas store - 35 percent and 16 percent of global reserves respectively - it only has 9 percent of world crude oil supply, necessitating massive importation mainly from the Middle East. This exposes the region to supply chain disruptions and price volatility.

For instance, we source about 80 percent of our oil needs from the Middle East. At the height of the Arab Spring, we saw how local pump prices skyrocketed week after week - and stoked public outcry. An increase in fuel prices translates into an increase in food prices. And the high cost of food is a politically sensitive issue in our country because the bottom 80 percent the population allots 60 percent of their expenditures on food - half of which goes to buying rice alone.

ADB sees most Asian countries, including ours, achieving minimal energy self-sufficiency by 2035. We are, in fact, ranked toward the bottom of the index, ahead only of city-state Singapore in Southeast Asia. Among 35 economies in the region, only Brunei, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan are expected to fully satisfy their energy needs through indigenous sources.

More alarming is ADB's projection showing the share of renewable sources in the Philippines' energy mix shrinking from 43 percent at present to just 14 percent over the next two decades, by which time our coal and gas reserves will be depleted. This only indicates the bureaucracy's lack of vision in not helping the local renewable industry mature fast enough to meet the impending surge in demand. …

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