Buoyed by the black stuff

Posted by Ian
If you’re a motorist, what would you say is playing more on your mind today: the potential global economic consequences of the continuing conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, or how much you’re likely to have to shell out when you stop off at the petrol station on the way home from work?
The realities of having to cough up a further few pence at the pump – like you had to do last week and the week before that – can sometimes have far more immediacy than switching on the news of an evening and seeing, to be brutally superficial, another piece of footage of another building reduced to rubble and another group of people reduced to living in another bomb shelter.
Yet the two are linked. We’re forever being told of how we must learn to embrace globalisation, accept the world is shrinking, and come to terms with how the UK can no longer compete or survive as an significant power without allowing our economy to ebb and flow with the international markets. 
A lot of the time this kind of talk feels just that: talk. It’s lofty rhetoric, somewhat remote from the business of day-to-day living. Yet the consequences of globalisation, in particular the free movement of raw materials around the world, is arguably influencing our daily routines and rituals more than ever.
One of the most potent examples is oil. Why, in 2003, was the US so keen to, depending on your point of view, liberate/invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein? Why, thirteen years previously, was Iraq so keen to, depending on your point of view, liberate/invade Kuwait? And why, a few hours ago, did Israel break a 48-hour ceasefire and resume its air bombardment of Lebanon?
Do a bit of digging on the internet and you’ll be able to find both learned economists and arch-conspiracists offering just one word as an answer. And last week we ran a feature on the homepage examining the arguments concerning just how much of a role the pursuit of oil is to blame for the present Middle East crisis and how such an issue could have further impact on all of us in the future.  
Today, though, we’re currently leading with an article on how the forces of globalisation have reached your own forecourt. We’ve been asking for your comments on the ongoing rise in petrol prices, and you’ve been responding by the score. Interestingly, you’re laying the blame at the door of everyone from Gordon Brown to your local council to the US to the giant companies to, yes, globalisation itself.
We’ve decided to continue to reflect these inter-linking themes throughout the week on the homepage, starting later today with a piece looking at the ongoing controversy surrounding the cost a different kind of energy: electricity.  
Meanwhile, consider who stands to lose the most from the cost of an extra journey to the corner shop this evening, the cost of another day’s interrupted flow of pure crude from the Iraqi oil fields, or the cost of another few inches of territory gained and lost in southern Lebanon. There are probably as many answers as there are cars on the roads, wells in the desert and troops on the ground. All of which rely on the black stuff. And that black stuff, unfortunately, has to be paid for.
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