“As the price of oil goes down, the pace of freedom goes up… As the price of oil goes up, the pace of freedom goes down…” So says New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who argues that the first law of ‘petropolitics’ is that the price of oil and the pace of freedom are inversely correlated in countries “totally dependent on oil” for economic growth. However, the correlation between recent oil price spikes and anti-authoritarian action – particularly in the Arab Spring – challenges this assessment. But if this pattern of change is to continue, Western states must curb their hypocritical dependence on authoritarian oil-exporting governments by developing more sustainable sources of energy.
General volatility in financial markets – fuelled by irresponsible lending and trading practices, as well as evidence of market manipulation – have had an effect on oil prices. Although the specific effects of the finance sector on oil prices requires further investigation, we can already understand that a sustainable and secure future will require the development of a wider energy mix to meet rising demand. To this end, more sustainable financial systems must be developed to service the real needs of citizens
The transition away from a centralised global economy built around conventional energy sources to a decentralised global economy mostly fuelled by renewable resources is one we must make for the sake of our children’s futures and that of our planet. Writing for sustainablesecurity.org, Phillip Bruner asks if national security is at present, deeply concerned with preserving access to conventional energy, then how would national security for a decentralised renewable energy Internet be managed? Who would manage it? And what role, if any, could the public play in helping to alleviate some of the burdens of 21st century threat mitigation?
Whether it’s the economy, energy or the environment which you value most, when it comes to security, each holds equal weight. If security can be defined in terms of what is or isn’t sustainable, then it must evolve to incorporate additional elements that transcend more traditional views on geopolitics.