Liam Fox, Shadow Defence Secretary, has given a ‘big picture’ speech this morning on energy security and the way Britain’s defence capacity must underpin that security (‘Over_A_Barrel’_speech.pdf). Key sections of the speech are quoted below:
Labour’s financial starvation of Britain’s armed forces: "This year we will spend only 2.2% of our GDP on defence – the lowest proportion of our national wealth contributed to security since 1930." Related link: The whole British army will be able to fit in the new Wembley stadium.
The three underpinnings of long-term energy security: "We are all competing for the same natural resources to feed the economic system. The potential for terrorists or even nation states to interrupt this supply to cause widespread – rather than just local – disruption increases enormously… In the years ahead energy security, economic security and national security will be inextricably linked. If we want to ensure that we can keep the lights on in Britain then we need to develop a comprehensive energy strategy. It is simply a matter of risk management. Such a strategy will need to have three components: diversity in the type of fuels we use; diversity in the geographical sources of those fuels and the security structures that will guarantee the safe transport of these fuels."
The importance of energy diversity: "The
fabled ‘dash for gas’ has come to a halt. In 2006, we will become net
importers of gas for the first time since 1997. By 2010, we are likely
to have become net importers of oil… The case made by David Cameron
for greater investment in renewable energy can be seen in its wider
context. Greater availability of renewables is not simply an
environmentally desirable end, but by diminishing dependence on
external supply, increases economic and thereby national security."
Pre-empting terrorist attacks on energy sources and supply routes:
"The real problem is not so much scarcity of resources as concentration
of easy-to-reach supplies in politically-difficult areas, along with
the additional problem of transporting these supplies through areas
that are equally difficult politically. The focus is not merely on the
country with the hole in the ground, but also the transit countries
through which the gas flows, and the sea lanes through which the oil
must be transported. Instability and interruption of supply in any one
transit country along these latter-day “silk routes” is as damaging as
it would be at source… Osama bin Laden has not described infrastructure such as oil refineries as the “hinges” of the world economy for nothing."
Russian bullying on gas: "The
concentration of gas supplies in the territories of the former Soviet
Union is an issue related not merely to the business world, but to
geopolitics and international relations in general… We will need to
keep an eye on the Russian domestic energy market, out of which some
worrying signals are emerging. Back in April, Gazprom’s chief executive
Alexi Miller warned the EU against any attempt to interfere with its
possible purchase of Centrica. “Attempts to limit Gazprom’s
activities,” he said “in the European market and to politicise
questions of gas supply, which are in fact entirely within the economic
sphere, will not produce good results”. He did not specify what these
‘not good results’ might be – political, military or economic is
unclear. But President Putin’s address to the National Assembly cannot
be ignored. It contained substantial passages detailing his plans to
enhance Russia’s military capabilities. And Russia’s military security
and energy security are as interlinked as anyone else’s." Related link: Chris Patten urges stronger line against Tsar Putin.
Should NATO members guarantee each others’ energy security?: "It
is worth noting that the Polish government has recently called for an
‘energy pact’ similar to the mutual defence clause underpinning NATO,
whereby all EU countries pledge to come to each other’s aid in the
event of an energy crisis. It is an idea that deserves serious
exploration. Hungary is 80% dependent on Russia for its oil and gas.
How would we respond in the event that a dispute between the two
countries resulted in Russia turning off the tap? …It is therefore
important that NATO develops associations with nations and regions that
can contribute to countering the key threats to our energy security.
Therefore, NATO members and interested parties should be encouraged to
form such associations, especially with the Pacific region. New
structures will be required to counter new threats to our mutual
interests. The structure and function of NATO itself needs to be
assessed. It is big picture politics and I want the Conservative Party
to be at its cutting edge."
Liam Fox concludes his speech with these remarks:
"When Churchill switched the navy from running on coal
to running on oil, it meant we no longer depended on the Welsh pits but
on the Persian oil fields. At that point, energy security became
national security. Churchill said that ‘safety and certainty in oil lie
in variety and variety alone’. It was true then and true now. We need
to ensure that a variety of energy sources are available for our
economy, be they coal or gas or nuclear or renewables. We need to
ensure that they are drawn from different geographical regions to
minimise the risk of disrupted production. But our whole approach must
be underpinned by a security margin of resilience which only updated
global military structures can provide. The gauntlet has been thrown
down to us. The question is whether we can, or will, rise to the