Peak Oil, Neoliberalism and Think Left

The intention of Think Left is to add to the left-wing voices challenging the remaining vestiges of New Labour ideology.  Each author is a member of the Labour Party and they take individual responsibility for the views that they express.  However, all share the common aim of wanting a contemporary LP which incorporates the values of socialism into policies for future government… a Labour Party that will tackle ‘the huge institutional blockages of neo-liberal capitalism’ (1).

It is now widely accepted that the Third way of New Labour was a continuum with Thatcherism and the policies of deregulation and globalization which led to the credit crunch of 2008 (2).

The Coalition government far from abandoning this clearly disastrous and now discredited economic framework, have utilized the crisis to justify unnecessary cuts and a draconian process of dismantling and privatizing the Welfare State, the NHS and education.

This is the nature of neoliberalism.  Any economic crisis, war or natural disaster is managed and manipulated to justify an ‘upward redistribution of wealth accumulation by dispossession’.  The main techniques, in the modern neoliberal sense, for dispossessing  (‘parasitising’) the wider population are through privatisations and commodification, financialisation, and state redistributions.

‘…neoliberalism is essentially about the reconstitution of class power by the global economic elite.  Thus neoliberalism in its practice has not been a “utopian project to realize a theoretical design for the reorganization of international capitalism” …. but a practical political project meant to restore the power of economic elites…. a kind of one sided neoliberalism, where government intervention is bad if it would protect labour or the environment, but government intervention is good if it will help economic elites.’ (3)

The implicit consequences of the Coalition government’s stated policies of cuts would result in less spending on public services in the UK than that of the US by 2014/15 (4).

The next Labour government must govern in the interests of the overwhelming majority, promoting equality, fairness and protection of the vulnerable …  and in particular protection of the disabled and long-term sick who are under horrifying attack by the coalition government.  There must also be an end to the hidden agendas, the ‘economies with the truth’, the ‘good days to reveal bad news’ … an end to the lying and manipulation.

However, there is an even greater related threat that does not seem to be fully appreciated by the mainstream media or our politicians.

 

The crisis of energy, peak oil production and climate warming. 

Not only has de-regulation had its impact in hastening these crises but the global population and the global economy face dire consequences from our dependence on fossil fuels.  As the 2006 Stern report moderately states:

As we reach the peak of oil production, we can almost certainly expect enormous hikes in the price of oil, combined with enormous and unpredictable dips.

 

In 2008, Stern was reported as saying that he had “badly underestimated the degree of damages and risks of climate change” in his ground-breaking 2006 report.’ (5)

 

Marxist economist and ecologist John Bellamy Foster (27.08.11) is more explicit about the inability of neoliberal capitalism to address climate change. 

‘….as the global financial crisis has turned now into a global stagnation that is affecting the economies of the triad (the United States, Europe and Japan) and much of the rest of the world … the system is unlikely to respond to climate change at all…..public attention is diverted from climate change as an issue, necessary actions are not taken while the overall problem gets worse.

The truth is that the capitalist system is unable to respond to climate change: either in periods of prosperity or stagnation, and in the latter case everything but the latest stock quotes and profit figures recede into the background.’ (6)

 

Former scientific director at Greenpeace, Jeremy Leggett (31.05.11) says ‘the dangers of peak oil are actually much worse than the credit crunch’ even if one ignores the question of emissions and climate warming.

In 2008, a group of large companies completed a business risk assessment exercise and unanimously concluded that not only was peak oil of very high consequence and very high risk but the probability is that we will reach peak oil within the next 4 years … by 2015 (7).

At some time after that point, producer countries will begin to restrict oil exports for their own domestic consumption.  The price of oil will explode but there will likely be actual shortages which will cause massive economic and social disruption.

We, in Think left, will make it a priority to focus on the imperative that an incoming Labour government be ready to address this emerging crisis, with its potentially dire consequences for the UK because it is clear that the Coalition government is not taking the very urgent and necessary steps to de-carbonise our economy.

(1) http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2011/04/blue-labour-no-thanks/#more-2264

(2) www.essex.ac.uk/ecpr/events/jointsessions/paperarchive/grenoble/ws6/barry_paterson.pdf.

