At around 6AM in Russia on February 24th Vladimir Putin announced the invasion of Ukraine on Russian television.
It took the largest oil and gas lobbying firm in the U.S. roughly 24 hours to try and use the biggest political crisis in nearly a century to try and grab land in the U.S. for expanded fossil fuel drilling and exploration.
This comes despite the fact that oil and gas companies are currently sitting on 13.9 million acres of unused and non-producing federal lands, 9.3 million of offshore acreage, and 7,700 approved permits to drill that are going unused, according to figures from the Department of the Interior.
The American Petroleum Institute has a history of climate change denialism and coverups dating back to at least the 1960s. And while boosting natural gas production would save money for U.S. consumers in the short term, long term dependence on fossil fuels remains one of the major threats to U.S. security.
"[Fossil] fuels, as well as the nations' fragile electricity grid, pose significant security risks to the country as a whole and the military in particular, according to a 2009 report from the non-profit, non-partisan think tank CNA.
Fossil fuels and the businesses that sell them are bound to the war in Ukraine in knots that are nearly impossible to untie.
Russian oil and gas exports are a huge part of its economy and Europe is the biggest buyer. The EU receives about 40% of its natural gas from Russia. Depending on the changing price of energy, fuel accounts for anywhere from 10% to 25% of the Russian economy. So Western Europe is paying an invading country for its energy needs.
A transition away from fossil fuels would go a long way to breaking not just Europe's dependence on Russian energy, but also Russia's economic power in the world. Both Russia and Europe are well aware of this.
Before the Olympics took place in Beijing, Russia and China signed a long term partnership agreement that would see China become a much larger buyer of Russian oil and gas. The aim was to move Russia away from economic dependence on Europe.
That move looks strategically significant as Europe is now racing to end its reliance on Russian oil and gas, as The Washington Post reported earlier this week.
“A strong European Union cannot be so reliant on an energy supplier that threatens to start a war on our continent,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a conference of security-focused European policymakers Saturday.
And Europe is pushing more strongly into renewables even as pundits in the U.S. clamor for more oil and gas exploration.
Reliance on fossil fuels weakens the European and US position against Russia, as one of Russia's members of the country's security council pointed out.
“German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has issued an order to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline,” tweeted Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council and a former prime minister. “Well. Welcome to the brave new world where Europeans are very soon going to pay €2,000 for 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas!”
Renewable energy advocates are pointing out that there's an obvious solution to this mess that doesn't involve drilling more wells (something the International Energy Agency said would need to stop in 2021, if the world wanted to hit net-zero targets based on current technologies).
It's something that the longtime renewable energy advocate, naturalist, and activist, Bill McKibben noted in a recent opinion piece for The Guardian.
"This is not a 'war for oil and gas' in the sense that too many of America’s Middle East misadventures might plausibly be described," McKibben writes. "But it is a war underwritten by oil and gas, a war whose most crucial weapon may be oil and gas, a war we can’t fully engage because we remain dependent on oil and gas. If you want to stand with the brave people of Ukraine, you need to find a way to stand against oil and gas."
For Europe to create an energy grid independent from Russian oil and gas will take years, but American calls for doubling down on its fossil fuel production likely won't help all that much.
Mobilizing the resources to support Europe's energy needs will take months and rely on logistical resources that have already been constrained by the pandemic, according to some energy experts.
There's no good solution to the energy question when it comes to the war in Ukraine, but a continuing reliance on fossil fuels is definitely a bad one.