Global Energy Security Forum

The Global Energy Security Forum is a multi-disciplinary effort supported by the College of Engineering's Applied Research Center (ARC), the College of Business Administration (CBA) and the School of International and Public Affairs. The objective of the Forum is to advance energy security through efficiency, diversification, and sustainability.

Advancing Energy Security Through Efficiency, Diversification and Sustainability

The focus of the Global Energy Security Forum is two-fold. First, it is to inform and educate diverse audiences about the economic, political, business, environmental and security realities of energy. Second, through conferences, research and publications, the Forum hopes to act as a catalyst for the public and private sectors to develop a diverse portfolio of commercially sustainable alternative fuels, many of which will be renewable and based on new technologies.

Cheap and abundant fossil fuels turned the 20th Century into the Age of Hydrocarbons and gasoline into the world’s dominant transportation fuel. However, rising prices, concerns about the environment and security of supply are forcing governments and businesses to find ways to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, particularly in the area of transportation. This is an enormous challenge.

Energy is critical to life and fossil fuels supply 80% of that energy for the world in general and 85% for the U.S. in particular. Oil provides over 40% of the energy Americans consume and more than 90% of its transportation fuels. In fact, in the U.S. no price is more controversial or ubiquitous than the price of gasoline.

Petroleum has been used by civilizations for millennia. Modern civilization would not be possible without petroleum and the thousands of products derived from it. Oil plays a central role in global economics, politics, business and national security, not to mention the daily lives of billions of people. Every day things made from oil touch everyone in countless ways through products used in medicine, agriculture, personal hygiene, computers and transportation, to mention but a few.

Energy is critical to economic growth and national security, and no form of energy more so than petroleum. Thousands of businesses would cease to exist without petroleum and its derivatives and the armed forces would grind to a halt placing our national security at risk. The U.S. economy, national security and environment are all threatened by the nation’s heavy dependence on fossil fuels in general and imported oil in particular. A good example of this threat is the impact on the U.S. trade deficit of imported oil.

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco published a study that illustrates just how dramatically oil imports have affected the U.S. trade deficit. The U.S. trade balance turned to a deficit in 1992 and has been deteriorating ever since. The study shows that between 2002 and 2006 the cost of oil imports was responsible for over 50% of the deterioration in the over-all U.S. trade deficit. If one looks just at the last two years of 2004-2006, rising oil prices and imports accounted for 80% of the worsening in the over-all trade deficit. [FRBSF Economic Letter, September 22, 2006]

The rapid rise in prices from 2006 until their peak in July, 2008 exacerbated the deterioration of the U.S. trade levels even more. In 2007 petroleum imports accounted for 36% of the U.S. trade deficit and by the first four months of 2008 had risen to 47%. And while oil prices plummeted from highs of around $140 per barrel in mid-2008 to a low of near $30 a barrel by year-end 2008, by mid-year 2009 they had more than doubled to nearly $70 per barrel. [CRS Report for Congress “U.S. Trade Deficit & the Impact of Rising Oil Prices,” by James K. Jackson, June, 2008

The heavy dependence on fossil fuels in general and oil in particular, also has serious impacts on security, politics and the environment. Addressing these issues successfully means that the world in general and the U.S. in particular must reduce its dependence on fossil fuels for energy. There are no quick fixes to this problem. It is going to take decades of time and mountains of money to move the world from coal, oil and gas to clean and sustainable forms of energy. The mission of the Forum is to contribute as much as possible to achieving the goal of clean sustainable energy.