Words by Maya Zealey
Despite enduring hikes in the price of gas as recently as October, UK households are preparing for energy bills to increase a further 50% in the coming months. Last year, global fuel prices reached an all time high, with the wholesale price of gas quadrupling. The UK is particularly vulnerable because of our nationwide reliance on natural gas for heating, cooking, and electricity generation. The UK also experienced the ‘petrol crisis’ last year. While this was more to do with Brexit than with insecure energy resources, there is no denying that it highlighted the vulnerability of Britain’s energy sector to external shocks.
This is not a problem confined to the UK. The price of gas is skyrocketing globally, but different regions are threatened in different ways. For example, 50% of the European Union’s gas is sourced from Russia. If Russia is sanctioned over its action in Ukraine, Russia could respond by weaponizing this reliance and cutting off its gas supply to Europe.
The hard truth is that a reliance on natural gas will never be sustainable. As a finite resource, it will eventually run out. Even if it doesn’t, the International Energy Agency has said there should not be future investment in oil and gas; a habitable planet requires a dramatic shift towards less environmentally destructive sources of energy. Furthermore, Europe is currently reckoning with the reality that we should all be self-sufficient at a basic level; external shocks are not going anywhere. The ever-increasing prevalence of climate change and extreme weather will fuel conflict and mass migration.
The sad truth is that the world is hurtling towards more chaos, more disaster and more crisis – not less. We are undoubtedly facing a dramatic rise in desertification, extreme weather events, and mass migration over the next few years. It’s not unlikely that resource wars and further pandemics will accompany this ecosystem loss. The current gas crisis was primarily caused by slightly colder weather temperatures for the last few months of 2021 – hardly the stuff of dystopian fiction, and a drop in the ocean of what’s about to come. If we want to live with any kind of stability, our lives cannot be dependent on a global economy that turns every ripple into a wave.
We need to rely on the good kinds of waves. The kind that crashes against the shore no matter the weather and can provide us an incredible source of renewable energy. There is no better example of an untapped mine of potential clean energy than wave power. We shouldn’t have to wait for the oil to run out to put our best and brightest minds to the challenge of honing our clean energy storage and transfer capabilities. An often overlooked benefit of renewable energy is that most states, with the right investment and support, could provide sufficient energy to their populations without engaging in exploitative trade or having a population’s access to heat and light be dependent on business leaders and politicians (the least rusted professionals in society).
It’s bizarre that we still rely on dirty energy and questionable regimes to provide us with our basic necessities. The disentanglement of the world economy from global politics is essential if we are serious about a global green and
, just transition. It isn’t that I wish to promote isolationism or a fortress approach to tackling global issues, we are going to need to cooperate with the global challenges we face ahead. Simply, I don’t want the need for food or warmth to be used as political bargaining chips. We need to be able to survive regardless of the whims of billionaires and bankers.
The fundamental problem here is corporate greed and corrupt politics. While the public faces the cost-of-living crisis, Shell and BP continue to receive tax breaks from the UK government despite making billions in profit. The only solution to this cycle of disaster is for investment in public renewable energy to be a priority for the government. Job creation, stable energy bills, and cleaner air are all obvious benefits to such a prioritisation of funds.
The dependability of the sun to rise, the waves to crash and the wind to blow offers hope of a peaceful future, one that exists in stark contrast to our chaotic world of global politics and economics. Instead of fuelling the crisis by entrenching ourselves deeper into dirty deals and dirty pollution, I hope we start talking about what the climate crisis really is – a social and humanitarian disaster. Political and economic development can only be reached once we leave our archaic fossil fuel reliance firmly in the past.