The global green energy transition has been a boon for Russia and President Vladimir Putin. Europe has invested tens of billions of dollars in solar and wind power generation, only to resort to coal imports to keep the region’s lights on. Even the state of Texas has contracted the green bug, depending on renewables for about one-fifth of its power, something that threatens the Lone Star State anytime there is a modest snowstorm. Russia, like the Middle East, has greatly benefited from the need to be more environmentally friendly – and now it possesses an advantage over the rest of the world.
The Green-Eyed Monster
In 2020, the planet spent more than $500 billion on renewable power, electric vehicles, and other technologies designed to reduce the globe’s emissions. But this is a far cry from the estimated global price tag of $73 trillion to transition to 100% renewable energy in the next 30 years. This is no small cost in a world where governments have spent trillions of dollars to survive COVID-19 and central banks have printed trillions more to ensure the economy does not fall off a cliff.
So far, has this been money well spent? Not quite. When demand for power skyrocketed, weather conditions deteriorated, and windmills and solar panels failed to do their jobs, the public and private investment in these projects went down the drain. A problem as small as freezing cold temperatures forced Europe to restart coal power plants and import the dirty rock from foreign markets, while China purchased more oil to prevent nationwide rolling power outages.
The United States, which has seen its energy output fail to recover to pre-COVID levels, is back to its net oil importer status and is instead growing the country’s renewable energy capacity. In the meantime, it is purchasing more fossil fuels, including crude and coal, from particular markets that might not be politically wise in today’s environment. Washington is also repeatedly tapping into domestic reserves that are meant for a rainy day rather than for political expedience.
Suffice it to say, what is the one country that is exporting a lot of its natural resources to the rest of the world – even its political adversaries? Russia. Moscow supplies approximately 10% of America’s oil needs and satisfies roughly 40% of Europe’s crude demand and 30% of the bloc’s natural gas needs. The Kremlin has also entered into lucrative multi-year energy agreements with China. The world’s second-largest economy has made massive investments into both green energy and fossil fuels.
Although Russia has poured rubles into renewables, its primary revenue sources are oil and gas.
Democrats have also been making quite the geopolitical blunder in recent months. Several Democratic senators, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), have urged the White House to limit U.S. liquefied natural gas exports so the Department of Energy can assess these shipments and their effects on domestic prices. These are the same individuals who have campaigned against domestic pipelines. Today, the U.S. LNG capacity in Europe is roughly 25%. If this is removed, the region would be even more dependent on Russia and Qatar.
End Putin by Suspending Renewables?
The situation intensifying in Eastern Europe will likely result in more countries investing heavily into green energy rather than the fuels they desperately need now. Cheap and clean power sources are admirable objectives, but it is premature to lean on these avenues when they are not adequately prepared to support millions of households in any environment. The short-term solution, of course, is to embrace the phrase “drill, baby, drill” at home and abroad and start ramping up output. Either way, the aim for European countries should be to reduce their reliance on Russia. Becoming 100% renewable might end Moscow’s reign as energy kingpin – in 30 years. Flooding the marketplace with crude would diminish Putin’s stranglehold and power almost immediately.
~ Read more from Andrew Moran.