The economy of most countries in the 20th century was built on oil. For some, oil brought unprecedented wealth and power. For others it brought repression and new forms of economic colonialism. Few oil producing countries have used their wealth wisely. But in many countries oil has been a curse. But in the 21st century, we can see that our continued dependency on oil threatens the future of all of us, both rich and poor. As supplies fall further behind demand, the world faces economic crisis and western countries are scrambling to secure their access to the last reserves.
The continued burning of fossil fuel presents another greater threat of climate change. There is a great possibility of inducing a catastrophic and permanent shift in our global climate if we burn the remaining reserves of oil. The substitution of oil with gas is a short term climate change control strategy making us more dependent on the oil producing nations. An energy transition away from oil is not just an option but inevitable since it is an indisputable fact that oil is a finite resource.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) are internationally agreed targets of tackling poverty by 2015. According to a UN report, two billion people in the developing world currently lack access to sufficient energy for their daily needs. The reliant of the world on oil economy is falling and will always fail the poor with the harsh realities of climate change likely to undermine further progress.
A Christian Aid report states that “Community Development Programmes” are more about pay offs for access to land rather than helping communities develop according to their needs. The report further made a revelation in the Niger Delta saying the Delta is a veritable graveyard of projects, including water systems that do not work, health centers that have ever been opened and schools where lessons have never been taught. Even though known oil reserves could sustain current consumption levels for the next 41 years, an increasing number of oil analysts are concerned that the peak of oil production will hit the world soon, as rising oil demands begin to outstrip increase in supply.
In simple terms the rate of production will be unable to keep up with growth in consumption. The global consumption level has already overtaken the discovery of new oil fields and also analysts say that the big discoveries have already been make and consumption is set on a collision course with production. The spectre of a supply crunch has enormous implications since we continue to be dependent on oil.
There will be violent campaigns to control governments in countries with the remaining oil reserves. The way forward is to provide a decentralized renewable energy systems locally owned and operated. This will provide physical power and political empowerment to rural areas. A New Economics Foundation report captures it well. “The price of power will be too high unless safe and renewable energy becomes the option of choice to fuel an end to poverty”, Ghana's preparedness to build more hydro-electric dams is a plus for our progress to welcome the peak oil stage and climate change.
Other renewable resources Ghana as a country can tap, is the abundant solar power, especially in the Northern sector. It is projected that the North alone can produce the solar power the country needs and even export to other countries. There must also be a shift from the use of private transport since less private cars will mean less fuel consumption and less accidents on our roads. An example that also needs to be followed is the North American Organization “Just Transition”.
This is a coalition between workers and communities affected by oil exploitation. Just transition argues that workers must be intimately involved in the process of transition from environmentally damaging activities and that the pollution industry must contribute to a fund to sustain the environment.
What Ghana can do is to start the formation of Transition Towns which will train and prepare communities for the peak oil stage which hits the world and Ghana soon. The transition campaign will include; training people to stop too much fossil burning, use of bicycles and walking, more convenient ways of storage apart from the fridge and public transport use.
Without an effort to develop clean, renewable and locally sourced fuels to replace oil, the ensuing scramble for energy could be disastrous for both the environment and world peace.
By: EDEM SREM, A JOURNALIST.