David Blackburn

The case for naval investment

The case for naval investment
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Over at ConHome, Tim Montgomerie debates Will Inboden’s review of the main themes of the Tories foreign policy. I urge CoffeeHousers to read both articles, but the section on the relationship between energy and defence struck me particularly, recalling Liam Fox’s 2006 Chatham House speech on the subject. Here’s the premise of Fox’s argument:

“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.”

Fox pointed out that global energy competition requirements had evolved beyond Britain’s defence strategies and capabilities. Nowhere was this clearer than in our reliance on gas. The Institute for Civil Engineers estimated that 80 per cent of energy shortfall caused by increased competition for oil would be replaced by gas, 90 per cent of which will be imported through a pipeline from the continent. The problem is that Britain can only store 11 days worth of energy in case of emergency, whilst capacity is set to improve Britain would, according to Fox, “lag behind many of our European neighbours, which makes us all the more vulnerable to volatility in gas deliveries”.

This position’s shortcomings were evidenced last winter when Russia turned the tap off. As Fox argued, a European defence initiative, free from EU interference and armed with a nuclear deterrent, would limit threats posed by nation states. But the upshot is that Britain’s energy needs must become more self-sufficient. Our geography is such that, unless we carpet this green and pleasant land with giant satanic mills, renewable energy will be insufficient, leaving us to rely on biofuel and nuclear materials imported via shipping lanes that will become the playground of wannabe Blackbeards. Terrorism/piracy off the Horn of Africa could be exported to Suez, Panama, the Gulf of Guinea and the South China Sea. If we are to protect the energy that drives economic prosperity then, even during the coming era of cuts, it is vital that the Royal Navy receives the resources to command the sea.