Energy crisis

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An energy crisis is a situation or historical phase in which the existing energy reserves are no longer able to adequately cover the demand. Significant price increases for energy sources, rationing , the collapse of value chains and recessions are named as possible consequences . Economic or political effects can also lead to sharp price increases, which then show themselves with almost the same symptoms and are usually also referred to as an energy crisis, although their cause is not the pure availability of the energy source. The term energy crisis was coined in the early 1970s.

Fossil energy

Due to the finite nature of the deposits , the foreseeable depletion of fossil fuels is one of the reasons why renewable energies are currently attracting increasing interest. Also energy savings , increased efficiency and sufficiency and Resilienzmaßnahmen in the consumption of fossil fuels are being discussed as a possible strategy to avoid an energy crisis.


According to Joseph Tainter - due to the build-up of social complexity with its high costs - the marginal returns on investments in the future of society, including investments in the development of energy, decrease until society collapses, its complexity is reduced or new energy sources or energy sources are added Find more efficient ways of using energy.

Jeremy Rifkin emphasizes the necessary harmony of the expansion of social communication and control means, energy sources and means of transport (not least for transporting the energy itself) at every new stage of economic development. Such a consonance was z. B. given by the parallel development of the telegraph, coal mining and railroad in England in the early 19th century. If bottlenecks occur in one of these factors, economic development will stall. In order to efficiently carry out the energy transition, which is funded with high investments , intelligent network structures would have to be created. In this regard, he states that Germany has some catching up to do.

Historical energy crises

In earlier times there were repeated phases of fuel shortage, e.g. B. by deforestation.

Charcoal extraction, Turkey 2015

The extraction and use of charcoal was an important source of energy from the Bronze Age (possibly from the Mesolithic ) until the 19th century. Measured against the amount of wood used, however, the efficiency was low, as a large part of the wood used was burned in order to even start the charring process.

In England, due to the notorious lack of wood, the expansion of hard coal mining was decisively promoted. Werner Sombart even described the lack of wood as a consequence of deforestation in England for shipbuilding purposes in the 18th century as a threat to the entire capitalist economy; it was eliminated by the development of hard coal. Joachim Radkau , however, contradicted this intensification of the thesis from the shortage of wood to a general wood shortage crisis . In Germany, too, there were phases and regions of wood shortage in steelworks in the early industrial age, which was later alleviated by adding coke .

The oil crisis of 1973 was a consequence of the reduced oil production and the resulting artificially shortage of oil. It should therefore be better described as an oil price crisis because there was no substantial technical shortage of the oil supply. However, the Suez Canal was also temporarily closed as a transport route.

The oil price crisis of 1979/1980 was caused by the war between Iraq and Iran , which led to production failures and uncertainties about the future oil supply.

Further energy crises can be observed which are becoming increasingly substantial. The expansion of the production capacities for oil was able to meet the demand for B. can be offset by China, but reserve capacities have become increasingly scarce. In particular, the shutdown of oil production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico in August / September 2005, which became necessary due to Hurricane Katrina, showed how sensitive supply and demand are due to the failure of oil production. The result was a dramatic increase in oil and product prices.

However, energy supply crises also occur with natural gas and electricity. In the case of these types of energy, the price structure is unbalanced by political influences or natural disasters due to the precise adjustment between supply and demand without significant reserve capacity.

See also


  • Robert B. Laughlin : The last one turns off the light - The future of energy. Piper TB 30278, Piper Verlag, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-492-30278-4 (American original edition: Powering the Future: How We Will (Eventually) Solve the Energy Crisis and Fuel the Civilization of Tomorrow. Basic Books, 2011 ). (RB Laughlin is a Nobel Laureate in Physics.)

Web links

Commons : energy crisis  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Joseph A. Tainter: Problem Solving: Complexity, History, Sustainability. In: Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies , Vol. 22, No. September 1, 2000.
  2. ^ Rifkin's solution: Go beyond renewables . Interview with Jeremy Rifkon on, July 11, 2017.
  3. Jared Diamond writes in Kollaps: Why societies survive or perish (Frankfurt 2014) the lack of wood on Easter Island caused by the deforestation of palm forests as a cause of the downfall of civilization on this island.
  4. Ernst Schultze: England's wood shortage. In: Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv , Vol. 5 (1915), pp. 343-350.
  5. Werner Sombart: The modern capitalism. 7th edition Munich 1928, p. 1137 ff.
  6. Joachim Radkau: Wood scarcity and crisis awareness in the 18th century. In: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 9 (1983) 4, pp. 513-543.
  7. Hans Otto Gericke: From charcoal to coke. The effects of the “wood crisis” on the Mansfeld copper smelters. In: Vierteljahresschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte 85 (1998) 2, pp. 156–195.