We are slaves to fossil fuels.

Constantin CrânganuPhoto: Hotnews

The global transition we have just begun, unevenly,

it is not a work of years, but of decades, if not centuries.

Vaclav Smil, 2022

The military invasion of Ukraine has produced a series of unpredictable effects, focusing on European countries’ dependence on fossil fuel supplies from Russia. We have already presented two collateral “victims” of this invasion – the climate crisis and the Green Deal. We also analyzed the metamorphosis of journalistic language used by The New York Times, the bastion of the democratic media in the United States: the return to the technical, industrial term – hydraulic fracturing, instead of the pejorative one – fracking, used during the Trump administration.

The same The New York Times acknowledged on June 26 that:

As the leaders of the Group of 7 gather in Germany, the fight to replace Russian fossil fuels raises concerns about missing out on climate targets that are difficult to achieve.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine seemed like an unexpected opportunity for environmentalists, who have struggled to draw the world’s attention to the kind of energy independence that renewable resources can provide. With the West trying to get rid of Russian oil and gas, the argument for solar and wind energy seemed stronger than ever.

But after four months of war, the fight to replace Russian fossil fuels has triggered the exact opposite. As the leaders of the Group of 7 industrialized nations gather in the Bavarian Alps for a meeting that should have strengthened their commitment to fighting climate change, fossil fuels are returning to war, with leaders focusing more on lowering prices. oil and gas than on the immediate reduction of their emissions.

Climate propagandists must now have a difficult mission …

And yet:

A new tactic seems to be emerging, albeit not very explicitly, at the moment: The fight against fossil fuels, for a healthy and prosperous climate, without CO2 emissions, must also be a fight against dictators.

Have you noticed, for example, that the president of Russia has become, since February this year, the dictator Vladimir Putin, ie one who dictates what his country must do with the goods produced by his country: oil, natural gas, coal, cast iron, fertilizers, etc.? Dictator Putin is now part of a small family, which is true, of dictators of autocratic states, large producers of fossil fuels, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, or Venezuela.

The liberation of the world from the slavery of fossil fuels (cf. V. Smil) would in fact mean, according to environmentalists, the elimination of dictators from the so-called petro-states. Or, to paraphrase that bearded daddy (The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains), modern fossil energy slaves have nothing to lose but the oppression imposed by petro-dictatorships.

This idea has already been suggested by two well-known climate alarmists:

We know the way out of this crisis: Intensify the infrastructure for renewable energies, supply homes with wind and solar energy, electrify our transportation systems. Russia’s lawlessness in Ukraine should remind us that the corrupting influence of oil and gas is virtually the basis of all the forces that are destabilizing our planet. (Noemi Klein)

After Hitler invaded the Sudetenland, America concentrated its industrial forces on building tanks, bombers and destroyers. Now we need to respond with renewable energy. (Bill McKibben)

These arguments are valid at first sight. But the second sight is also important. If President Trump has economically sanctioned the dictatorial regime in Venezuela, then why has the current president renewed Chevron’s business license in a country whose leader is not officially recognized by the United States? The allegory with Hitler does not seem very appropriate to me either. In July, President Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia to ask its hosts to increase oil production to alleviate the current energy crisis. It is as if President Roosevelt had gone to Berlin to ask dictator Hitler to reduce bomb production to alleviate German aggression in Europe and the rest of the world.

Much of the geopolitical anxieties of the 1950s have been about oil (and gas). After the Second World War, the recovery and further development of world economies were fueled by refined hydrocarbon products (fuels, fertilizers, medicines, plastics, lubricants, etc.). During the negotiations that led to the signing of the Bretton Woods treaty, the Americans promised the Allies a secure and globalized economy. For more than 70 years, the free trade system, dominated and defended by the United States, has produced the most glorious era of peace and prosperity in human history. Global GDP has grown tenfold. Countries devastated or severely affected by World War II (Germany, Japan, South Korea, etc.), have recovered with American help and assistance. Country after country, on several continents, they have benefited and still benefit from the strategic situation ensured by the functioning of the Bretton Woods Treaty and are experiencing spectacular economic growth (eg China, India or Brazil).

A secure and globalized economy meant, in addition to access to sources of oil supply, also providing transportation to consumers. Thus, through the provisions of the Bretton Woods Treaty, the Americans had to implicitly guarantee both the freedom of the seas and a certain degree of stability in the Middle East.

A simple look at the past shows that the geopolitics of oil has been surprisingly simple and relatively predictable. Why? Because massive and commercially viable oil accumulations exist in only a few locations. The problem is that some people don’t like those locations because of their dictatorial tendencies of the leaders there. And now, amid the recent actions of the Russian dictator, we are witnessing a resurgence of calls for the fight against oil dictators, closely united and lined up under the “green” flag of “oil renunciation”, to respond to Putin and others. like him with the offensive of renewable energies.

But promoting this offensive to victory is not a sufficient response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. It is only a partial solution to wider problems related to energy and geopolitical security. Even in a deeply decarbonised future, dependence on energy imports, resource imbalances and the whims of dictators are unlikely to disappear with fossil fuels.

And then, what guarantees are there that a world fueled by “green” energies will be less warlike, less dictatorial, than the present one? This is an important question for climate propagandists and their answers should be recorded as soon as possible.

A first starting point in the discussions about present and future dictators it is represented by the energy consumption data at the level of 2020 (Fig. 1). Read the whole article and comment on contributors.ro

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