This morning, the US is poised to initiate yet another war for oil. As if the trillions upon trillions of dollars already spent to “liberate” Kuwait and bring democracy to Iraq were not enough, now America is ready to punish Iran for allegedly supplying the drones used in a missile strike on oil processing facilities in Saudi Arabia.
Bernard Hudson, a former director of counterterrorism for the CIA, tells the Washington Post the attacks probably involved a mix of drones and cruise missiles. “It used to be that only governments had air forces, but drones have democratized violence from the sky,” said Hudson, now a fellow on gulf security issues at Harvard University. “The Houthis, with help and advice from Iran, have perfected it to a level no one else has done.”
No one knows what actually happened yet, where the drones came from, or who controlled them, but world oil prices have shot up. Higher energy prices could act as a drag on a global economy that is already showing signs of slowing down.
Imagine if you will a world in which each country is able to meet its energy needs internally, using nothing but the natural abundance of sunshine, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, or tidal power. Think how the politics of the world would change if Europe didn’t have to depend on Russia for natural gas to heat its homes in winter.
What if the US didn’t have to rape its wildlife preserves and national parks just so it could boast it is the biggest energy exporter in the world? What if we didn’t have to suck up to totalitarian governments like Saudi Arabia, which cuts up its opponents with bone saws and disposes of the pieces in vats of acid?
Political leaders wring their hands and wail that the cost of transitioning to renewable energy is too high. It might cost trillions, they cry. Yet the Costs of War project by the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University finds the US has already spent more than $5.6 trillion on military operations in the post 9/11 era. In addition, since 2001 the US military has added 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. That’s more than many nations.
All that money and all those emissions do not take into account the human toll on the members of the military who have died or been injured while fighting these wars or the burden placed on millions of civilians who have been displaced as a result of them.
Switching to renewable energy is about more than lowering carbon emissions. It’s about dismantling the current geopolitical constructs that support the notion that access to oil must be maintained at all costs.
Oil grossly distorts international relations. Access to oil was one of the primary factors that drove Japan to invade its neighbors prior to World War II. It has been a leading cause of European adventurism in the Middle East. It’s what caused Iraq to invade Kuwait and the US to invade Iraq in turn.
Renewable energy can re-balance the economic structure of the world. No more would nations eye the natural resources of their neighbors and plot to capture them for themselves. No more would despots rule their countries as feudal fiefdoms propped up by staggering fortunes based on oil. Not only can renewable energy lower carbon emissions but it can potentially eliminate one of the primary causes of conflict between nations. How do you put a price tag on that?