As corporations and financial bureaucracies seek to expand their control of fossil fuels throughout 2013 we must fight to weaken the oil-state nexus, argues Mika Minio-Paluello. Part of our series of short contributions from writers and activists looking to the year ahead.
2013 could see a rapid expansion of Europe's pipeline grid, continued lip service to climate change by powerful elites and the stabilisation of counter-revolutionary forces in North Africa. Or we could shift away from a politics of control over foreign fossil fuel reserves, towards a toppling of elites and accelerated transformative politics in revolutionary Egypt and beyond.
This year and without fanfare, the quiet bureaucracy of BP, the City of London and the European Commission will be planning, authorising and financing the expansion of Europe's fossil fuel import grid, to enable the EU's continued burning of other people's geology. A seemingly mundane policy matter, this is a conflict of life and death in Europe's periphery.
The push for liberation in the Caucasus, North Africa and Central Asia is threatened by renewed support for dictators and increasing militarisation as Europe's pipeline networks are expanded south across the Sahara, east to Uzbekistan and north to the Arctic. Democracy and human rights are once again deprioritised as increased surveillance and greater military force – including drones, paramilitary police and attack helicopters – are deployed along so-called ‘energy corridors’ both on land and at sea.
Azerbaijan's presidential elections in October 2013 will further expose Britain and the EU's hypocritical rhetoric. Despite the Aliyev's regime's brutal crackdowns and growing civil disobedience against it, the autocratic president will be portrayed as a friend and a reformer - as long as he guarantees gas shipments and BP remains the largest investor in Azerbaijan.
In North Africa, revolutionary movements and counter-revolutionary forces (e.g. Muslim Brotherhood, militaries) will keep battling over future economic and energy structures. Northern governments and corporations – working through financial institutions like the IMF, EBRD and EIB – will try to impose their vision of privatised control over land, water and energy.
Slowing the relentless fossil fuel frenzy of capital and government in 2013 relies on us effectively resisting on the intersections of oppression – from London to Cairo to Baku. The fight for climate justice is obviously not just about polar bears, but also demands justice for communities whose resources Europe has stolen, accountability for fuelling conflict in the Niger Delta, freedom of movement for migrants crossing the Mediterranean, an end to militarisation of the seas from Somalia to the Gulf of Guinea and freedom from privatisation in Egypt.
In England, Scotland and Wales, we need to weaken the framework of energy dominance, according to which British (or European) demand for fuel is assumed to be a natural need that over-rides the right to freedom, justice or life for others. Weakening the oil-state nexus takes many forms: ending oil sponsorship of the arts (whether Tate, Southbank or National Portrait Gallery) in London, preventing the imposition of further neoliberal edicts on the Global South, halting subsidies for fossil fuel companies (whether in the form of military convoys or export credits), and redirecting the massive investment of pension and insurance funds away from oil and gas. Mika Minio-Paluello is a part of the environmental social justice group PLATFORM and is co-author of the The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London.