Industry insights

Why are Energy Prices So High? A Look Through the Lens of the Iceberg Model Framework

Alan Mourgues
September 12, 2023

Visible Symptoms of High Energy Prices

The escalating cost of energy is palpably affecting various aspects of daily life, most visibly in rising gasoline prices that have come a long way from their comparatively low levels a decade ago. This surge in energy costs is not just squeezing consumers at the gas pump, but also driving up the prices of goods and services across the board.

Businesses are adjusting their pricing models to account for these increased energy expenses, leading to a noticeable uptick in the cost of everyday essentials like food and clothing.

The visible symptoms of high energy prices are clear, and they are having a detrimental effect on consumers and businesses alike. The cost of energy is one of the leading causes of economic inequality, and it is essential that we understand the underlying systems driving these high prices in order to bring about meaningful change.

High Energy Prices: The Iceberg Model

The Iceberg Model is a systems thinking tool used to understand the complexities of real-world problems. It suggests that the visible symptoms of an issue are only the "tip of the iceberg," and that one must look deeper to understand the underlying patterns, systemic structures, and mental models that contribute to the problem. Below is an analysis of the problem of high energy prices using the Iceberg Model framework:

Events (Tip of the Iceberg)

  1. Consumer Reports: Consumers complain about higher energy bills.
  2. Media Coverage: Extensive news coverage about the surge in energy prices.
  3. Government Intervention: Political debates and promises to lower energy costs.
  4. Economic Impact: Inflation rates rise due to increased cost of production and transportation.


  1. Seasonal Fluctuations: Energy prices often rise in winter or during heatwaves.
  2. Demand and Supply Imbalance: Periods of high demand frequently correspond with high prices.
  3. Investment Cycles: Lack of investment in energy infrastructure during times of low prices, leading to insufficient supply when demand increases.
  4. Geopolitical Trends: Regular disruptions in energy supply due to geopolitical events like wars or trade sanctions.

Systemic Structures

  1. Market Dynamics: Free market competition versus monopolies or oligopolies in energy sectors.
  2. Regulatory Environment: Level of government oversight, subsidies, and taxation.
  3. Global Trade: Dependence on international markets and foreign sources of energy.
  4. Infrastructure: The state and age of energy production and distribution networks.
  5. Technological Innovation: Speed and extent of adoption of renewable energy sources and more efficient technologies.
  6. Environmental Concerns: Policy decisions related to climate change that might restrict certain types of energy production, thus affecting supply and prices.

Mental Models

  1. Short-term Focus: Both consumers and policymakers often focus on immediate relief rather than long-term solutions.
  2. Consumer Expectations: The belief that cheap energy is a right, not a privilege.
  3. Political Expediency: Politicians might avoid difficult but necessary long-term reforms in favor of short-term political gains.
  4. Economic Beliefs: Varying schools of thought on how energy markets should function—free market vs. regulated.
  5. Climate Skepticism vs. Environmentalism: Conflicting views on the importance of transitioning to renewable energy sources, which may have an initial cost impact.


  1. Short-term: Government subsidies, price ceilings, or emergency releases from strategic reserves to temporarily ease prices.
  2. Mid-term: Investment in improving energy infrastructure, diversification of energy sources, and regulatory reforms.
  3. Long-term: Public education campaigns, promotion of energy-saving technologies, and transition to renewable and more sustainable energy sources.


The underlying systems driving energy prices are complex and varied. Market forces, policy decisions, and geopolitical events all play a role in determining the cost of energy. Understanding these systems is important in order to effectively address the issue of high energy prices.

Understanding a problem through the lens of the Iceberg Model helps stakeholders to address not just the symptoms but also the underlying causes and contributing factors, enabling more sustainable and effective solutions.

Alan is a Consulting Petroleum Reservoir Engineer with 20+ years of international industry experience. Alan is the founder of CrowdField, a marketplace that connects Oil & Gas and Energy businesses with a global network of niche talent for task-based freelance solutions. His mission is to help skilled individuals monetize their knowledge as the Energy transition unfolds, by bringing their expertise to the open market and creating digital products to sell in CrowdField's Digital Store.


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