Pipeline failures and other accidents may cause minor interruptions to energy supplies. A crisis could possibly emerge after infrastructure damage from severe weather. Attacks by terrorists or militia on important infrastructure are a possible problem for energy consumers, with a successful strike on a Middle East facility potentially causing global shortages. Political events, for example, when governments change due to regime change, monarchy collapse, military occupation, and coup may disrupt oil and gas production and create shortages.
While not entering a full crisis, political riots that occurred during the 2007 Burmese anti-government protests were initially sparked by rising energy prices. Likewise the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute and the Russia-Belarus energy dispute have been mostly resolved before entering a prolonged crisis stage.
Crises that currently exist include:
Industrialized nations are dependent on oil, and efforts to restrict the supply of oil would have an adverse effect on the economies of oil producers. For the consumer, the price of natural gas, gasoline (petrol) and diesel for cars and other vehicles rises. An early response from stakeholders is the call for reports, investigations and commissions into the price of fuels. There are also movements towards the development of more sustainable urban infrastructure.
In the market, new technology and energy efficiency measures become desirable for consumers seeking to decrease transport costs. Examples include
Other responses include the development of non-conventional oil sources such as synthetic fuel from places like the Athabasca Oil Sands, more renewable energy commercialization and use of alternative propulsion. There may be a Relocation trend towards local foods and possibly microgeneration, solar thermal collectors and other green energy sources.
Tourism trends change and ownership of gas-guzzlers vary, both because of increases to fuel costs which are passed on to customers. Items which were not so popular gain favour, such as nuclear power plants and the blanket sleeper, a garment to keep children warm. Building construction techniques change to reduce heating costs, potentially through increased insulation.
If an energy shortage is prolonged a crisis management phase is enforced by authorities. Energy audits may be conducted to monitor usage. Various curfews with the intention of increasing energy conservation may be initiated to reduce consumption. To conserve power during the Central Asia energy crisis, authorities in Tajikistan ordered bars and cafes to operate by candlelight. Warnings issued that peak demand power supply might not be sustained.
In the worst kind of energy crisis energy rationing and fuel rationing may be incurred. Panic buying may beset outlets as awareness of shortages spread. Facilities close down to save on heating oil; and factories cut production and lay off workers. The risk of stagflation increases.
The Hirsch report made clear that an energy crisis is best averted by preparation. In 2008, solutions such as the Pickens Plan and the satirical in origin Paris Hilton energy plan suggest the growing public consciousness of the importance of mitigation.
Energy policy may be reformed leading to greater energy intensity, for example in Iran with the 2007 Gas Rationing Plan in Iran, Canada and the National Energy Program and in the USA with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. In Europe the oil phase-out in Sweden is an initiative a government has taken to provide energy security. Another mitigation measure is the setup of a cache of secure fuel reserves like the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve, in case of national emergency. Chinese energy policy includes specific targets within their 5 year plans.
Andrew McKillop has been a proponent of a contract and converge model or capping scheme, to mitigate both emissions of greenhouse gases and a peak oil crisis. The imposition of a carbon tax would have mitigating effects on an oil crisis. The Oil Depletion Protocol has been developed by Richard Heinberg to implement a powerdown during a peak oil crisis. While many sustainable development and energy policy organisations have advocated reforms to energy development from the 1970s, some cater to a specific crisis in energy supply including Energy-Questand the International Association for Energy Economics. The Oil Depletion Analysis Centre and the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas examine the timing and likely effects of peak oil.
Ecologist William Rees believes that
To avoid a serious energy crisis in coming decades, citizens in the industrial countries should actually be urging their governments to come to international agreement on a persistent, orderly, predictable, and steepening series of oil and natural gas price hikes over the next two decades.
Due to a lack of political viability on the issue, government mandated fuel prices hikes are unlikely and the unresolved dilemma of fossil fuel dependence is becoming a wicked problem. A global soft energy path seems improbable, due to the rebound effect. Conclusions that the world is heading towards an unprecedented large and potentially devastating global energy crisis due to a decline in the availability of cheap oil lead to calls for a decreasing dependency on fossil fuel.
Other ideas have been proposed which concentrate on improved, energy-efficient design and development of urban infrastructure in developing nations.
Government funding for alternative energy is more likely to increase during an energy crisis, so too are incentives for oil exploration. For example funding for research into inertial confinement fusion technology increased during 1970's.
In response to the petroleum crisis, the principles of green energy and sustainable living movements gain popularity. This has led to increasing interest in alternate power/fuel research such as fuel cell technology, liquid nitrogen economy, hydrogen fuel, biomethanol, biodiesel, Karrick process, solar energy, geothermal energy, tidal energy, wave power, and wind energy, and fusion power. To date, only hydroelectricity and nuclear power have been significant alternatives to fossil fuel.
Hydrogen gas is currently produced at a net energy loss from natural gas, which is also experiencing declining production in North America and elsewhere. When not produced from natural gas, hydrogen still needs another source of energy to create it, also at a loss during the process. This has led to hydrogen being regarded as a 'carrier' of energy, like electricity, rather than a 'source'. The unproven dehydrogenating process has also been suggested for the use water as an energy source.
Efficiency mechanisms such as Negawatt power can encourage significantly more effective use of current generating capacity. It is a term used to describe the trading of increased efficiency, using consumption efficiency to increase available market supply rather than by increasing plant generation capacity. As such, it is a demand-side as opposed to a supply-side measure.
The world's population continues to grow at a quarter of a million people per day, increasing the consumption of energy. Although far less from people in developing countries, especially USA, the per capita energy consumption of China, India and other developing nations continues to increase as the people living in these countries adopt more energy intensive lifestyles. At present a small part of the world's population consumes a large part of its resources, with the United States and its population of 300 million people consuming far more oil than China with its population of 1.3 billion people.
William Catton has emphasised the link between population size and energy supply, concluding that
The faster the present generation draws down the fossil energy legacy upon which persistently exuberant lifestyles now depend, the less opportunity posterity will have to live in anything like the same way or the same numbers. Yet most contemporary political proposals for solving problems of economic stagnation or inequity amount to plans for speeding up the rate of drawdown of non-renewable resources.David Pimentel professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell University, has called for massive reduction in world populations in order to avoid a permanent global energy crisis. The implication is that cheap oil has created a human overshoot beyond Earth's carrying capacity which inevitably lead to an energy crisis. David Price postulates that population growth occurs when a higher quality form of energy is commercialised.
Matthew Simmons and Julian Darley amongst others, have examined the economic effects of an energy crisis. Historian, and sociologist Franz Schurmann links an energy crisis with a deflating American dollar. He has stated that
If a dollar free-fall should take place, Americans will confront an energy crisis that will make the October 1973 oil shortage seem a mild nuisance.
According to Christopher Falvin, geopolitical factors has resulted in current energy system, based on fossil fuels, to be a risk management issue that undermines global security. Considering the significant source of greenhouse gas emissions accumulating in the atmosphere, fossil fuel energy is being viewed as increasingly socially irresponsible. Joseph Tainter is an expert on societal collapse and energy supply who draws attention to the complexity of modern society and our ability to problem solve the wider issue of environmental degradation.
The decision to develop a biofuel industry through subsidies and tariffs in the USA has increased food costs globally. Lester R. Brown states that by converting grains into fuel for cars
..the world is facing the most severe food price inflation in history as grain and soybean prices climb to all-time highs,