Ukraine offers a lesson to all of us—don’t become beholden to autocrats. Ukraine made that mistake; so did much of Europe. Becoming beholden to autocrats is a dangerous thing to do. The clearest example of that is European dependence on oil from dictators.
Addicts usually look to the pushers for wisdom. After all, pushers get rich from pushing. They must be smart. Right? Yes they are smart, at least from their own perspective.
In Canada Jason Kenney the Premier of Alberta wants us all to be beholden to Alberta and its oil. Listen to what Jason Kenney said recently at an energy conference in Houston:
“We are the natural answer to the global issue of energy security. We have talked for years about how some of the world’s worst regimes have had a growing presence in global energy markets. Revenues generated from those sales have been converted into violence, terrorism, conflict, and global instability. Much of that energy being produced by regimes with radically lower levels of transparency, of environmental standards, not to mention labour and basic human rights standards.”
Now I agree it is better to buy fossil fuels from liberal democratic countries than wicked oil barons from the seediest parts of the globe. But that is not the answer. There is a better way.
As Bill McKibben said,
“People like Jason Kenney have been keeping us hooked on fossil fuels for decades. I wrote the first book on climate change which came out 33 years ago. We’ve known for a very long time what we need to do. And if we had done it, if we had been able to overcome the opposition of vested interests and Jason Kenney is obviously a perfect representative of vested interests… then we would long since have put people like Putin the rear view mirror. He is just making the argument for more of the same because it benefits him. And actually, it is at this point disgusting…”
People in the fossil fuel industry have for decades spent a lot of money convincing us not to do anything about climate change and they have profited enormously by those delays. But we have paid, and are paying, a horrible price. Nowhere is that more obvious than Ukraine, but actually we will all be paying that price. Had we ignored their cries 30 years ago the cost of mitigation efforts for climate change today would be much less, and despots like Putin and the King of Arabia would have been starved out years ago. One of the worst things we ever did was to listen to them for 30 years and one of the worst things we could now would to be to listen to them some more. They are pushers pushing our addiction for their benefit and to our peril. These pushers are our enemies not our friends.
If we don’t get out of our addiction now, we will no doubt have an endless series of such wars as the war in Ukraine. As the temperature rises and rises, the world will become increasingly unstable and unsafe. The sooner we stop that train the better we will be. If, as the UN has predicted, we will have a billion climate refugees on top of the “regular refugees” we will be in a very dangerous place. We won’t have purchased security and stability as Kenney suggests. We will have purchased bedlam instead.
30 years ago, we might have had an excuse to keep on our course. But now wind and solar energy are the cheapest sources of energy. We don’t need to follow the old path to oblivion. Batteries to store that power have also come down. There are still challenges but the old way is not the best way anymore.
There is a better way—get off the addiction to fossil fuels now.