In 2022 we in the west have learned first hand about the ugly consequences of oil and gas addiction. That addiction can lead individuals and countries into some nasty places to deal with some nasty people.
Even British Prime Minster, Boris Johnson, not a shining genius, has come to understand that the addiction to oil by western countries, has brought us to disaster. Weaning off this challenge will be particularly difficult. This is especially painful for Europe which is heavily dependent on oil and gas from Putin who has used that money to disrupt Europe like it has not been disrupted since the Second World War. By the time the west had given 1 billion of aid dollars to fight Putin, Europe had paid Putin $35 billion for Russian oil. Does that make sense?
In fact, Prime Minister Johnson made the revelation that he had realized the absurdity of this on a trip to Saudi Arabia where he gone to try to persuade Arab countries to help out the west by increasing oil production. Of course, why would they do that? These countries liked the new higher oil and gas prices that had started to rise before the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Naturally, after the invasion, those price rose even more sharply. It sucks to be us in the west. Literally. We were literally left sucking the hind teat.
Somebody who understands this is Bill McKibben of the organization 350.org and other activist organizations such as The Third Act, an environmental organization for those of us over 60. He was interviewed by Mark Kelly on CBC radio’s The Current. He understood clearly that Boris Johnson was taking the wrong approach. It was the traditional approach, but it was badly out of date and all of us must come to understand that. More of the same is what has got us into so much trouble, and continuing that approach will lead us directly to our doom.
As McKibben said, “It’s a reminder that fossil fuel and despotism often go hand in hand.” I think a better metaphor would be so say, fossil fuel and despotism go together like shit and flies. As McKibben said,
“The War in Ukraine is not a war for fossil fuel in the way that so many of America’s Middle East adventures have been, but it very much a war about fossil fuel. Vladimir Putin couldn’t have built an army without it. 60% of his export earnings come from oil and gas. You can tell that by looking around your house for something to boycott. There’s nothing there. Maybe a bottle of vodka in the old liquor cabinet. That’s about it. His main weapon for 20 years has been the threat to turn off the taps to western Europe. If we are serious about standing up to Putin we have to figure out a way to end all of our dependence on oil and gas. It’s a global market and as long as we are depending on it, he and people like him, such as the King of Saudi Arabia, the Koch brothers, you name it, are more powerful than they deserve. “
For quite some time Alberta has argued that its oil is the only ethical oil. But really, that is like saying, I am ethical because I am better than Jack the Ripper. Not the most convincing argument.
The one good thing , as McKibben pointed out, is that this dependency is no longer necessary. “Thanks to science and engineering in the last 10 years, the price of renewable energy has dropped by about 90%! It’s now the cheapest source of energy on earth.”
McKibben said we could get off fossil fuels right now if we set our minds to it. We have to act like we are in a war. And we are in a war so that should be easy. Business as usual, is no longer a viable option. Those, like Boris Johnson who are pushing that are continuing to lead us to disaster. They are only postponing it a little bit. We have to avoid the vested interests that want to keep us hooked. That’s what pushers do. But there is a better way.
It won’t be easy. Europe relies on Russia for about one third of its oil and about 40% of its natural gas. We need more than good intentions to get to the heavenly city of release from this dependency. What do we do to get there?
McKibben says investments by the American Energy Department have been so successful that millions of heat pumps could be produced in a few months. The technology is there. All we need is the will. And like all addictions, we must resist what appears to be an easier route, but this is really the way to ruin. Heat pumps are really just air conditioners you can also run in reverse. The technology is not complicated, according to McKibben. They could be installed in Europe quickly. North Americans have a lot of spare capacity and can also produce a lot of insulation, also needed in Ukraine if we want to resist this addiction controlled by cartels. We in North American should do more than produce weapons Ukraine needs weapons right now, but they also need other weapons to fight their enemies. One of those is to voluntarily cut the oil pipelines depriving their enemy of the funds it needs to oppress them. Only in such a way can people effectively get free from the oppression of people like Putin and his ilk.
Europe and all of us in the developed world must learn there is a better way.