The U.S. should ramp up oil and gas production to slow Russian aggression
Don Ritter of Warrenton, Virginia represented the Lehigh Valley in Congress from 1979-1993. He is president and CEO emeritus, Afghan American Chamber of Commerce and a trustee of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. His visit to Ukraine in November was organized by Ukrainian-American activist and Schnecksville resident, Marta Fedoriw.
The strength of an economy, military might, and the production of energy constitute the three pillars of global power. However, over the near term, Russia, despite a relatively weak economy, showed it can defy international norms, invade a neighboring country, rape, torture and murder its citizens, bombard its cities and towns into rubble and displace a quarter of its population.
Russia is holding the European Union, the largest economy in the world along with the U.S., (nearly $16.5 trillion per annum) by the proverbial short hairs over its dependence on Russia energy. Dependence to heat its homes, generate its electricity, power its factories and fill up the fuel tanks of its cars, trucks and airplanes.
Europe is financing Putin’s war against Europeans, raging for now in Ukraine, with nearly $1 billion a day in oil sales.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated recently that his long-time backing of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia was a mistake. Indeed, the European dismantling of existing energy capacity and the denial of locally produced fossil fuel energy was a mistake, one of colossal and historic proportion as it turns out.
Before the fighting started, Germany was dependent on Russia for more than 50% of its natural gas, 45% of its coal burned for electricity and steelmaking, and 32% of its oil. Germany also literally added Russian fuel-to-the-fire in Europe by shutting down three of its six electricity-producing, nuclear power plants.
The people of the U.S. and Europe, both enthusiastically supporting the Ukrainian people’s valiant war effort, already face a version of World War III, presently confined to Ukraine but possibly evolving into a much wider conflict. Given the danger of this moment in history, we need to adjust our priorities to meet the challenge.
The only reasonable alternative is for America to provide our European allies with a stable, reliable substitute for Russian energy, starting now and for years to come. What’s necessary is a Manhattan Project/Marshall Plan to increase oil and gas supply and delivery.
Jamie Dimon, chairman of JPMorgan Chase, a leader in the Democratic Party establishment, has also called for such an energy Marshall Plan. Such a plan would muster strong bipartisan support in Congress if the present administration would commit to such a strategy.
With a U.S. all-of-the-above energy production strategy, including renewables and safe nuclear power, America could vastly reduce free-world dependence on a Russia bent on conquest and destroying the very ideal of individual freedom and democracy.
The environmental impact would be salutary, as American production of oil, gas and coal is substantially cleaner than that of Russia’s.
Greenhouse gases would largely stay the same, as the issue is substitution.
Renewables are not ready to entirely replace fossil fuels, with Germany being the prime example. They have invested more than any country in making the transition to green. Batteries are not ready for large-scale storage and require a lot of mined materials that are not environmentally friendly.
First and foremost, it would be necessary to reverse the current policies on fossil fuels by the political leadership in Washington. It would mean permitting oil and gas exploration, permitting pipeline projects and liquefied natural gas export facilities.
It would mean a halt in the current “whole of government” approach to regulating fossil fuels out of existence. It would mean an end to policies aimed at stifling investment in the industry.
As the war in Ukraine continues and Russia doubles down, similar ideas are showing up in the public space. The Manhattan Project/Marshall Plan approach is essential to convince those countries with substantial dependence on Russian gas and oil to wean themselves away from Russian energy.
The signal to the global energy markets would immediately lower energy prices. Along with strict sanctions put on Russian gas and oil exports, an American energy revival would disrupt Russia’s ability to wage war in Ukraine and beyond.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this war could drag on for months, maybe years. How many Ukrainians must die because America did not do what it could do to stop the slaughter?
How much risk is America willing to endure of a Hitler-like Putin, armed to the teeth with weapons paid for by the people of Europe? Finally, how many tenths of a degree Celsius in global warming are we willing to sacrifice to alleviate the suffering, save the lives of a nation and its people and create a safer world for all?