That doesn't mean I'm a so-called 'denier' nor does it mean that I don't care about the world we live in. It also doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the follies of fossil fuel and its wider implications on the health of the environment and the world's finely balanced ecosystems. On the contrary, I do care. I care because it's my home too. I'm not blind to the giant-sized mess we're all making and I absolutely realise that continuing as we have been is no longer an option.
As far as I'm concerned, it's not all about CO2 and global warming. There are plenty of other big problems that need equally urgent attention, such as plastic waste and pollution, including the presence of microplastics in our food chains and water supplies. Those of us who take a modicum of interest in the world about us realise that many of these environmental issues have their roots firmly embedded in the machinations of the petrochemical industry. We needn't look too far or too hard to find evidence of all the detrimental effects being brought to bear by the extraction and refinement of crude oil.
But it's all well and good to bleat on about these things like some individuals from "Just Stop Oil" have been doing recently. Some of their ranks have even taken to dangling themselves from suspension bridge cables as a way to attract attention to their cause and their demand that all future UK oil and gas extraction should be halted. But, let's face it, this isn't the best time to actually stop producing our own domestic oil and gas, given the current state of affairs. Personally, I don't fancy winter power outages nor do I particularly like the idea of further crippling energy price hikes either. Taking any amount of oil or gas out of the current marketplace will only exacerbate those risks.
Of course, some green lobbyists have long called on governments to apply additional levies on fossil fuels in order to help discourage it's continued use. But none of this adds up when the very same lobbyists claim that 'social justice' and the wellbeing of others lies at the core of their agendas. As far as I can see, adding substantive green levies onto already high energy prices impacts the poorest in society first. Surely, the current economic climate is testament enough for that argument to stick? What I'm asking is where's the 'social justice' when making energy even more unaffordable for the very poorest by adding green levies. Such levies go towards enriching some already very wealthy landowners who rent their land for the purpose of creating huge wind and solar farms.
"Just Stop Oil" is a coalition of groups working together to ensure that the UK Government commits to ending all new licenses and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels including fracking. Sounds good on paper doesn't it? Until, that is, we examine some basic facts and figures; such as the UK producing less than 1% of global emissions. Yes, one percent!
No matter how much economic self-harm we in the UK bestow upon ourselves in the name of environmentalism, none of it will make one iota of difference when looking at the bigger picture. The UK would hardly set any sort of significant precedents for the rest of the world to follow even if activists did get their way and stopped fossil fuel being extracted. I can't ever imagine that the Chinese authorities would ever be influenced by the wiles of a handful of ideologically driven UK activists! No one stands in the way of China’s mighty economic ambitions.
Nevertheless, "Just Stop Oil" continues to fervently believe that the UK can stand alone and occupy the moral high ground when it comes to ensuring the long-term survival of humanity. The group declares that we already have more oil and gas than we can ever afford to burn. Others would suggest that we cannot afford NOT to use our oil and gas if our economy is to stand any chance of recovery. The "Just Stop Oil" website earnestly declares that the UK should end its reliance on fossil fuels completely and forge ahead with renewables, cutting energy demand, insulating British homes and even rethinking how much traveling we do. It's almost a defeatist agenda which largely relies on some kind of mutually agreed social regression.
To me, these ideologies centre around the notion of unilaterally crippling an already ailing economy which is actually only responsible for less than 1% of global emissions. Somehow, I don't see their ideas resonating with much of anyone. In all honesty, do you?
Having said that, "Just Stop Oil" is a rapidly growing movement who hold 20 or 30 public meetings each week across the UK. Their methods seem unorthodox and may even be abhorrent to many onlookers. Acts such as throwing coffee at a priceless work of art or sending a bunch of activists to deliberately shut down vital road links might even smack of cranks and extremists. But, clearly, they seem to be striking a chord amidst like-minded individuals and groups.
Here's my dilemma. You see, I don't actually disagree with "Just Stop Oil's" core values. If only it was as easy as they're making it out to be. It's blatantly obvious that fossil fuels are ultimately finite as well as harmful to the environment. On that, we can all agree? It's also becoming increasingly clear that buying fossil fuels means enriching tyrants and despots who are more than willing to hold the entire world to ransom if they so-choose. We can all see that individual territories must develop their own coherent energy policies and wean themselves off having to depend on precarious 'just-in-time' energy supply chains and focus on national energy security strategies instead. All this might not sit well with globalist ideals but the day has come when it's abundantly clear that we cannot rely on blindly trusting all the world and its dog. When push comes to shove, protectionism is alive and well and it's just a form of political pragmatism. Charity begins at home.
Renewables, nuclear and perhaps one day even fusion will be integral components of national energy strategies going forward. But all of it will take a lot of time and a great deal of investment. Turning off the taps on fossil fuel in any sort of haste is a non-option until feasible alternatives come online, otherwise we risk backing ourselves into a continuous cycle of energy crises. This would be both socially as well as economically devastating.
However, the current shortages are contrived. Gas is scarce and expensive because someone has chosen to close off supplies. For the rest of us, all this should represent a shot across the bow. One day these finite fossil fuel reserves will genuinely be in short supply because of depletion. Very clearly, we need to be prepared. The lessons should be verily learned by now.
Douglas Hughes is a UK-based writer producing general interest articles ranging from travel pieces to classic motoring.