As people become aware of sustainability issues (and especially with
peak oil) they almost immediately begin to look at reducing the fossil fuel
dependence in their lives, learning to grow their own food, creating forward-looking
networks etc. Others also partake in awareness raising, as greater awareness
levels could also prove to be a key factor in how the issues take effect.
For all of the good work being done by folk, the fact cannot be escaped
that government action needs to be taken at the nation state and, more importantly,
global levels. It is indeed notable that some of the leading activists on the
peak oil issue are advocating living in small, self-sufficient communities and
also the Oil Depletion Protocol (1).
However, when pressed about the issue, the standard response from politicians
seems to be an almost dogmatic faith that the market will respond to higher
energy prices by spurring developments in further oil and gas exploration and
recovery, alternative fuels, and energy efficiency measures (2).
This inability to grasp (or at least publicly speak of) the issue is compounded
when it is understood that, even when the issue is crystal clear, no government
would be willing to act in any meaningful way, as doing so would hurt profitability
of businesses, who would in turn respond by moving capital and jobs abroad or
laying off staff. Acknowledgement of this recently came straight from the horse’s
mouth, when Tony Blair said in a press conference: “The blunt truth about
the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its
economy in order to meet this challenge” (3).
Even more recently, corporate influence over government was highlighted when
PM Blair couldn’t move quickly enough to answer calls from the leading
industrial lobby group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), to open
up a debate on a new batch of nuclear power stations (4, 5).
As the UK is faced with rapidly declining natural gas production, and a winter
that promises to be one of the coldest in recent history (6),
the CBI also notably called for changes to Britain's environmental regulations
in order to allow the burning of alternative fuels in the case of a shortage,
even if they raise pollution levels (4). The CBI director-general,
Sir Digby Jones, stated in an interview: “I'm pleased at last we are getting
some action from government. Why do we have to get to five minutes to midnight
for that to happen?” (7).
While the government is apparently leaving the market alone to solve this issue,
and business leaders are pressing government into taking action that means little
more than continuance of business as usual by being increasingly dependant on
fossil energy, it is becoming starkly clear that the only meaningful lead can
possibly come from grass roots activists.
So are we really left on our own? Must we wait until a crisis occurs before
enough people begin to demand that something truly meaningful be done? How are
ordinary folk to convince their leaders to implement policies like the Oil Depletion
The international Simultaneous Policy (SP) aims to overcome this barrier by
removing the threat of “sacrificing the economy”, as politicians
who sign the SP pledge agree to implement SP alongside other governments when
all, or sufficient, nations have agreed to do so. Citizens who adopt SP pledge
either to encourage their preferred politician/party to sign the SP pledge or,
if they have no party preference, they vote in future elections for any politician
or party (within reason) who signs the SP Pledge. This creates a no-risk situation
for politicians to declare their willingness to help solve global problems;
whilst not doing so increases the risk of losing out in elections.
Furthermore, the policy content is created by citizens and not by politicians
or industry lobby groups. The current policy proposal includes measures with
which to tackle climate change, protection of water rights, fair trade and third
world debt, corporate responsibility, abolition of WMD and reduction of conventional
arms, and monetary reform (8).
Gallup International’s “Voice of the people 2005” survey
revealed that almost two thirds of people worldwide do not feel that their country
is ruled by the will of the people. This can be seen everywhere as growing numbers
are opting out of using their votes. However, eight out of ten people interviewed
still believe that in spite of its limitations, democracy is the best system
of government (9). SP gives the increasingly large portion
of non-voting citizens a reason to go back to the polling booths, meaning the
SP voting bloc could prove to be critical in deciding the outcome of elections.
Not only has the recent UK general election proven how powerful the SP method
is (where a relatively small amount of people been effective in persuading election
candidates to sign the SP pledge, resulting in SP representation in parliament
from 10 MP's across all major political parties (10)) its wide
ranging policy content gives SP connections to a broad variety of social and
environmental organisations around the world, and indeed has the potential to
become a mass movement (11).
It may, at first sight, seem like you need to wait until an election build
up is under way in order to convince candidates to sign the pledge, but that
may not be necessary. The foremost thing is to get growing numbers of people
involved: politicians will soon follow. All it costs is a relatively little
amount of your time. So if you know someone who is concerned about the state
of the world, tell them about SP, and tell them to pass it on too, not forgetting
that SP is of course a parallel strategy and not an alternative to pushing for
action in the shorter term. It does, however, have the potential to deliver
the policies we need, not just those that powerful vested interests will tolerate.
As we cross a threshold into an era without precedent in human history, we
must coordinate our actions and votes in order to put into effect the kind of
changes that we would like to see for our world. After all, there's already
one US Republican senator calling for a man on the moon program for renewable
energy (12), shouldn't there be more?
For more information and resources, and to become an adopter, visit:
1 The Oil Depletion Protocol as proposed by the Association
for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO), see:
2 Although not always the case, this is the typical response
received from public officials when questioned about oil depletion. To see why
this is not an adequate solution see:
Hirsch, R.L, Bezdek, R.H, Wendling, R.M. “Peaking of World Oil Production:
Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management.” United States Department of
Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). February 2005.
3 BBC. “Blair makes climate summit call”. 1 November
4 Confederation of British Industry (CBI). “Powering
the future - Enabling the UK energy market to deliver”. 21st November
5 Simon Freeman. “Blair says time has come to go nuclear.”
The Times (UK). November 22, 2005.
6 For analysis on the UK gas production and cold winter issue,
7 Larry Elliott and Mark Milner. “Labour 'has mortgaged
Britain's future'”. The Guardian (UK). November 25th 2005.
8 Gallup International. “Voice of the People 2005. Trends
in democracy. Global Summary.” 19th September 2005.
9 View the Simultaneous Policy proposal in full at:
10 John Bunzl. “The UK General Election 2005: A Proving
Ground for SP’s Novel Voting Strategy.” The Simultaneous Policy
News Summer 2005.
11 Denis Robb. “Simpol’s Appeal to the Broad Public.”
The Simultaneous Policy News Autumn 2005.
12 Roscoe Bartlett. “Peak Oil resolution in U.S. House
of Representatives.” October 24, 2005.