The ongoing conflict in Ukraine should not be used as a justification for continuous growth in the fossil fuel industry. Svitlana Romanko, Bill McKibben, and Luisa Neubauer share this perspective.
At the end of the hottest year on record, representatives from various countries came together at climate discussions in Dubai in December and reached a consensus on one crucial aspect: the need to shift away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a fair, organized, and fair manner. This marked the first instance in 30 years of climate talks where diplomats openly acknowledged this necessity, suggesting a potential breakthrough.
We will now determine if they were sincere.
The leader of the United States, which is the largest producer of fossil fuels on Earth, is facing a decision: whether or not to continue granting export permits to companies seeking to construct new facilities for shipping liquefied natural gas (LNG) globally. The potential magnitude of this expansion is almost unimaginable. Despite already being the top exporter of gas in the world, if the industry receives its desired outcome, the amount of LNG exported annually will be sufficient to provide energy for 500 million households. This will result in a higher level of greenhouse gas emissions than the entire continent of Europe. In a recent article, Bloomberg referred to it as “the last major surge of fossil fuel projects in the world.” It represents a significant commitment to reliance on polluting energy sources.
Biden has the power to prevent this by pausing the licensing procedure and having the Department of Energy review their previous calculations for determining the “public interest”. If his administration stands by their agreement in Dubai, they have no other option (and former Secretary of State John Kerry played a key role in including this provision). However, the fossil fuel sector is making a final push to move forward with this wasteful project, citing Europe and Ukraine as justification.
Following Putin’s aggressive actions in Ukraine, Europe found itself in need of immediate gas supplies to compensate for the decrease in imports from Russia. The US stepped in and provided a significant portion of the needed gas, as it already had the necessary export capabilities. As a result, Europe now has an abundant supply of natural gas. However, this has not deterred the ambitions of major oil companies. The president of the American Petroleum Institute has expressed discontent with any potential slowdown in the expansion of fossil fuel production, claiming it would betray allies. This raises concerns about the United States’ role as a dependable source of liquefied natural gas and a reliable partner in the future.
Europe’s allies are currently focused on replacing gas with renewable energy, as seen in Germany’s decrease in fossil fuel usage last year. The International Energy Agency predicts that Europe will require less gas in the future. Ana Maria Jaller-Makarewicz, an analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, recently stated that the decrease in gas demand challenges the idea that Europe needs more LNG infrastructure to achieve energy security goals. Data shows that this is not the case.
Transitioning to clean energy sources is driven by both practical and environmental reasons. It is economically beneficial since, on our planet, utilizing solar power through solar panels is the most cost-effective method of generating electricity. Additionally, there is a widespread understanding that relying on fossil fuels gives too much power to the countries that possess them. This is evident with leaders like Putin, but it also raises concerns about Europe depending on a country like the United States, particularly if the current Republican frontrunner Donald Trump were to hold office.
It is evident that a newly approved export facility, which will be constructed over the course of the next five years and operational for the next 50, will not be involved with Ukraine, Russia, or Europe. The shipments will instead be directed towards Asia, as recent research suggests that they will displace renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, contributing to the ongoing climate crisis. Additionally, this will prolong the negative effects of fossil fuel pollution in the Gulf coast and in the countries where it is ultimately burned. It is worth noting that one in every five deaths on Earth is caused by inhaling the byproducts of fossil fuel combustion. In contrast, solar power produces energy through a process that occurs 93 million miles above the Earth’s surface.
Americans don’t want their country fracked to provide cheap gas for China, and Europeans and Ukrainians don’t want to be used as a justification for the climate crimes – and the environmental racism – now under way in the Gulf of Mexico.
A viable option is for nations to collaborate in order to promote the use of renewable energy around the world – in Ukraine, which is currently being reconstructed after the war, and in warm, sun-filled countries in the global south. Germany, despite not being a tropical country, now generates more electricity from solar and wind sources than from coal. While this may seem like a daunting task, it requires challenging the status quo. It is crucial for our diplomats to recognize that the key to security lies in having a stable and functioning planet, and that time is running out to ensure this stability; 2023 was recorded as the hottest year in the past 125,000 years, and it is likely that 2024 will be even hotter.
The individuals from the state department who are using the reason of Ukraine to justify the increase in gas demand should communicate with their colleagues who attended the Dubai conference. They must also acknowledge that American foreign policy cannot have conflicting objectives. We must choose to either fully commit to shifting away from fossil fuels or not, and it is up to Joe Biden to decide.
Svitlana Romanko is the creator of Razom We Stand, dedicated to securing victory in the Ukraine conflict and promoting the use of environmentally friendly energy in the country’s reconstruction.
Bill McKibben established Third Act, a group that mobilizes individuals over the age of 60 to advocate for environmental and political causes.
Luisa Neubauer wrote the book “Beginning to End the Climate Crisis: A History of our Future.”