Why do governments and public opinion not express more vocally their concerns on the danger of sustaining economic growth on ‘total’ oil dependency? Throughout the 20th century, world history has been an illustration of ‘sad’ stories of sufferance, pollution, and instability directly linked to energy issues. Regions of the world, such as Latin America, the Middle East, and now Africa, have paid a political price for Occidental oil addiction; other regions have paid an environmental price. The latest spill in the Gulf of Mexico following the sinking of the drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, is the latest example and must be the last one.
Surprisingly enough, the discourse of European and American media has opted for descriptive analysis of BP policies, the ‘harsh’ words of the US Senate and President Obama towards BP, and other side stories about the situation on the ground in Florida and Louisiana. So far, the ‘real’ debate on energy reform has been taboo. No governments in Western Europe and even the US have clearly called for a reform of their energy policies.
As history has repeatedly proved, western governments will push for limited greener energy policies without addressing the roots of the problem. Ultimately, the option resides in the hands of civil societies and NGOs, which should more actively lobby political leaders to do so. Thus, the current economic chaos has been a useful political platform in order to limit such reforms. As often expressed in the US by conservative leaders, diversification of energy policies has been presented as a disruptive option affecting the economic recovery and growth. Across the Atlantic, however, the address on this matter is no more existent.
Having experienced the consequences of the financial crisis, affecting directly social policies and the existence of the welfare state, then seeing the continuous destruction of the environment in order to maintain an unsustainable way of life, one should expect a more vocal public opinion demanding major reforms and structural changes. Very often key policies are not introduced from top to bottom, but the other way around. So, how many more oil spills do we need in order to understand that time has come to seek for alternative way of life and production? It is time to start the 21st century with a new vision and an ‘environmental’ understanding of human role on earth. This debate is not new, and has too many times been undermined by conservative policies, lobby groups and multinational corporations. It is time to face the truth and not lose this opportunity to adjust our mode de vie.