A new era of oil shocks looms if we can’t kick the fossil fuel habit

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Opinion digest: US must tax oil to reduce demand and a field day for builders and lawyers

LAST UPDATED AT 15:57 ON Wed 28 Mar 2012

A NEW ERA OF OIL SHOCKS IS LOOMING
MARTIN WOLF ON OIL PRICE RISES
In America the Republicans are blaming high oil prices on Barack Obama, says Martin Wolf in The Financial Times. "It may be good politics. But it is absurd." Oil is a global commodity, and its price is set by world markets. Even if the US increased drilling, it would have next to no effect on oil prices. If there is a specific reason for oil price rises, it is the tightening of sanctions on Iran, which the Republicans support. The real problem is supply and demand. America produces about nine per cent of the world’s oil, yet consumes about 20 per cent. A significant reduction in US demand would make a significant difference to prices. America could reduce its dependence on oil by raising taxes, but this sort of policy is considered un-American. But more oil shocks are on their way, prompted by a possible war with Iran and a rise in Chinese demand caused by increased car sales. The world is increasingly vulnerable to oil shocks, as long as demand remains high, and supply is stagnant.      

URBAN RENEWAL TRUMPS RURAL DEVELOPMENT
SIMON JENKINS ON PLANNING REFORM
At last the government has reined in the cowboy development lobbyists, says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. The builders' lobby regularly seizes on the housing shortage to argue for freeing up the countryside for construction. "But there is no shortage of land - only of land builders can most profitably develop, and that is rural land." So it’s a relief to see the latest redraft of English town and country planning legislation has replaced what read last summer like a builders' manifesto with proper planning guidance. The new document "restores the concept, central to planning in overcrowded countries, that urban renewal should come before rural development" and introduces new rules that "give due weight on the intrinsic value of ordinary English countryside", which George Osborne and David Cameron seemed to consider expendable.

IT’S A FIELD DAY FOR DEVELOPERS AND LAWYERS
SIMON HEFFER ON PLANNING REFORMS
Countryside preservation groups welcoming the latest planning report should read the small print, says Simon Heffer in the Daily Mail. The Government seems to think our economic future relies on property spivs concreting over rural Britain. That’s why its proposed new planning rules give councils the power to allow building in places where it has been banned for 65 years. Existing Green Belt rules clearly prevent housing developments on this land but the latest liberalisation of planning laws makes things murkier. Planning minister Greg Clark says that the new guidelines offer "a presumption in favour of sustainable development" but admits there was no reason why that ‘presumption’ couldn’t be overridden. Local councils will be asked to make a judgment on what is or is not ‘sustainable’, but even the legal definition of sustainable is unclear. The changes will be a field day for lawyers.

'CASH FOR ACCESS' IS NOT A CASE FOR SCOTLAND YARD
JOHN YATES ON THE TORY DONOR SCANDAL
Another political donor scandal, another call to bring in the police, says John Yates in The Daily Telegraph. Blink and you could be back in 2006, when Tony Blair was caught up in a scandal involving alleged offers of peerages for donors to the government’s academy schools project. "People were shocked that (surprise, surprise) most people want to see a ‘return’ on their money." Yet despite a number of those involved in the allegations turning up on the honours list, a police investigation failed to find any criminal wrongdoing. Donating money in the hope of receiving a reward is not an offence, nor is granting a reward in recognition of a gift. What is required is evidence of an "agreement" between two parties that the gift was in exchange for the reward. There was no evidence of this in 2006, just as there is unlikely to be in the latest Tory party donor scandal. · 

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On Oil - supply isn't stagnant-its just a function of price. Non-conventional gas has made the US a net gas exporter in just a few years. Non-conventional oil could do the same for North America for a very long time. Add gas to liquids and coal to liquids technology and there's no shortage - if your willing to pay the price.

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