Global energy

What are the causes and effects of increasing global demand for energy?

What are the causes of an increasing demand for energy?
There are three main reasons:
increasing global population
population getting richer
advances in technology increase the availability of products

World population growth and population getting richer

The world’s population has increased rapidly over the last 100 years from 1.65 billion in 1900 to 6.4 billion in 2008 and predicted to be as high as 8.91 billion in 2050. Many of you will have in your houses, a washing machine, fridge, tumble drier, dishwasher, microwave, television, computers, mobile phones and games consoles but this has not always been the case. As people have got more money, they look around at what there is to buy that will make their lives more comfortable and desire to own such goods. These goods use energy not only to operate them but also in their manufacture, so increasing personal wealth increases our demand for energy.

Technological advances

Advances in technology requires the use of energy in terms of developing it and making the products.

The impacts of increasing demand for energy
A good example of the problems caused by increasing demand for energy as those caused by the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, USA


Impacts on people’s health: increase of emphysema and bronchitis are problems associated with industrialisation. Some cities are shrouded in a haze that blocks out the sun and contains a dangerous mix of chemical, including those from coal, smoke and ozone. People may choose to travel to work using a different method of transport in an attempt to be environmentally friendly and fitter. Also we may change where we go on holiday.


These are clear with rising energy prices and with the cost of petrol soaring in the UK in the early months of 2008.

on land: where spoil heaps have built up adjacent to coal mines when unneeded material has been dumped
on water: where the transportation of oil has led to major pollution incidents such as the Exon Valdez oil spill off Alaska in 1989 and the Prestige sinking off the coast of
north-west Spain in 2002
on air: where poor quality is responsible for ill health on a local scale and for substantial effects on a global scale, where global warming is seen to be the main result.
More impacts of an increasing demand for energy
Environmental impacts
Greater use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) is increasing carbon dioxide emissions and driving climate change. This is leading to changing weather patterns (e.g. more floods, droughts and hurricanes), as well as more permanent environmental changes (e.g. desertification, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and ice sheets, and damage to fragile ecosystems like coral reefs.

Increasing demand for oil means that we have to look for it in areas that are difficult to get at (like the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico), or that are environmentally sensitive (like the Arctic).

Economic impacts
Climate change will cost money. The economic costs of disasters like hurricanes are doubling every decade. Rising temperatures will also lead to a reduction in crop yields – a further cost.

Oil-rich countries spend huge amounts of money to increase the amount of oil they produce. Saudi Arabia has spent $50 billion.

As easily accessible energy reserves are used up, more and more money has to be spent exploring remote areas for new reserves, e.g. the Arctic or off the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.

Social and political impacts
The droughts and floods caused by climate change can lead to famine, disease and homelessness, which can take years to recover.

Some countries rely heavily on others for their energy supplies which can create problems if they fall out. For example, much f Europe depends on a gas pipeline from Russia that runs through Ukraine. But in both 2006 and 2008, the pipeline was turned off after disagreements between Russia and Ukraine.

In some countries, like the USA, political parties are funded by oil and gas companies, which means that these companies can influence government policies.

Predicted effects of global warming