“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.
Hurricane Katrina and the sinking of coastal Louisiana stand as a reminder that we must address climate change, competition over resources and marginalisation as the root causes of conflict before it is too late.
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