31 August 2009: Lockerbie, Libya and oil

Was the Lockerbie bomber’s release linked to oil? The UK media is full of allegations, although the UK and Scottish governments are, not surprisingly, denying any link. Yet, it is obvious that international policy towards Libya is highly influenced by Libya’s enormous oil and gas reserves and that, whether or not there was an explicit connection, oil was a factor in Megrahi’s release – just as it was in the US invasion of Iraq (see 4 May 2009: Obama is very good, but not perfect).

It is clear from this example alone that addiction to oil is not only bad for the climate – it is also bad for international politics. Over half the world’s known oil reserves are in the Middle East. Canada has the second highest known reserves (after Saudi Arabia), and the US the twelfth highest. The rest of the top twelve are all politically problematic for those committed to multi-party democracy and human rights: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE, Venezuela, Russia, Libya, Nigeria and Khazakstan. The list of known gas reserves is dominated by Russia, Iran and Qatar.

Therefore, weaning the world economy off fossil fuels will have major diplomatic and peace benefits. However, the UK media, alongside the stories about Libya, are also criticising the Labour government for increasing the duty on petrol (see, for example, the Times article: Motorists suffer 2p rise in fuel duty as first of five tax increases). But the real cost of motoring had fallen significantly under Labour, while the real cost of going by public transport has increased. The UK’s energy policy is now quite good – though delivery is still dreadful. UK transport policy – and transport policy in every other country – must be transformed to make petrol and diesel more expensive, and public transport and electric vehicles cheaper and more widely available.


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