How to break the oil addiction

  • Written by  Marco Magrini
  • Published in Energy
Oil refinery in Saudi Arabia Oil refinery in Saudi Arabia Anekoho
01 Jun
2016
Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This month, Marco Magrini looks at our oil dependency

A Saudi royal is predicting an end to the oil era and is preparing the realm’s economic shift to a post-fossil fuel age. It may sound like the subplot of a sci-fi novel set in a not-too distant apocalyptic future, but this is exactly what deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman indicated was happening during an interview with Saudi TV channel Al Arabiya. ‘We have a case of addiction to oil in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’, said the 31-year-old. Since the Arab country’s budget is much too dependent on crude revenues, the economy has to be reformed. For different, yet coincidental reasons, it is what many other economies of the world are also having to do.

The Paris Agreement dictates a systemic energy revolution in order to hold ‘the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels’. This translates into the bold actions needed to enter the post-oil era, well before the last drop of oil is gone. Not that we are completely off-track: according to the World Resources Institute, 21 countries – including the UK – have decoupled their economic growth from carbon emissions in the last decade and a half. It is good news, even though it is mostly due to the shrinking industrial sector’s share of its respective national economies. In the US, it was largely propelled by the shift from coal to shale gas in electricity generation.

If our economies were to price fossil fuels correctly, solar and wind energy would be competitive overnight

The Paris treaty’s ambitious climate goals demand radically new economic policies. While it’s indeed possible for the markets’ invisible hands to push clean-tech investments forward, the gateway to a post-oil era is made of laws, regulations and, well, common sense.

Since you can’t have your cake and eat it, why keep on subsidising the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $550billion a year, four times the money spent on sustaining renewables? If even Prince Mohammed vows to reduce subsidies, why is the US squandering $20billion a year in tax breaks and incentives to oil, coal and gas?

If humankind is serious about fighting climate change, why wait on putting a price on carbon emissions? Nowadays, oil is ultra-cheap as its price doesn’t include the collateral damages it provokes. If our economies were to price fossil fuels correctly, solar and wind energy would be competitive overnight.

This was published in the June 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Long live the King
    It is barely half a century since the Born Free story caused the world to re-evaluate humanity’s relationship with lions. A few brief decades later,...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital has a green future, ...
    The Money Trail
    Remittance payments are a fundamental, yet often overlooked, part of the global economy. But the impact on nations receiving the money isn’t just a ...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Wildlife

Aaron Gekoski continues working alongside the Wildlife Rescue Unit

Geophoto

Today, the camera is regarded as an essential smartphone feature.…

Oceans

An innovative new theory hopes to save millions of lives…

Wildlife

Aaron Gekoski continues his personal adventure into the wilds of…

Wildlife

Simple tracking devices have enabled conservationists to amass big data,…

Climate

In a new report, researchers have calculated the global emissions…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Wildlife

The latest episode sees ‘Bertie’ enlisting in wildlife rescue boot…

Energy

Icelandic engineers are attempting to harness the powerful geothermal energy…

Wildlife

New video series tracks the journey of Aaron Gekoski as…

Energy

Newly-developed ‘sustainable rubber’, produced using recycled food waste, could one…

Geophoto

This winter has seen frequent storms and flooding hitting many…

Wildlife

The bison, Poland’s symbol of nature conservation, already faces controversial…

Wildlife

Wolves have arrived at a wildlife park in Devon as…

Climate

An unassuming beach in Denmark is absorbing record-breaking levels of…

Energy

The environmental cost of military activities is significant. Could new…

Wildlife

Latest figures suggest that there are more than twice as…

Tectonics

How does the proposed allocation of ‘Zealandia’ as an independent…

Wildlife

Is extinction forever? While most would assume that yes, extinction…

Geophoto

Wide-angle photography is perhaps the best way to recreate the…