Global Energy Markets: Challenges and Opportunities – Energy Vision for 2050 [Journal]

Increasing energy prices – especially for oil and gas – and recent geopolitical conflicts have reminded us of the essential role affordable energy plays in economic growth and human development and of the vulnerability of the global energy system to supply disruptions. To secure energy supplies is once again at the top of the international policy agenda. Yet the current pattern of energy supply carries the threat of severe and irreversible environmental damage – including changes in global climate. Reconciling the goals of energy security and environmental protection requires strong and coordinated government action and public support. As a consequence, the decoupling of energy use and economic growth, a diversification of energy supply, and the mitigation of climate change causing emissions are more urgent than ever. 

The major share of primary energy demand today comes from fossil fuels, oil, gas, and coal. The main suppliers of oil are the OPEC region, Russia, and the USA. If the oil demand continues to grow as fast as in the past decades, the demand for oil will be higher than supply 15 years from now (depletion point). Although the oil price would also rise with increasing demand and other oil reserves such as oil shale or tar sands would be financially attractive to exploit further, oil still remains the scarcest fossil resource on earth, followed by gas. The world’s largest gas reserves are in Russia, followed by Qatar and Iran. The supply of coal is more widely spread in many countries of the world, and the coal reserves will last for over 200 years. [Download Journal]

BIOMASS CROPS: PRODUCTION, ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT [Book]

In the energy industry, biomass refers to biological material which can be used as fuel or for industrial production. Biomass includes plant matter grown for use as biofuel, as well as plant or animal matter used for production of fibres, chemicals or heat. This new book presents current research in the study of biomass crops, including the conversion of wood into liquid fuels; alfalfa biomass production; gasification of biomass in aqueous media and biofuel production potential.

1. Conversion of Wood into Liquid Fuels: A Review of the Science and Technology Behind the Fast Pyrolysis of Biomass. G. San Miguel, J. Makibar and A. R. Fernandez-Akarregi
2. Biomass Crops for Fermentative Biofuel Production. John A. Panagiotopoulos, Robert R. Bakker, Paulien Harmsen, Krzysztof Urbaniec, Andrzej Zarzycki, Ju Wu and Vito Sardo. [Download Book]

Max Weber’s Politics of Civil Society


Civil society has made a surprising comeback in our time. Its detractors, however, have charged that, as both an analytical concept and a blueprint for political practice, civil society has already run its course, or its promise was based on a myopic euphoria to begin with. While acknowledging the problems in the contemporary theorizing of civil society, this book still argues for its usefulness by relocating the source of civil society from the question of a legal-institutional framework to that of public citizenship and civic education. And it does so by revisiting Max Weber. 

In fact, this book is the first in-depth interpretation of Weber as a political theorist of civil society. On the one hand, Weber’s ideas are considered from the perspective of modern political thought rather than from that of the modern social sciences; on the other, the book offers a liberal assessment of this complex political thinker without apologizing for his shortcomings. From this perspective, the book effectively foregrounds Weber’s concern with public citizenship in a modern mass democracy and civil society as its cultivating ground. Weber’s civil society, thus reconstructed, is neither a communitarian haven for mutual trust and solidarity nor a liberal-juridical sphere of deliberation and communication, but an arena for competition and struggle in which a certain ethical personality – what he called the “person of vocation (Berufsmensch)” – can be constantly fashioned and sustained. It is when we recognize this hitherto neglected vision of Weber’s pluralistically organized civil society that his misgivings about the modern “iron cage” as well as his ethico-political project conceived of as its antidote can be properly accounted for. Despite some serious questions that Weber’s politics of civil society raises, Sung Ho Kim argues, it still harbors an alternative vision of civil society, which is useful for the contemporary conceptualization and politics of civil society.

All in all, Kim has successfully resuscitated Max Weber as a political thinker for our time, in which civic virtues and civil society have once again become urgent issues. 

Sung Ho Kim teaches modern political and social thought at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. Previously, he was a professor of political science at Williams College in Massachusetts and at the University of California in Riverside. His articles have appeared in, among other journals, Political Theory, History of Political Thought, and Max Weber Studies. This book is based on his doctoral dissertation, which won the 1998 Leo Strauss Award of the American Political Science Association.


China, Oil and Global Politics


Although oil composes less than a fifth of China’s energy supply, the size of the country’s economy and its rapid growth in recent decades—as well as sharply declining domestic production—have propelled China into international oil markets. Oil is critical in fueling the country’s transportation system, and China is both the world’s second largest oil consumer and third largest importer. China was an oil exporter until 1993, but by 2009 it was importing more than half of the oil it consumed, an amount expected to double by 2020. This volume examines oil in the context of China’s energy policy, and explores both the domestic and international dimensions of China’s quest for oil.

Part one surveys China’s energy strategy, the government institutions managing energy policy, and the oil industry. Although the country was the fifth largest oil producer in 2010, its total output was only 5 % of global production, and its reserves are not expected to last more than 10 years at current production levels. Though some 90 % of China’s overall energy needs in 2009 were satisfied by domestic supplies, increases in domestic production are being outpaced by increasing demand.

The authors use “path dependency” to explain China’s preference for energy autonomy, which has limited foreign participation to off-shore oil exploration. The first order of business in China’s energy policy is security of supply, to which other objectives, such as efficient use of resources and environmental protection, are subordinate. The energy policy making system is fragmented and uncoordinated, and rivalries exist between parallel government agencies, the most important of which is the National Development and Reform Commission (the state’s powerful planning body). Three companies dominate the oil industry: CNPC/Petrochina (upstream), Sinopec (downstream)—both large, vertically integrated enterprises—and CNOOC, a smaller off-shore oil explorer and producer. China’s limited civil society places few constraints on either government or industry, but as a result of the decentralization of government control, state goals encounter active resistance from provincial/local governments. [Download]