The climate crisis won’t be solved by changing light bulbs and inflating your tires more, planting a tree and driving a little less. It’s going to require a truly fundamental shift in how we build our cities and live in them.
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the introduction to The Tyranny of Oil: the World’s Most Powerful Industry, and What We Must Do To Stop It (William Morrow 2008). Within days of the New Year, 2008 began with three landmark events. Oil reached $100 per barrel for only the second time in history as […]
Given the magnitude and scope of the current economic crisis, the world will no doubt experience a significant economic downturn — of what degree and duration, no one can say — profoundly affecting all aspects of U.S. and international society. Of the many areas that will be impacted by the downturn, the environment stands out in particular. It’s closely tied to the tempo of resource consumption, and significant efforts to ameliorate environmental decline will prove very expensive and out of reach for already-stretched budgets. The question thus arises: Will the crisis be good or bad for the environment, especially with respect to global warming?
In commenting on the war in the Caucasus, most American analysts have tended to see it as a throwback to the past: as a continuation of a centuries-old blood feud between Russians and Georgians, or, at best, as part of the unfinished business of the Cold War. Many have spoken of Russia’s desire to erase the national “humiliation” it experienced with the collapse of the Soviet Union 16 years ago, or to restore its historic “sphere of influence” over the lands to its South. But the conflict is more about the future than the past. It stems from an intense geopolitical contest over the flow of Caspian Sea energy to markets in the West.
Iran’s provocative missile tests ten days ago again fueled the debate on the likelihood of aerial strikes against Iran. Since last week’s thaw, however, an attack on Iran by the end of President Bush’s tenure no longer appears in the offing. Moreover, the narrow, exclusively military focus of the debate misses the broader picture. The overall U.S. strategy of containing Iran has failed in principle. And the attempt to impose a sanctions regime on Iran has led to an erosion of U.S. strategic influence in Asia and the Middle East. Over the long term, Washington’s shortsighted containment policy will only hurt Western business in the region. It will also play into the hands of China, drive crucial allies away, and render Iran untouchable.
Over the past few years, attention to the recycling of nuclear power spent fuel has grown. Fears of global warming due to fossil fuel burning have given nuclear energy a boost; over the next 15 years dozens of new power reactors are planned world-wide. To promote nuclear energy, the Bush administration is seeking to establish international spent nuclear fuel recycling centers that are supposed to reduce wastes, recycle uranium, and convert nuclear explosive materials, such as plutonium to less troublesome elements in advanced power reactors.
At the hastily convened global oil summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on June 28, top officials of producing and consuming nations from around the world attempted to find a combination of solutions that would somehow extricate us from the current crisis over sky-high energy prices. These proposals ranged from increased output by major producers like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to restrictions on the activities of international oil speculators.
This essay originally appeared in TomDispatch, a website run by Tom Engelhardt and associated with The Nation magazine.
This essay was drawn from FPIF columnist Michael T. Klare’s new book Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy, published by Metropolitan Books