Could the call for energy independence from Russia spark a more expedient transition to 100% renewable energy in other parts of the world?

April 3, 2022

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, countries around the world are reconsidering purchasing oil from Russia and imposing sanctions on the country. Where we get our energy from has a direct effect on what actions we can take in international affairs. As Erin Sikorsky, director of the Center for Climate and Security, explained, “[t]here’s been a lot of concern about dependence on Russian [natural] gas, and whether that inhibits countries’ ability to stand up to Russia.”

Both the European Union and the United States have decided to take a stand. On March 8, 2022, the European Commission “proposed an outline of a plan to make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels well before 2030.” As Ursala von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, stated, the European Union “simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens [them].” Likewise, on the same day, the United States announced its ban on imports of Russian oil, natural gas, and coal. President Biden outlined the significance of this decision as he addressed the nation, stating that “Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at U.S. ports, and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin’s war machine.”

While a noble cause, this powerful blow to Putin’s war machine has left many reeling over the current state of energy supply markets. Countries turning away from Russian fossil fuels are facing record high gas prices and subsequent price hikes of goods due to fuel surcharges.

To meet energy demand, the European Commission proposed outsourcing from alternative suppliers of natural gas, such as Qatar and the Gulf. Moreover, the EU is aiming to “triple its renewable energy capacity by 3030.”  but also developing solar and offshore wind. It is worth noting, though, that particular members of the EU have mentioned utilizing less popular alternative methods of producing energy to gain independence from Russia. Belgium, for example, may extend “the life of its nuclear reactors,” a controversial method even amongst those advocating for divergence from fossil fuels. Germany is considering hydrogen energy, which, while less disputed nuclear, has its own array of disadvantages.

“[T]he war in Ukraine underscored the urgent need to accelerate the transition to clean energy.”

With these potential concerns in mind, it is still true that European nations as a whole are contemplating renewable energy as a potential longer-term way to achieve energy independence from Russia. In fact, CNN reported that the EU’s climate policy chief said, “the war in Ukraine underscored the urgent need to accelerate the transition to clean energy.”

Similarly, in the United States, the Russian-conflict and climbing gas prices may have shed a new, and more appealing, light on renewable energy and renewably-powered vehicles. For example, many Americans have reacted to high gas prices by searching the internet for information on electric vehicles in record high amounts. This matches what Jesse Toprak, an analyst at a car subscription company, reports: more people are asking for and reserving electric vehicles. According to reporting by CNN, Toprak wonders whether record high gas prices could expedite a shift to electric vehicles.

Toprak isn’t alone. Many believe that the Russian-crisis and resulting strain on global energy markets could push society further along in transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy. At the same time, others see the need for America to gain energy independence from Russia as an opportunity to buckle down on domestic oil and gas. Rather than investing in solar and wind production, these folks argue that perhaps the solution is to “ease up the permitting process on federal lands, federal property, federal lands and waters.” However, some energy experts believe that expanding domestic oil and natural gas production is not the way to achieve energy independence. For one thing, Russia may have a more difficult time disrupting sources like solar and wind power than oil and gas. Additionally, as the climate crisis progresses, the globe needs to work together to transition to renewable energy as soon as possible. Decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels would not only mitigate the effects of climate change, but also Russia’s geopolitical influence.

Lauren Corey

Lauren attended Florida State University for college and majored in Political Science and Environmental Studies. In law school, Lauren has been a member of the Environmental Law Project and worked on environmental pro bono projects ranging from private well water quality to climate change mitigation. Last semester, Lauren wrote a blog post about information security risks for customers of food delivery mogul DoorDash.