The terrorist attack in London this week demonstrated the importance of maintaining constant vigilance. Similar attacks have occurred in Europe and around the world, and the ensuing backlash against Muslim communities has alienated huge tracts of the population of European cities. Violent clashes involving anti-Muslim protestors are not uncommon. But treating this event (and the growing threat of terrorism) as a cultural or religious phenomeon is disingenuous. Fuelled by a thirst for oil, war in the Middle East has caused untold suffering in the region and has compounded anti-Western sentiments around the world. This makes it far easier for terrorist networks like Al Qaeda to recruit and ‘radicalise’ young men, who then go on to commit attacks such as the one in Woolwich, London, and direct attacks on oil and gas supplies destined for Western markets. When it comes to terrorism, our insatiable appetite for fossil fuels has a lot to answer for.
Fighting terrorism with green energy
Green energy presents a multi-faceted solution. First, renewable energy does not have such a strong link with terrorist groups – even the fact that most renewable energy is produced domestically goes a long way to reducing the ability of terrorist groups from feeding off the market.
Secondly, developing renewable energy solutions can be used to tackle specific terrorist threats. Speaking at his birthday celebrations in 2006, Israeli president Shimon Peres highlighted the capacity for renewable energy to dramatically reduce the benefit terrorists can reap from oil markets.
“When the price of oil rises, the terrorist organizations feel better; the feeling needs to be brought back down,” said Peres. “Attacking oil fields is foolish. We can attach with energy, meaning create alternative energy.”
While nations around the world have different individual terrorist and militant groups to overcome, the Western world’s reliance on conventional (i.e. non-renewable) energy sources is something that developed nations all have in common. The necessity for global cooperation in green energy is more important now than it ever has been.
In addition to the real prospect of ‘conventional’ terrorism in Europe and North America, the looming threat of energy terrorism grows larger. Attacking a nation’s energy sources directly is far more feasible when they are conventional, fossil fuel infrastructure networks: Pipelines remain a popular target in North Africa and there is no reason why terrorist groups could not cause similarly disruptive damage in Western countries.
The economy depends on the reliable supply of energy for it to continue, prosper and grow. Again, the problem of importing energy from other countries means that they are in control – furthermore, it increases the potential exposure of the energy routes to terrorist and militant groups.
The impact of this can be felt at consumer level, at the pumps. One truck filled with explosives can take 6 million barrels of oil out of the market for twelve months – this has a huge knock-on effect on the oil market and is tangibly damaging to Western consumers and businesses.
The process of plundering the planet for its resources is an inherently dangerous one, even in developed countries like the United Kingdom where the industry claims a handful of lives on average every year. However in emerging economies and less economically developed nations in particular (where regulation is even less strict than it is in the West) conventional energy is an even more dangerous business for the people who work in it – the famous fiasco with the Chilean miners is one of the few heartwarming stories from an industry filled with disease, injury and death. Miners die in China on a near-weekly basis, and accidents such as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disasters have devastating immediate and long-term effects.
Because the battlefield is on the other side of the world, we forget that we are in a state of war. The ability of the West to produce enough of its own energy to survive will be key in future, but this is especially relevant during times of unrest – it constitutes our biggest weakness as a culture and must be protected.
An investment in renewable energy represents an investment in the security of our nation and other nations around the world. If governments cannot be persuaded to fight for the welfare of our planet then perhaps they can be encouraged to reduce the impact terrorists can have on their populations; green energy will take power out of the hands of terrorist and put it back into the hands of the people.