(3) http://www.blogisdead.net/2009/02/review-of-david-harveys-brief-history.html

  (4) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-923X.2011.02169.x/full 

(5)  The Stern Report http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/1804159/stern-admits-report-badly-underestimated-climate-change-risks

(6)    John Bellamy Foster  http://climateandcapitalism.com/?p=5273

(7 )  Jeremy Leggett http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPKLKWIh3gA&feature=youtu.be

Written contributions welcome from those who share our analysis, philosophy and priorities.

Please contact us at admin@think-left.org

16 thoughts on “Peak Oil, Neoliberalism and Think Left

  1. Excellent stuff.

    I think that investment is large green energy projects could be our version of the Hoover Dam. That project provides vital water and energy to parts of the US nearly 80 years on from when it was built.

    We must do something – the battle for dwindling resources will lead to wars in my opinion.

    Regarding neoliberalism, we are clearly seeing it fail as miserably as communism did. A new direction must be found.

  2. I echo Garry’s concerns about world wars resulting from competition for energy resources. With the Oil Crunch now predicted to hit the world much sooner than previously anticipated, (that is at least by 2015) – see Sue’s link – we need to act now. I am also concerned about the possibility of civil unrest stemming from homelessness, unemployment and poverty. We need to consider pursuing macro projects for renewable energy sources such as more wind farms, wave power, tidal energy from a lagoon situated in the Severn Estuary. International co-operation distributing electricity around the world via High Voltage DC cables from the world’s deserts can replace fossil fuels and nuclear fuels. It is clean, pollution free and safe. We also need to extend the micro-generation projects such as the Feed-in Tarrifs. Jobs can be generated by expansion of UK manufacturing of green items such as PhotoVoltaic panels. The building of green homes which are affordable will go a long way to solve the housing crisis and unemployment. Green Energy, Green Jobs, Green Homes, co-operatives and nationalised industries such as transport and utilities, state provided education, health, care and public services will be a focus for the Think Left Manifesto. We need to turn out back on neo-liberalism, the competition in education and health and in other public services. We need to redistribute wealth, address tax abuse, and ensure a work life balance for citizens. Think Left are formulating policies to address these issues and to ensure we achieve it by a fairer and more democratic voting system, and political reform.

  3. The now defunct Sustainable Development Commission (abolished by the Coalition March 2011) also showed how much cheaper it was to ‘power down’, which is the other side of the equation. Their July 2010 report about ‘greening government’ states:

    ‘ moves towards greater sustainability made by the previous administration already save government £60-70 million every year … improvements in energy and water consumption, waste, recycling and road transport performance are likely to add up to £300-350 million over the next five years, even if no further progress is made.’

    http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/

    A mass insulation programme of the existing housing stock would not only reduce energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions but would also reduce fuel poverty, cold related deaths and illnesses, which in turn would reduce medical and social care expenditure.

    Neoliberal capitalism is about increasing the flow of income upwards. It is not about increasing well-being of either people or the planet.

    https://think-left.org/2011/07/22/increasing-the-sum-of-global-well-being-should-be-the-over-arching-and-ultimate-motivation-for-every-politician-and-policy/

  4. It is time the LP faced this problem head on, instead of burying its head in the sand & hoping it will go away. It won’t. Like in so many areas, TRUE LEADERSHIP – at local and national levels – is required to get us through the difficult times ahead. Failing this, the BNP is watching & waiting in the wings for its historical opportunity.

  5. IMO, the BNP is a Labour protest movement, a way for some working-class voters to say; “Hey – what about us – you’ve forgotten about us.” They had their time in the limelight when Labour was in power and became a neo-liberal party. The BNP’s time has now passed – it might re-emerge if Labour take power again with the same neo-liberal policies.We should concentrate on the real enemy – the present government which is intent on turning back the clock on every aspect of our society and is at the moment reversing gains hard-won for generations.

  6. Very good article..
    It was intersesting to hear on the Andrew Marr show this morning that possibly what oil is left in Libya, may be distributed to those that helped the new government to depose of Gaddafi and democratize, ie Britain, France.. Which we all knew was the reason the government took us into Libya (and ignored other places) in the first place and dressed it up as a humanitarian issue.

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