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Reviewed by:
  • Energy Conservation in East Asia: Towards Greater Energy Security
  • Jonathan Harrington (bio)
Elspeth Thomson, Youngho Chang, and Jae-Seung Lee, editors. Energy Conservation in East Asia: Towards Greater Energy Security. Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific Publishing Company, 2010. xviii, 408 pp. Hardcover $135.00, ISBN 978-981-277-177-3.

As we move into the twenty-first century, one of the potentially greatest impediments to sustained economic development is the increasing scarcity of affordable energy. Of particular concern is that fossil fuel consumption continues to rise in most parts of the world. At the same time, fossil fuel production and reserves are either leveling off or declining. Reserves are also increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small number of energy rich countries. The dual challenges of increasing demand and stabilizing or dwindling supplies are especially daunting in East Asia, where most nations are highly dependent on energy imports. Given these growing concerns, Energy Conservation in East Asia provides a timely and important contribution to the energy security literature that focuses on the role that conservation can play in reducing dependence on energy imports and related negative environmental externalities associated with fossil fuel use. This book is the eighth volume in the World Scientific Series on Energy and Resource Economics (ISSN 1793-4184) published by World Scientific.

Energy Conservation in East Asia is composed of a compilation of papers presented at two 2006 conferences hosted by the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore on behalf of the Network of East Asian Think Tanks Working Group Meetings on Energy Security Cooperation in East Asia. The meetings were convened at a critical juncture in the region’s development. Between 2000 and 2005, oil prices nearly tripled. There was growing concern about possible supply shocks related to tensions in the Middle East. Also, fast economic growth, especially in China, was increasing the region’s dependency on imported energy. The primary objectives of the conference were to share information about various conservation strategies adopted by ASEAN+3 countries and to promote regional cooperation. Though most of the essays were written in 2006–2007, the trends that precipitated the conferences remain largely intact. Also, Japan’s post–2011 earthquake and tsunami struggle to adjust to massive disaster-related reductions in nuclear energy production vividly illustrates how even wealthy developed countries remain vulnerable to energy supply shocks, hence, the continued relevance of this book.

Unlike many edited case study collections, Energy Conservation in East Asia is a well thought out and cohesive publication. The first three chapters provide a broad overview of East Asian energy markets and policy. Chapter 1, written by Youngho Chang and Elspeth Thomson, provides hard truths about the future trajectory of regional energy supply and demand. First, the authors note that ASEAN+3 consumption is growing more quickly than other regions of the world. [End Page 243] This is largely due to the fast economic growth in most of these countries. The region includes three of the world’s top ten energy consumers: China, South Korea, and Japan. Second, East Asian oil and gas markets exhibit a high level of regional integration. Third, there is massive variation in per capita energy consumption among countries (e.g., Japanese and South Korean per capita energy use is five times higher than China). This is largely driven by different levels of economic development and varying economic structures (i.e., industry, services, agriculture) among nations.

In chapter 2, Chang and Thomson explore the potential for energy conservation in East Asia. They focus on two variables: energy intensity (energy used per unit of GDP output) and elasticity of energy consumption (the amount of energy needed to produce an additional unit of GDP output). As a general rule, the lower the energy intensity and the further the elasticity of consumption is below 1.0, the more efficient the economy. The authors provide energy intensity and elasticity of energy consumption data for every ASEAN+3 country. In general, energy intensity in most countries exceeds world averages. Of particular regional concern is slowing the growth of personal vehicle miles traveled by getting people out of their cars and onto public transport.

In the following regional overview...