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More Ways to Help Ukraine
Let's Make Earth Day About Ukraine
Everywhere I go, I am gladdened to see support for Ukraine. This is evident in overt ways from fundraisers to activism. Like you, I’ve been inspired by Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s leadership over the past 60 days. Here are some things you can do to support Ukraine: drive less, fly less and adjust your thermostat.
Let’s make Earth Day, April 22, 2022, about Ukraine!
Russia’s Oil and Gas
Russia has been, by at least some measures, the largest exporter of oil in the world. The country’s economy is driven primarily by the sale of oil and gas, much of the fuel flowing to Western Europe.
NATO countries and others with sympathy for Ukraine have been imposing sanctions on Russia. The world still runs largely on fossil fuels, much to the chagrin of the environmentalists I’ve often featured. That means that sanctions notwithstanding, countries solidly on the side of Ukraine are buying oil and gas from Russia.
Giving money to Vladamir Putin this week is a cruel way to support Ukraine.
Oil and Gas Are Fungible
In recent years, NFTs have made fungibility a common word in our language but it isn’t necessarily well understood. Fungible stuff includes things that are interchangeable without concern. A gallon of gas from one gas station is functionally the same as from another. Money is fungible. You don’t care which dollars you have only how many you have.
A barrel of oil from the U.S. Strategic Oil Reserve can be converted in just the same way as a fresh barrel of oil from Russia into transportation fuel. A BTU of natural gas from Wyoming is the functional equivalent of one from Russia.
Let’s be clear, too, that because the U.S. imports oil, we don’t have to send any oil to Europe to reduce their demand for Russian oil. Every barrel of oil we don’t import is available on the market to go to Europe in place of Russian oil.
The U.S. is now exporting natural gas to NATO allies. This will be easier the less we use at home.
Russia Depends Heavily on Fossil Fuel Exports
In October of 2021, Russia was selling $500 million of oil and gas every single day. With oil prices near all-time highs, the profits pouring into Russia are unequivocally contributing to Russia’s ability to wage war on Ukraine.
Oil and gas exports made up almost half of all Russia’s 2021 exports. Shutting down purchases of vodka and caviar have almost no impact on the country’s economy or Putin’s ability to wage war.
To have a real impact on the Russian economy the world must stop purchasing oil and gas from Russia.
Russia’s exports constitute about 12 percent of the global oil market. Reducing global demand for oil by that amount quickly will be difficult. Let me be clear, however, that the difficulty is not a lack of technology it is only a lack of willpower.
Time Is NOT on Our Side
Over the next 20 years or so, the world will make a wholesale shift from oil and gas to wind and solar. But the reality is, we don’t have 20 years to save Ukraine.
Today, this very minute, we need to impose a serious revenue decline on Putin’s Russia. The best way to do that is to take action now to use less energy.
Drive less: the fastest impact will come from driving less. Be careful, however, not to substitute someone else’s driving for your own. Not driving to dinner this evening won’t save fuel if you order food using DoorDash. Taking the train to work, carpooling, combining errands into fewer trips with carefully planned routes, etc., all help cut fossil fuel use now.
Fly less: One cross-country flight produces about as much carbon as a typical person produces in a month of living, including driving and heating or cooling a home. Video conference when you can. Travel by train whenever possible. Driving your car across the country is better than flying—especially if you drive an EV.
Adjust your thermostat: We are accustomed to thinking electricity for heating and cooling our homes comes from coal and is shifting to renewables. Less well understood is the fact that natural gas is the single largest source for electric energy in the United States. When you adjust your thermostat to use less energy, you are almost certainly reducing demand for natural gas—helping our allies find non-Russian sources.
Share your ideas for conserving energy in the comments!
It is unlikely the war in Ukraine will end soon. Actions we take this year are likely to help end this conflict quickly with Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine. Please consider accelerating your purchase of an electric vehicle or solar panels for your home.
EVs use about one-quarter as much energy as traditional internal combustion engine vehicles—and every year they get better. The energy sources for EVs are also getting greener and cleaner. Switching from coal to gas reduced carbon emissions by about 50 percent. We need to eliminate carbon emissions for electricity production. As we do so, EVs get cleaner every day.
Solar panels on your home will contribute immediately to the war effort. When your home is pumping energy back onto the grid, not only do you get paid, but you also reduce aggregate demand for fossil fuels to power the grid.
If we can make Earth Day about Ukraine this year and get everyone
talking about conserving energy to support peace, we can slow the flow of cash to Putin’s war machine.