Energy Security, the G7, and China: A Cognitive Institutional Approach to Understanding International Energy Cooperation


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Leah Mary GREEN


Awarding Institution
Award date1 Nov 2016


This thesis makes an original contribution to theoretical knowledge of why and how international energy cooperation is transformed. Within the past decade, transformation occurred in energy policy cooperation among the world’s largest oilimporting countries of the Group of Seven (G7), and China. This cooperation unfolds across a network of international institutions, collectively called a regime complex, converging around oil-energy issues.

Connecting theories of international cooperation and regimes with the concept of energy security, the thesis develops a framework to answer the question: How has shared knowledge of energy security shaped importer cooperation in the energy regime complex? It devises a strategy to operationalize the concept of energy security knowledge across three different levels (national, institutional and regime) using methods of discourse and content analysis, case study and theory-building process tracing. In the end, the study reveals the concept of energy security acts as an organizing principle for major institutional change, or innovation, within the regime complex. Ideas about energy security steer innovation around one issue-area over another; shared knowledge further accounts for the substantive content of the governance structure that emerges.

The framework is applied to interpret the whole history of importer energy politics since 1965 in light of sources of change. Empirical findings show that the timing of innovation depends on not only dissatisfaction and shocks, but also on idea intersubjectivity among major actors. This study is the first to demonstrate the applicability of causal ideas to transformation in policy cooperation around energy security, making both theoretical and methodological contributions to the future development of general theories for energy security and change in regime complexes.