People “need to think what would happen if there were a premature withdrawal from Iraq”
The world has two energy crises but no real answers
How very shocking! Brendan Nelson, Australia’s defence minister, has caused sharp intakes of breath by saying something that is obviously true. He remarked last week that the Middle East was “an important supplier of energy, oil in particular” and that – as a result – people “need to think what would happen if there were a premature withdrawal from Iraq”.
Mr Nelson did not say that Iraq was a “war for oil”. He merely noted that there was a lot of the stuff sitting under the ground there – and that this mattered.
The world is, in fact, facing two energy crises. The first is rooted in scarcity and traditional power politics. It involves the struggle by the world’s largest and most energy-hungry economies to get hold of the natural resources they need.
Mary Kaldor – co-author of a new book called Oil Wars (Pluto) – points out the struggle to find new oil is a familiar sort of conflict, reminiscent of the 19th century “great game” or earlier imperial clashes.
The second energy crisis is new. It is driven by climate change.
President George W. Bush announced last year that he intended to end his nation’s “addiction to oil”. Billions are being poured into research on alternative energy.
The US has its own energy dilemma. It accounts for 25 per cent of the world’s oil consumption, but around 9 per cent of world oil production and 2 per cent of world oil reserves
Speaking at the London School of Economics last week, Sir Nicholas Stern – author of an influential report on climate change – struggled to sound optimistic. He admitted that finding and deploying alternative energy fast enough to avoid climate disaster would be very difficult, but added:
I would say we’re in real trouble.