Clean Energy Is the Key to Real Energy Independence

Oil companies have the same response to Ukraine and Russia as they do in every crisis: Drill more. But this time, nobody is fooled.

Oil tanker trains at Kombinatskaya station in the Omsk region of Russia


Alexey Malgavko/Sputnik via AP Images

It didn’t take Big Oil long to try to exploit the tragedy in Ukraine for corporate gain. Like clockwork, the industry and its apologists have dusted off the old energy independence chestnut in hopes of sinking the nation into a deeper dependence on oil.

If energy independence is a strategic goal, though, why is the industry exporting 8.4 million barrels of crude oil and refined fuels out of the United States each day, nearly three times more than just a decade ago? Would an industry that cares about energy independence really be shipping enough fuel abroad to meet 42 percent of the nation’s consumption?

That’s not what this is about.

Oil companies have the same response to every crisis: drill more, sell more, anywhere they can. This time, though, nobody is fooled.

Russia is a petro state. Oil and gas pays for 36 percent of the federal budget in Moscow. That includes financing military aggression—in this case, the brutal invasion of an independent neighbor that posed no military threat. Meanwhile, Russia has weaponized its energy exports, holding much of Europe hostage to a price and supply crisis of Moscow’s making.

The way to beat autocrats who sell oil and gas to pay for war is to stop buying it altogether and shift away from the fossil fuels that lock in dependence on belligerent petro states. The worst thing we can do now is to lock future generations into decades more reliance on these dangerous fuels—and those who would use them as weapons.

Clean energy doesn’t mean the end of geopolitics. Energy is a strategic commodity. That’s not going to change. What we can change is the source of that energy, as 7 in 10 Americans favor.

When we, as a nation, get more clean, renewable power from the wind and sun here at home; make our cars, homes, and workplaces more efficient; and build modern, resilient power transmission and storage grids, we create actual energy independence. We reduce our reliance on nations that use energy as a weapon. We make our economy stronger and our country more secure.

In the wake of the Ukraine invasion, the European Union is accelerating its own shift away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner, smarter ways to power its future. The United States should do the same.

President Biden has laid out a plan for $550 billion in clean energy investment over the next 10 years. It’s a plan to create jobs, save families an average of $500 a year in energy bills, and help to make our country more secure. The House has passed the package; the Senate should do the same.

Ending our dependence on oil will distance U.S. families and businesses from the volatility of global markets. It will take us out of the business of subsidizing aggression from petro states like Russia. And it will help us confront the global climate crisis—the existential environmental challenge of our time.

Just this week, the United Nations released its latest report on the rising costs and mounting dangers that climate change is inflicting on the world’s people, natural systems, and critical infrastructure. It is a high-def map of global misery, with rates of disease and death rising; crops and livestock hammered; social progress constrained; economic growth crimped; and forests, coral reefs, and other essential ecosystems and species stressed, often to the brink of extinction.

It will all get worse, the science tells us, unless we cut the dangerous pollution from burning coal, gas, and oil in half by 2030 and stop adding it to the atmosphere altogether by 2050.

The United States must do its part. Biden has pledged to cut carbon pollution and other climate-wrecking greenhouse gases 50–52 percent, compared to 2005 levels, by 2030.

To get there, we need the clean energy investments now before the Senate. We need new and ambitious carbon pollution standards at the federal, state, and local levels. And we need for every agency of the government to become part of the climate fix, not the problem.

Like people everywhere, I’ve been saddened and appalled by the unconscionable and unprovoked Russian attack on Ukraine and the suffering of its people. I’ve been inspired by their bravery. I stand with those who are working for peace.

We won’t help the people of Ukraine, however, by locking future generations into decades more dependence on the very fuels that are financing Russia’s military aggression. All that will do is further strengthen the hand of petro states and help perpetuate even more violence and suffering. We must do better than that by embracing clean energy sources that won’t condemn us to endless cycles of chaos, suffering, and war.

It won’t happen overnight. But we must be deliberate and decisive in making it happen as soon as is humanely possible. That’s the way to create real energy independence, strengthen our economy, and make our country more secure.

Related Blogs