At this critical moment, heavy weapons and more of everything are what’s needed for the Ukrainian military to counter and defeat the new Russian offensive in the Donbas. But what about the next few weeks, months, and potentially, years? The chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, has stated the war could drag on “for months, maybe years." In any event, Europe is already hell-bent on getting out from under its dependence on Russian energy. We should be helping them, not begging for (mostly dirtier) energy from places like Venezuela, Iran, and OPEC+, which includes Russia.
The Russian war machine gets some $1 billion/day for its oil and gas from Germany/the European Union. Ironically, Russia's invasion has led to a spike in prices, which benefits its war effort. This can only be countered with a boycott of Russian oil and gas and sharply increased deliveries of energy products to the EU from elsewhere, the United States being the main source. Arming the Ukrainians while providing Russia with the money to wage war against them is not a winning formula.
This dysfunctional dynamic won’t end until the U.S. government stops turning a blind eye to the all-important, energy supply side of our domestic and foreign policy. In fact, the United States has the potential to step into Europe’s energy breach and send a signal to both Europe and the world that it will ramp up production to become the “fueling station of the free world,” just as we were the “arsenal of democracy” during World War II. Until we take that logical step, even a democracy like India is hedging its bets on the war given its understanding that the U.S. government is at war with fossil fuels at home and cannot be counted on as a source of critical energy imports for the Indian economy. India has held back from condemning the invasion, despite President Joe Biden’s urging, in large part because of concern over future oil supplies. The extreme vulnerability of the EU on this front is prolonging the agony of the war, for now, in Ukraine.
The U.S. administration’s war against fossil fuels at home is overshadowing the far more deadly and perilous war against Vladimir Putin’s aggression. And it’s not only about Ukraine. Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, has been quite direct and frank about his country’s goals and intentions. "We are talking,” he stated, “about changing the world order that was created by the United States, by NATO countries after the dissolution of the Soviet Union." And he was accurately reflecting his country’s official policy. Russia's foreign minister has similarly explained that the assault on Ukraine was meant to put a stop to a "rules-based" global order imposed by the West. Apparently, the only rule now should be that of superior force and unbridled brutality.
America won’t ramp up its production of fossil fuels because the Biden administration and its progressive base are committed to very long-term, and yes, debatable climate change policies. This is an administration that has adopted a “whole of government approach” to curtailing fossil fuels and to increasing their cost with the aim of reducing peoples’ consumption. The recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing requirements are the Biden administration’s latest step towards increasing the costs of fossil fuel production in the United States While the encouragement of “renewables” is laudable, do the decision-makers understand that just 3 percent of global energy consumption comes from wind and solar, and in the United States, where it’s being heavily promoted and subsidized, is still less than 5 percent of our total energy consumption? Further, the primary source of the critical minerals, mostly all imported, for both wind and solar energy is China, and mining them is, environmentally, a dirty affair with a substantial “carbon footprint.” Increased American capacity for wind and solar cannot help prevent or stop a war in Europe, or supply a country like India with energy, but the United States, with its oil and gas production unleashed, can do both while still judiciously advancing a goal of clean(er) energy.
The three most powerful adversaries of America are the ruthless dictatorships in Russia, China, and Iran, and they could not be more delighted with America’s withdrawal from fossil fuels. Arguably, that withdrawal played a role in Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. He will have counted on Europe’s immense fossil fuel dependence on Russia to restrain its response—which it did, though thankfully not to the extent that he expected.
Now, Ukrainians are being murdered and their country destroyed in some large part because the current administration won’t reconsider its near religious-ideological commitment to stemming ‘global warming” and “climate change” and say to our European allies, “We will do everything in our power to substitute U.S. energy production for what you’re currently getting from Russia.”
To be blunt, those pushing current anti-fossil fuel policies are guilty of a measure of complicity in Russia’s war on Ukraine and the suffering of the Ukrainian people. Are they “useful idiots,” unshakable religious zealots, or simply ostriches with their heads in the sand? Most likely a combination, given such compelling domestic and global realities. “The planet must be saved by the year 2100,” they say, and so today and for the foreseeable future, we must ignore real human beings raped, tortured, killed, a great nation destroyed, and the entire free world threatened. We all remember Greta Thunberg speaking before the UN General Assembly about her anguish over the environment causing her to lose her childhood. How about the children losing their actual lives as Russia bombs refugee escape corridors, maternity hospitals, and entire civilian apartment blocks? And do we have any idea of what happens if Russia wins and remains oil and gas dominant?
Isn’t that the real “existential threat” we are facing … right now?
Just an announcement that the U.S. Government is ending its “whole of government” assault on fossil fuels and reverting to the kind of energy strength we experienced pre-Biden would be a powerful signal to the world energy markets and prices, particularly, “futures,” for oil and gas would likely tumble. New investment would again flow to the energy industry. In a hotly contested U.S. political environment approaching midterm congressional elections, this would boost the party in power in no small way by reducing the prices voters have to pay to fill their gas tanks, heat their homes, and pay their utility bills. At the very least, it would show voters that their government was taking firm action to quell energy inflation and thus, all inflation.
Finally, an America that lived up to its energy potential would strengthen its challenged geostrategic standing in the world and make it a safer place, given that global power is based on three pillars: first, the vitality of an economy; second, military strength; and third, the capacity to power the first two—energy production. Dangerously, under the present administration’s policies, America’s third pillar is being willfully dismantled. I’m with Jamie Diamond, Elon Musk, and the many members of Congress who support a Marshall Plan for U.S. energy and rescuing Europe, again, but this time, from Russia. Once, “America, the arsenal of democracy” now, “America, the fueling station for freedom.”
Don Ritter holds a Science Doctorate from MIT, served fourteen years on the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce and Science and Technology Committees, served as Ranking Member on the Congressional Helsinki Commission, was the founding Co-Chair of the Baltic States-Ukraine Caucus, and created and led the National Environmental Policy Institute after leaving Congress. He is a Trustee of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) and Co-Chairs their Museum Capital Campaign. He is a founder and President & CEO Emeritus of the Afghan American Chamber of Commerce