Is the Middle East crisis the wake-up call we need?

It’s been a while coming, but with the latest shake-up in the Middle East – this time in Libya – media and political voices are beginning to call ever more loudly and forcefully for the world to re-think its dependence on oil.

This weekend the UK’s Observer newspaper reported the British government’s decision to adopt a “Carbon Plan” to try and “wean the country off oil” in the wake of the Libyan crisis.

The energy secretary, Chris Huhne, said that “Getting off the oil hook is made all the more urgent by the crisis in the Middle East. We cannot afford to go on relying on such a volatile source of energy when we can have clean, green and secure energy from low-carbon sources.”

The newspaper commented that “In recent years Britain’s interest in alternative energy has been revived, up to a point, thanks to climate change and the need for a low carbon economy. But the current instability in the Middle East may finally bring a more lasting change to the way we work and live.”

The Economist led on 5 March with a piece on ‘The 2011 oil shock’. It said that “the short-term prospects for the world economy are shakier than many realise. But there could be a silver lining: the rest of the world could at long last deal with its vulnerability to oil and the Middle East. The to-do list is well-known, from investing in the infrastructure for electric vehicles to pricing carbon.

It concluded that “The 1970s oil shocks transformed the world economy. Perhaps a 2011 oil shock will do the same – at less cost.”

So the revolts going on in the Arab-speaking world could bring not only the light of democracy to the Middle East, they might just also ensure a wholehearted turn away from oil and towards domestic renewable energy is made in the West – and beyond.

By Sarah Azau,