Vladimir Putin, Climate Hero
By Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News
There is little doubt that Vladimir Putin is a bully. He is the worst kind, a powerful, deluded bully who has surrounded himself with yes men. He is not rational nor benevolent and appears to be only interested in securing a twisted legacy within Russia. His actions have caused the deaths of thousands of peaceful innocents and untold suffering to others. He is a murderer and dictator.
And yet Putin is singlehandedly forcing the hand of European nations to do what they have been stalling on for decades. Divestment of fossil fuels.
Chancellor Merkel, long considered one of the great leaders in Western Europe, was adored and re-elected time and again. As the leader of Germany, she was a career civil servant and diplomat who gave it all to her country. Her legacy will live on for a long time, but now it is is marred by an uneasy alliance with Putin and Russian fossil fuels.
The EU and Germany have been funding Putin’s war machine by importing fossil fuels from Russia. EU imports of Russian fossil fuels were worth around 150 billion US dollars in 2021, and these transactions have quietly continued throughout the conflict. Russia accounts for 25% of the EU’s oil imports, 45% of its natural gas imports, and 44% of its hard coal imports.
But I am not here to point fingers; who would have known that in 2022 Russia would invade Ukraine… oh wait, there was that invasion of Crimea in 2014. Or maybe it was the support of Syrian dictator Assad, forcing millions of Syrians from their homes only to become global refugees. I’m no political analyst, but those might have been indicators… Regardless, Germany and the rest of Europe have made their figurative beds and now must lay in them.
The EU can’t simply turn off the pipeline right now. Or can they?
The EU can move away from Russian fossil fuels through diversification, substitution, and reduction. There are many sources of oil, gas, and coal imports other than Russia. Currently, the EU imports around 3 million barrels of oil per day from Russia, which could be replaced by fuel from the US and Iran and by developing supply chains from Canada, Norway, the UK, and Denmark. Oil and gas companies are gleefully watching record profits hit their accounts, paying themselves dividends and buying back stock, all while spending record amounts lobbying hard against climate action with the mantra that now is not the time. Their goal? Lock us all into an ever-increasing reliance on fossil fuels with complete disregard for the effects their actions will have on future generations.
But that’s not the answer at all. Instead of spending precious time and resources merely to shift the origin of high carbon energy, now is when the world’s economies should be investing in clean energy from renewable sources in a big way. With the spectre of cascading climate change on the immediate horizon and during a period of economic rebuilding post-covid, Vladimir Putin is inadvertently setting the stage for and forcing forward the energy transition. As this transition occurs and global demand decreases, Russia’s primary source of income will begin to devalue. Its economy will continue to contract, as will many other countries that depend primarily on fossil fuel exports to prop up their GDP.
I am no economist. I know there are many much brighter, better-educated people than me working on this problem right now. I can almost guarantee that most agree shifting fossil fuel supply to new sources is a short-term solution. It does not take an economics degree to see that reliance on imported fossil fuels enriches and emboldens dictators like Putin. It makes for strange bedfellows, like the EU continuing to do business with Russia and seriously considering importing oil from Iran or shipping fuel across the world’s oceans from the USA and Canada. At the worst, it ensures an increase past 1.5 degrees of climate change and the dystopian future we all fear.
You will not become beholden to other countries and their fossil fuels if you have energy from renewable sources like wind and solar within your borders. Other countries may or may not have a history of human rights abuse, environmental degradation, or even invasion of other autonomous countries. Why risk the exposure?
Germany seems now to have taken this to heart. On May 7, 2020, it announced a new plan to get at least 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and achieve almost 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, according to DW. It will be carbon neutral by 2045. The announcement also comes as European countries vow to wean themselves off of Russian fossil fuels “well before 2030” in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Countries like Sweden, Denmark, and the UK have spent billions on wind and solar energy domestic production. They have seen mass adoption of electric vehicles. They have proven that the transition works, but it also benefits society and industry. Doesn’t it make sense for the EU to build the infrastructure to take the next step now? To accelerate toward the future that we are already poised to take anyway?
My guess is that it does, and yes they will. The transition is happening now, and it will only accelerate in the months to come.