THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN profiteering from war. Don’t forget it was a Republican (!) president (Ike) in the 1950’s who coined the phrase ‘military industrial complex’. But we are not talking about arms now, we are talking oil and gas.
It was 50 years ago that OPEC finally realised that it could it influence both the price of oil and the world economy by controlling the taps which flowed to tankers. I remember both that time – I was a graduate student in Boston – and a decade later when I covered OPEC at the Oil & Money conference in London for the Oil Daily. I was not a regular on the international energy press parade, only an occasional participant, but I did observe the regulars competing for a few exclusive words from the Saudi or AN Other oil minister. And a misplaced word or phrase, deliberate or not, could raise or drop the price of a barrel by the end of the day.
OPEC, or what is now known as OPEC+, is not quite the force it once was, but it still knows how to play the power game. So with the supply of Russian oil, but mostly gas, now a problem, where has the industrialised world turned? What a sight to see our cringeworthy prime minister crawling to the Middle East to huddle with the despots over energy supplies. Sure Saudi Arabia would happily make up for Russian shortfalls in exchange for its pals looking the other way when it decides to jail a few dissidents and maybe murder another journalist. And what about Abu Dhabi, now the favoured location for the Russian oligarchs who are currently personae non grata in Western Europe. Plus there is Turkey where the super-yachts of this unsavoury lot are now moored. The former president of the USA, aka The Orange Peril, has been heard in the last few days cuddling up to Putin and Jinping. Imagine if he was still in The White House. Where could the Ukraine have turned for help?
When you witness this group of players in action, you realise that not much has changed in the last half century. The usual suspects are still pulling the strings.
FEW PEOPLE will have realised, until recently, how significant the Ukraine is to the world supermarkets. Its wheat, in particular, feeds millions of people in various countries around the world. Egypt, for one, has had to put further controls on wheat used to make the flatbreads that are an essential part of the diet of its very poor population. It is a similar case elsewhere. Sometimes it takes a crisis like this totally unnecessary war for the general population to understand how interconnected the world is. The idea that any country can be self-sufficient in any of the basic commodities is absurd. This is why what is happening in the Ukraine matters to all of us.
ENERGY SELF SUFFICIENCY is more than simply knowing who is supplying the oil for your car (while they still use it) or the gas for your boiler or cooker. It is about understanding how you use the energy you are paying for. A number of years ago someone asked if chargers used any energy if unconnected to its appliance. The answer then was no, but that was apparently untrue. It has been reported several times in the last week that so-called ‘vampire appliances’ suck 23% of our electricity. This includes phone and other types of chargers plus scanners, printers, shredders, et al, that all operate on a standby basis. Some things can not be turned off, ie landline telephones, digital clocks including those installed on cookers and microwaves, some tv set top boxes and, obviously, fridges and freezers. So take a minute and think about what can be turned off. I have switched off at least three phone chargers, a scanner, a printer and a shredder. As one supermarket catchphrase, ‘every little bit helps’.