Fossil fuel companies are trying to exploit this war to their advantage. We can’t leave them | Jamie Henn


NOTthe fossil fuel industry and their allies have taken to the airwaves over the past few days to try to use the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an excuse for greater oil and gas development.

It’s the classic shock doctrine we expect from big oil, and unless our politicians are wise enough to see through it, it’s a strategy that will continue to undermine our ability to act on climate change over the next the coming decade.

The fossil fuel industry’s attempt to exploit this particular crisis is all the more infuriating because it has been central to its cause. Putin’s ability to wage war in Ukraine and threaten the stability of Europe comes exclusively from his control over Russian oil and gas production. Forty percent of Russia’s federal budget comes from oil and gas, which account for 60 percent of the country’s exports. Last October, Russia was earning more than $500 million a day from fossil fuels, money that goes directly to fund Putin’s war machine.

No one in the oil and gas industry denies that. What they would like us to conveniently forget is how they helped Putin get to this point.

Russia could never have become such an oil and gas superpower without the help of Western oil companies like ExxonMobil and BP, which owns a 20% share of Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned oil company. In 2014, when Rosneft’s oil and gas production was largely stable, ExxonMobil partnered with Rosneft to help them modernize their operations and expand production in the Arctic. The partnership went so well that Putin awarded former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors Russia bestows on foreigners.

Exxon has returned the favor, joining other U.S. oil giants and their trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, in repeatedly lobbying against Russian sanctions, including in 2018 when Congress tried to prevent future Russian interference in the US election, and today as Congress attempts to impose tougher sanctions against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Sanctions should be as targeted as possible to limit potential damage to the competitiveness of American businesses,” a spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute said recently. The companies he’s talking about aren’t your Main Street grandmother’s: they’re the richest oil companies on the planet.

As the big oil companies try to defend their investments in Russia, they simultaneously argue that greater domestic production will help combat Putin’s influence on the world stage. It’s like a drug dealer trying to convince the authorities that the best way to eliminate a rival is not to crack down on drugs, but to allow him to increase his production. The net effect will be the same: more addicts, in this case to climate-destroying fossil fuels.

While US LNG exports may help Europe in the short term, increased US production will only deepen Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels and continue to support a global cartel in which Putin is a major player. The only viable long-term solution is for Europe – and the rest of the world – to act as quickly as possible to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels through energy efficiency and renewables, as some politicians have called for. forward-looking Europeans.

If the Biden administration wants to help, it should launch a new Green Marshall Plan to help build renewable energy in Europe and around the world. Expanding the production of clean energy technologies, rather than fossil fuels, would help combat the influence of big oil and gas states, as well as address the growing climate emergency.

As we have already learned with the Covid-19 pandemic, this decade will not allow us to tackle one crisis at a time. Instead of letting big oil companies use every new shock to knock us off course, we need to be mindful of how we can create peace, stability, and protect our planet for future generations: end our dependence on fossil fuels.


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