Sunday, 24 August 2014

Immediate Reflections on News of the Fall of Tripoli in Libya

'The weekend's developments threaten to tilt the country across the line from troubled post-Arab spring democracy to outright failed state.
Egypt and Sudan are known to be watching developments closely, and last week the French president, François Hollande, said that despite the crises in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and Gaza, his "biggest concern at the moment is Libya".' Guardian report August 24 2014
The fall of Tripoli an, perhaps, Libya to militant Islamists is the consequence of the foolish conviction that democracy could heal all divisions with a society long under a secular dictatorship and lead to increased oil and gas security for the Western nations.

As with Iraq, the removal of Gaddafi has led to an increased war over who is going to dominate Libya and its copious oil reserves and the stage in set for an unrelenting civil war, decivilisation and barbarity of the kind now playing itself out in Syria and Iraq.

An Islamist controlled Libya could lead to a cut off of gas and oil supplies to Italy and other European nations that receive Libyan gas at a time when Russia and Ukraine are on the potential brink of conflict. Dependence upon Russian gas could only increase as a result of events in Libya.

The attempt to sabotage and blow up gas installations in Algeria in 2013 was aided by Islamist militants from Libya. Islamists in control in Libya could use gas as a tool to threaten Western economies just as they tried to blow up gas installations in Algeria controlled by British Petroleum

The fragile economic recovery of Mediterranean countries such as Italy could be affected should the chaos or deliberate policy lead to Libyan gas being shut off as it accounts for around 15% of consumption and has been increasing due to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

At any rate, fuel prices would rise in Italy and other Eurozone nations as they compete for Norwegian and Dutch gas and supplies from elsewhere such as Qatar, one reason why the Western Powers, whether Britain or France or Italy, are bound to continue to support Qatar's demands that Assad in Syria must go.

Unless, it is understood that energy geopolitics determines foreign policy, then all these decisions about 'humanitarian intervention' are bound to seem inexplicable and destined to repeat the same failures because the political elites are foolish. But its European energy dependence that is the cause.

The demand for military intervention in the Middle East and Maghreb since the US withdrew from Iraq has come mostly from energy dependent European states. Unlike the US which has shale oil and gas to fall back on, energy intensive consumerist societies such as Spain and Italy and France do not.

Italy depends on Libyan oil for as much as 22 per cent of crude oil consumption. Spain for 13%. As Herman Franssen, former chief economist of the International Energy Agency put in 2011 “Europe has to choose between becoming more dependent on Russia or the Middle East, or both”.

With Russia and Ukraine at odds and Syria and Iraq being in chaos the time is way overdue for a serious condideration for energy alternatives such as nuclear power as well as trying to restructure the economy away from the heavy over reliance on oil and gas.

The alternative is the Western nations being dragged in to further wars that result in terrorist blowback and multiple evils.The alternative to making the search for alternatives to oil and gas to underpin consumer lifestyles is, quite frankly, an epoch in which European nations endure economic slumps and political instability.

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