The Strategic Importance of Renewable Energy

There are three principal reasons why British renewable energy is strategically important. They are, safety of supply, price stability and developing 21st century industries. These are central to the national interest.

Safety of Supply

The Royal Navy protects British shipping passing through the straits of Hormuz. Britain’s defence of oil interests led to a multi-billion pound investment in two aircraft carriers: HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. Asymmetric warfare renders them obsolete. They, and their flotilla of support ships, are a hidden subsidy for the oil industry.

Renewable energy generation is dispersed across millions of supply points from roof tops to vast wind farms. There are no choke points. Renewable energy can’t be held hostage by hostile forces. This diminishes the role of the Royal Navy as part of Britain’s total energy costs. Ending British provocation of Iran and other middle-east states will flow from a diminution of the Royal Navy’s presence in the Gulf region. This will be a major contribution to world peace and will contribute to the stabilisation of the entire region. An important benefit piggy-backing on the principal decision.

Price Stability

Oil is priced in dollars. Therefore currency fluctuations immediately effect the balance of payments and consumer prices. In the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit referendum the pound devalued by 14%. Britain’s nett $15 billion oil import costs increased overnight, with an immediate impact on consumers and their standard of living.

The pound would become more stable if Britain was self-sufficient in energy supplies. The oil price is volatile, in part, because it’s controlled by a handful of global companies and traders. These companies wield geo-political power beyond supply. Converting to a 100% renewable energy supply industry would help rebalance the British economy, freeing us from economic blackmail. The straits of Hormuz are the most blatant example but OPEC is an institutionalised, if diminishing, external force shaping Britain’s economy.

21st century Industries

Industrial revolutions aren’t cosy. A 100% renewable energy strategy will destroy carbon based industries. The 19th century Luddites were briefly important because the state didn’t have mechanisms available to mitigate socio-economic disruption. That disruption was real and ominous to those watching their lifetime investments and skills disappear. Destroying carbon based legacy industries is a necessary prelude to the ultimate known unknown: the future.

There’s a compelling case for turbocharging renewable energy investment through tax credits as happened in the 1980s for North Sea oil. Investing in the future is appetising as it has connotations of good government. Using tax positively encourages innovation and start-ups. Even better, when they fail they aren’t a government failure – wasting taxpayers’ money. It’s a private enterprise failure. The direction of travel into known unknowns is best left to innovators but government must provide a comfort blanket of support for them and the broader society as creative destruction wreaks havoc on imagined certainties.

Conclusion

Renewable energy is an imperative. Britain’s industrial future depends on promoting it so that our energy supply is secure, stable and shifting us into new industrial territory. The climate emergency provides a context for what is independently vital. The Manhattan Project, 1942-5, took warfare from a recognisable centuries old form to 20th century mass destruction. In short, where there is a strategic imperative and resources are made available, the world can be reshaped in a relatively short period of time.

Sources

For the cost of the aircraft carriers see https://www.forces.net/news/hms-queen-elizabeth-all-you-need-know-about-britains-aircraft-carrier

For the subsidies that renewable energy get in comparison to fossil fuels see http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/faqs/do-renewable-energy-technologies-need-government-subsidies/

For the carrier strike group see https://www.forces.net/news/what-makes-carrier-strike-group

For the cost of oil imports see https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN04046/SN04046.pdf

and also https://www.quora.com/What-proportion-of-its-oil-imports-does-the-UK-get-from-the-Middle-East

For the impact of the dollar see https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/06/14/europes-dream-escaping-the-dictatorship-of-the-dollar/ and for the post-Brexit devaluation see https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/aug/19/the-post-brexit-pound-how-sterlings-fall-affects-the-uk-economy

For government support for nuclear energy see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/2-billion-support-for-hinkley-point-c

For a quick article on creative destruction see https://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/CreativeDestruction.html

For the current, 2020, government strategy on promoting electric cars see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-launches-road-to-zero-strategy-to-lead-the-world-in-zero-emission-vehicle-technology

For a dispersed energy supply see https://oedeboyz.com/2017/05/09/10000-roofs-germanys-green-energy-policy/

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