Power Politics of Fossils and Renewables


Why is it, that when we all know oil and gas are running out and that they’re use is destroying the planet, that the most powerful nations are up-scaling their use of fossil fuels and becoming more aggressive in their competition for these resources?

Fed on a diet of technocratic and environmentalist fact and opinion we have come to see that fossil fuels – petroleum and gas – are harmful and rapidly depleting. This, together with the growing number of international treaties on climate change and energy, has led most of us to the erroneous conclusion that the key state players are on board with the shift from fossils to renewables. No evidence exists, however, to show that this is the case. Russia, China, the United States and Europe are increasing their use of fossil fuels and wars directly linked to the acquisition of oil and gas resources by powerful state actors have increased sharply in frequency since the 1970s.

It would certainly appear to be the case that neither the environment nor the inevitable exhaustion of global oil and gas resources as high on the priorities lists of the world’s most industrialised nations. In fact, as depletion of these resources becomes an increasing cause for concern, rather than developing renewable sources of energy, the more powerful states have turned to more radical methods of fossil fuel extraction like onshore hydrofracking to tap subterranean shale deposits. When smaller developed countries like Iceland, Norway, Scotland, and Denmark have reached the point where all of their energy needs are being met by renewable sources, why are the most powerful states escalating their reliance on harmful fossil fuels?

Essentially it comes down to geopolitics and neo-imperialism; super-power states think differently about the purpose of energy. It is for this reason that the oil producing states of the Middle East remain primary locations of international strategic interest, and why so many of these countries have been reduced to rubble in the past four decades. In this regard powerful democracies are no different from powerful totalitarian régimes; the democratic administration need only worry about the supply of oil for the lifetime of its term in government. Liberal democracies are not well suited to longer-term strategic planning, so – as long as fossil fuels remain the most rewarding source of energy in the short-term – they will stick with plane A.

Such geopolitical myopia has resulted in a global policy of larger states continually working to destabilise and control smaller, oil producing states. We have seen this in Latin America and the Middle East by the United States. Across much of Africa we are seeing that the PR China has begun the early phases of this destabilise and control pattern as it continues its exploration for fresh oil and gas resources. China’s resource exploration is also the reason it is pushing control over the South China Sea, heightening tensions in the region. In the past ten years too we have watched the resurgence of Russia with its efforts to increase its influence in Iran and Syria.

All of this is over oil. Other than the threat of irreparable and damaging climate change, the rush for oil and gas resources by the most powerful industrialised nations has taken us headlong into another Cold War, with the East pitted against the West in their drive for global hegemony. As these resources continue to become scarcer the potential for international conflict is increasing. Right now we are as close to a nuclear war as we were during the Cuban Missile Crisis.


Did General Petraeus Just Admit The War In Iraq Was For Oil?


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