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EDITORIAL: While French Economy Minister Bruno Le Marie’s warning that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is pushing the world towards a 1973-type energy shock might be a little overblown, it does raise the obvious question of why, even half a century after the crisis, the world is still overwhelmingly dependent on fossil fuels.

The green energy lobby has made great strides forward in this time, of course, but not nearly enough to wean the world away from its addiction to crude oil.

And a senior minister in a major global economy ought to understand that this is in large part because of the economic and political systems adopted by most western countries. For, the predominant western model of capitalism, which encourages corporations to maximise profits and provides necessary loopholes to achieve it, is in stark contrast to principles of free market enterprise which it claims to uphold.

That is why a number of multinational organisations, especially Big Oil behemoths, have grown so big over the decades that their annual budgets dwarf those of a number of developing countries put together. And the last thing they have to worry about is the kind of money needed for armies of strategists and corporate lawyers who make sure that their influence and profits keep growing.

The dominant version of western representative democratic government, especially in the United States of America (USA), is also a big part of the problem, not the solution. Since its life and blood is the money pumped into it by lobbies and interest groups that back candidates, it’s no surprise at all that it collectively backs one big agenda or the other.

So there’s very little chance of a progressive, radical candidate, campaigning on the agenda of shaking the whole system, to even get started because nobody would bankroll him/her. And even if some sort of progressive – anti-fossil fuel lobby, for example — legislation does make it to the house for debate and vote, it’s very easy for Big Money to influence enough votes to nip it in the bud, so to speak.

The same is true for their politics. That is why the most powerful countries in the world and supposedly the most prominent lobbyists for human rights and all that are also responsible for the cruelest wars and rights violations, often for things like oil, land and power, all over the world. Even the 1973 oil price shock that the French minister alluded to had its roots in the unethical and immoral backing that certain western states provided to Israel during the Yom Kippur War.

And while there is never any justification for invading a sovereign country, especially in the 21st century, and clearly Moscow miscalculated and overplayed its hand, it’s still true that Russia’s actions have given much of Europe as well as the US a rare taste of their own medicine.

A lot of volatility was expected in the energy market, of course, but that too is only being made much worse by everybody’s reactions. Washington’s decision to ban Russian oil imports, for example, didn’t do the end price that everybody has to pay for their fuel and power any favours at all.

In the longer stretch of things, western culture and civilization is still pretty much finding its feet. Just a few centuries ago much of Europe was still drenched in the barbarism of the Dark Ages.

Then, even as the industrial revolution changed things for the better inside the continent, it also led to one ugly wave of colonisation of poor countries after another. Now, suddenly these countries have become the gold standard in all things progressive, like democracy and human rights, because they have the money and media to give that impression and make it stick.

Bruno Le Marie would understand, then, that most international powers, not just Russia, are responsible for the threat of stagflation that now hangs over the global economy. And all of them will have to play a constructive, not reactionary, role if it is to be overcome.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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