Ukraine War: Clean Energy Tipping Point?

How does the war in Ukraine relate to the global shift to clean energy? The US and its allies are in the process of sending Ukraine billions of dollars in financial and military aid to help them fight the invading Russians. The US and its allies have also tried to sanction Russia as severely as possible for their aggression in Ukraine. The most severe sanctions would be for all countries to stop all payments to Russia for oil and gas. The US as already taken this step. However, Western European countries are paying many billions of dollars per year to Russia for oil and gas, which Russia uses to buy more missiles, bombs, planes, tanks, etc. to destroy Ukraine. Ironically, Western Europeans are with one hand giving the Ukrainians weapons to fight the Russians and with the other hand giving Russia the money to buy armaments to kill Ukrainians.

Unfortunately, Germany, for example, gets nearly half of its gas from Russia, which Germany uses for heating buildings and homes. Therefore, Russia is holding the Germans hostage. The Germans would be freezing and paying severely at the gas pumps if they cut off all payments to Russia for gas and oil immediately. Germany has promised to cut gas payments to Russia by two-thirds by the end of the year, but that is the quickest they can act. Even if the US and its close allies are able to stop all importation of fossil fuels from Russia, there are countries like China and India that aren’t willing to support sanctions against Russia and will continue to buy fossil fuels from Russia if it is economical for them to do so. Unless the whole world is weaned off of fossil fuels, it will not be possible to totally sanction Russian for its unprovoked war and extreme cruelty to the people of Ukraine.

The US and Allies are Imposing the Most Extreme Sanctions Ever on a Major Power

Not only have the US and its allies sanctioned Russia’s biggest banks, Putin, and many Russian oligarchs, but Russian airplanes and ships are banned from European and American airports and ports. 750 firms, like McDonald’s and Exxon, have shut down all operations in Russia. After all the extreme cruelty by Russian soldiers in small towns like Bucha and the extreme cruelty of Russian officers in targeting hospitals, theaters, railroad stations, and apartment blocks which were solely occupied by civilians with missiles and artillery in Ukraine, it will be a long time if ever before Putin and Russia are forgiven for this unprovoked war. The best way to punish Russia for this war is to ween the world off of fossil fuels. With that motivation, it might be enough to break loose from the Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) of the fossil fuel industry and join those who are already convinced that we must stop burning fossil fuel if we intend to save the planet.

Solar power plant in Crimea, Ukraine (currently occupied by Russia). Photo by CleanTechnica.

Solar and wind electricity generation are already less expensive than electricity from coal or fossil gas. Battery electrical power for light vehicles has already been shown to be a superior technology to internal combustion engines. These technologies are well on their way to dominance. Plugin car sales in March 2022 in Norway exceeded 92%, with Norway’s total car fleet (all cars on the road, not just new car sales) already at 22%. You can argue that Norway is a small country with a small vehicle market, but in China, which has the largest car market in the world, plugin car sales reached 26% in March of 2022. Plugin car sales are on the verge of exponential growth in many countries. If these technologies become truly dominant, the demand for fossil oil and gas will be reduced to near zero. However, neither EVs nor solar and wind power generation will be adopted soon enough without government intervention.

If you look around the world at the major oil-producing countries, only the US is not run by autocrats. If you can control the oil production of your country, you can easily continue to rule as a king or autocrat by bribing the populous with the proceeds from oil sales. In 2020, the US ranked #1 in the world in terms of military spending, at $778 billion, outpacing the next 9 highest spenders combined, which came out to $703.6 billion. A big justification of such a huge military budget is to protect the autocrats who control oil-producing countries and guard the transportation routes that bring the oil from the producing countries to the oil-consuming countries.

Until recently, the US imported a large portion of its oil from the Middle East and South America. At that time, there was more pressure for the US to reduce consumption and increase production. More recently, due to fracking, the US has become the biggest oil producer in the world, and it can produce all the oil it needs locally. For this reason, the multi-millions the fossil fuel industry has paid Republican politicians to promote FUD against the green energy movement has been particularly effective. Why do we need to change anything if we are energy sufficient?

However, many oil-consuming countries that produce very little oil, like Germany, must make huge payments every year to oil-producing countries like Russia, which is not good for their economies. If we could transition quickly to clean energy and clean light vehicles, it would be huge benefit for Germany and other European oil-consuming countries. Even though the US is basically energy sufficient, we are still obliged to protect the sea lanes for oil transportation to our allies. A total switch to battery electric vehicles for transportation and heat pumps for heating would make the world a better place where no oil-consuming countries could be held hostage and the US could manage with a much smaller military budget.

How does helping Ukraine to win the war against Russia relate to green energy? The war in Ukraine has demonstrated that it’s no longer good enough to be energy sufficient in the US. Gas prices in the US are very high now because they depend on the global price of oil. Even though there is no shortage of oil in the US, the global shortage effects the prices here. By transitioning the world to total clean energy electrical production and total electrical energy consumption, a country like Russia whose economy is dominated by fossil fuel energy production could no longer be able to afford to wage war against its neighbors.


 


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