Answer to Putin (and Climate Change) in one

A response to the attack by Vladimir Putin on Ukraine, if it is going to have any effect, must be buttressed with meaningful changes in energy policies of the EU countries to reduce their reliance on Russian oil and gas exports in significant measure, according the Mona Charen, writing in The Bulwark. Increasing the use of nuclear power could help many countries, especially Germany, end their use of Russia’s tainted exports while also benefitting the climate. What’s not to love?

“The shift in attitudes toward Russia has been vertigo-inducing, but it remains to be seen whether it will stick. The human tendency toward complacency and denial is very strong. (It’s remarkable that the West maintained its vigilance throughout the Cold War, and there were moments when it was iffy.) One way we’ll know if the democracies have truly grappled with the moment is what they do on energy.

Energy policy would seem to be the surest path toward the better world we all hope for. Without energy revenue, Russia is defanged. Oil and gas account for nearly 40 percent of Russia’s federal revenue and 60 percent of exports. The old gibe that Russia is a “gas station with nukes” was only somewhat exaggerated. Europe currently relies on Russia for 40 percent of its energy needs. The Ukraine invasion has spurred the European Commission to look (at last) for alternative sources. “We cannot let any third country destabilize our energy markets or influence our energy choices,” commissioner Kadri Simson told the New York Times. Unfortunately, they seem to be thinking very much inside the box, with an emphasis on “renewables and energy efficiency.”

Another path, better for the climate than liquefied natural gas and more reliable than renewables is in plain sight—nuclear power. The world’s demand for energy is not going to diminish, but only increase in the coming century.”

A similar discussion occurred between two veteran New York Times authors and commentators, Gail Collins and Bret Stephens. In expressing concern about the prospect Putin’s actions raising energy prices abroad, Ms. Collins wrote:

Gail: I’ve noticed some of the right-wing pundits who started out as Putin panderers have been trying to get out of that hole by focusing on anti-environmentalism. Biden’s righteous efforts to punish Russia will very likely raise the price of energy here.

So I hope he’ll tell America that although there will be some short-term suffering, there’s nothing about the Ukraine crisis that will require reviving the Keystone XL pipeline. That our country can deal with both this immediate challenge from Russia and the long-term challenge of global warming.

Bret: We disagree at last! The more we can do to reduce the West’s dependence on energy from Russia, the better. That should mean reinvesting heavily in new, safe, dependable nuclear energy. The campaign against nuclear turned out to be one of the environmental movement’s dumber moves, since it only made the West more reliant on nasty petrostates like Russia while demonizing a reliable, energy-dense, low-carbon power source. And more fracking for natural gas would help, too, since natural gas is much better for the environment than coal and has the additional advantage that it can be shipped to our European friends in liquefied form.


To read this article, The Bulwar, An Answer to Putin (and Climate Change) in Plain Sight, by Mona Charen, March 2, 2022.  To read the full discussion between veteran New York Times authors and commentators, Gail Collins and Bret Stephens. See the New York Times Putin Is Spinning the Globe Faster and Faster, February 28, 2022.