Working towards peace and sustainability

Ukraine, Gas Prices and Climate Change

Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine is a tragedy that urgently requires our attention. The world must unite to not just condemn, but act to end this illegal, immoral and very dangerous war. We urge all Green Team members to make your voice heard on this. We also urge you to recognize that the war on Ukraine is not the only such war going on. U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, for example, have been waging war on Yemen, aided and armed in part by the U.S., causing similar death, destruction, starvation, dislocation and other adverse consequences.  Our condemnation of war and militarism must be inclusive.

But, our focus here today is the impact of the war, particularly as it comes to energy and climate. As everyone knows, energy prices have been on the rise for many months now. After energy usage and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions tanked in 2020 during the early part of the pandemic, global economies came roaring back in 2021 and it’s recently been announced that 2021 set new GHG records. Increased demand and the lead time required to bring new capacity on-line accounts for a significant portion of the increases we’re all seeing at the pumps.

That said, Russia’s war on Ukraine and the uncertainty that’s come with it, have added an additional dose of pain and it is unclear how high prices will go. It is unfortunate that the main result of the price spike, at least in the short run, is likely to be record profits for the oil producers and a bite out of the budgets of families, felt especially hard by those with lower incomes, those who have longer commutes and those whose vehicles are gas-guzzlers. And we, of course, are also paying more for the natural gas most of us use for home heating, water heating, cooking, etc.

Actions We Can Take:

In order to keep our energy use affordable we can pursue several strategies, some of them short term, others that will kick in over time. First, dealing with transportation, we should be thinking of replacing gasoline and diesel-burning vehicles with EVs, as we can afford to do so. For most of us, however, this will not be immediately doable.

We all can, however, check out the long list of transportation fixes from walking, biking and using transit, when feasible, to carpooling and combining trips to reduce overall mileage driven. We can keep our tires fully inflated and unload heavy things we’re carrying around unnecessarily. We can also avoid idling, turning our engines off when we’re not actually going somewhere. One might also see if they can take Amtrak instead of flying for long distance trips. And, rather than heading thousands of miles away for vacations, consider staycations and trips to some of the beautiful places here in Missouri. Each of these might seem small, but they add up when everyone gets on board, so please share these ideas and, besides doing what you can, please encourage others to do the same.

On the public policy front, you can encourage the Biden administration to pursue a windfall profits tax on the massive profits of the oil industry. The government could then redirect these unearned corporate revenues into bikeways, walkable cities, mass transit, high-speed rail, etc. We can also urge the administration to fast-track approval for new wind farms (off-shore and on-shore) as well as solar farms, to dramatically and rapidly increase our supply of renewably generated power that can substitute for fossil fuels. Some of this can be accomplished without overcoming a Senate filibuster if the President declares a climate emergency. It would be good to encourage this too.

One can urge action by the administration by clicking HERE.

Lessons We Can Learn:

The Ukraine situation provides many lessons that we should take to heart. First, we all know that, if we are interested in addressing the climate crisis, we need to get off fossil fuels ASAP. An added lesson is that renewables are essential to energy independence. In a world running on fossil fuels, the large producing countries have great leverage over countries without much oil and gas. Europe is now wrestling with their dependence on Russian gas and oil. Other countries, such as Japan, are dependent on Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states. Renewables can free us from this undue influence and fuel our economy, rather than exporting our dollars as we import their fuels.

Another lesson is that nuclear power plants, in addition to their other problems (costs, waste, safety, proliferation, etc.), are also a huge security risk, be this due to war or terrorism. The plants and their waste pools constitute inviting targets in a time of war. While we are glad that the reported fire at the largest nuclear plant in Europe did not cause any radioactive releases, we are still concerned as to what might develop in the days and weeks of war ahead. No new nukes would also be a good message to send to President Biden.

Final Thought:

We all want to see an end to the Russian war on Ukraine. We can show our solidarity with donations and also by joining the weekly peace vigil that Peaceworks has organized. We will be out each Wednesday, 4:30-5:30 p.m. at the intersection of Broadway and Providence with signs and banners calling for an end to the war. Please join us for any portion of that time you can.