Russia and Fossil Fuel Dependence

The crisis in Ukraine dramatically underscores the national security and economic risks of our continued dependence on fossil fuels.

Russian President Vladimir Putin committed an unprovoked act of aggression by invading its smaller neighbor. The war has quickly degenerated into an escalating series of criminal attacks against civilian targets. The result is a growing nightmare of human deaths and suffering, condemned around the world for its injustice and brutality. 

That central wrong has also caused a cascading series of lesser but still very real economic hardships for millions of people in many nations, as their costs of living spike higher because of rising fuel costs. Predictably, oil industry profiteering has worsened those effects, but oil lobbyists and their pet politicians are still calling for more dependence on fossil fuels by drilling more on our shores and off our coast. 

“Every administration looks at this situation and recognizes that it’s not just a near term crisis, where we’re gonna have to try to pump more to deal with it. It’s a long-term crisis. And as long as we depend on oil and natural gas, we’re going to keep coming back here…. What we need to do to improve our energy security and protect our national security is what we need to do to deal with climate change,” said former Assistant Secretary of Defense Sharon Burke at a press conference on clean energy and national security hosted by Foreign Policy for America, the national League of Conservation Voters (LCV), and Climate Power last week.

By far the smarter strategy is to accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels altogether. Solar and wind power can’t be disrupted by bloodthirsty dictators half the world away, and their costs are beyond the reach of oil profiteers to set. Without their power to disrupt international markets for fossil fuels, dictators like Putin will feel less emboldened to act on the assumption that they are above accountability. 

In fact, Ukraine’s leading climate scientist, Svitlana Krakovska, recently said, “I started to think about the parallels between climate change and this war and it’s clear that the roots of both these threats to humanity are found in fossil fuels. Burning oil, gas and coal is causing warming and impacts we need to adapt to. And Russia sells these resources and uses the money to buy weapons. Other countries are dependent upon these fossil fuels, they don’t make themselves free of them. This is a fossil fuel war. It’s clear we cannot continue to live this way, it will destroy our civilization.”

Zero emission vehicle and clean energy incentives in President Biden’s climate package would cut American oil demand enough to replace Russian imports by 2027.

“After decades of the United States being dragged into deadly conflicts over oil supplies, with countless dead, enough is enough. It’s time to turn our strategic mission to securing a clean and secure energy future for ourselves, for our allies, and for the world,” says Admiral Dennis McGinn, former Assistant Secretary of the Navy for energy, installations, and environment. “For the United States, energy independence must mean clean, renewable, independent energy. The fate of our national security — and position in the world — is linked to how seriously we commit to building a clean energy economy.”

Two recent polls conducted for LCV and Climate Power (here and here) show American voters with us on the need to rapidly transition toward clean energy and clean transportation for the sake of our economy and national security. Now Congress must listen to the people. Tell them to act now!

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