Russia’s biggest weapon (and likewise China’s) is fossil gasoline
US focus on climate change and fossil fuel suppression is provoking a national security disaster
Hon. Don Ritter, Sc. D
A modern economy’s ability to produce food and goods for its citizens and arms and fuel for its military to project power are the undeniable twin pillars of global power. Both are dependent on cheap and readily available energy.
Almost 80% of America’s energy is supplied by oil, gas and coal. Only 20% comes from other sources such as hydro, nuclear, wind and solar. Even the greenest economies will need fossil fuel support when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. Wind and solar provide 5% of our total consumption and only 2% of the energy to power around 290 million vehicles.
In other words, Americans are literally running and fighting with fossil fuels.
Despite having a smaller economy than Italy, Russia has shown that it can defy all international norms and invade a neighboring country because it has plenty of energy.
Guns and more guns. First it was spears, then howitzers, then HIMARS, then anti-missile and drone capabilities, then longer-range ATACMS, then better tanks, now F-16s. Who can say what weapon will be needed next in defense against Russian aggression?
Russia also has its guns, and they are paid for by selling oil, gas, coal, and fossil fuel-derived products like petrochemicals, fertilizers, and so on. Russian missiles, planes, drones, tanks and artillery spilling Ukrainian blood and destroying homes, hospitals and power plants are being bought with Russia’s fossil fuel revenues.
Energy is Russia’s greatest weapon because it makes all others possible. Only with such revenues can Russia continue its devastation of Ukraine. A new Russian offensive is brewing, and it, too, is being funded from its energy revenues. Russians since Putin talk about a much longer war because they have the revenue to support one and they don’t have to worry about a citizen and taxpayer revolt or re-election.
While the US and Europe have restricted their purchase and consumption of Russian energy, it is being sold elsewhere. That energy is sold at a discount, but Russia still makes hundreds of billions of dollars from energy sales and is therefore able to continue its war for as long as Putin wants. Despite sanctions, Russia sold over $350 worth of fossil fuels in 2022. Meanwhile, Germany is sticking to its fracking ban.
To achieve peace in Europe and avoid potential wars elsewhere, one would think that America and the West would increase their own supplies of oil, gas and coal and depress world market prices. Such an initiative would also offer dissatisfied countries like India and Brazil in the “Global South” alternative sources of Russian products.
One might also think that the West would understand that its ability to replenish weapons and ammunition sent to Ukraine and resist aggression wherever, such as in Taiwan, is based on production, transport and refueling with fossil fuels fuel based and definitely not wind and solar based. There will never be an electric tank!
And why not lower the price Russia gets for its energy while providing the economic and military security that comes from fossil fuels? The answer from Europe and now America was a resounding “no”. Apparently, addressing the computer-modeled “climate crisis” takes precedence over national defense, stopping Russian aggression in Europe, and securing reliable, affordable energy to power modern industrial economies and living standards.
The alternative — simultaneously advancing renewable energy technology like wind and solar, while also building up fossil fuels under an “all-of-the-above” approach — is anathema to those who religiously believe climate change is an existential threat. Ironically, these same people are happy to replace US fossil fuels with oil from dictatorships like Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia. They don’t seem concerned that wind, solar and battery supply chains pass mostly through communist China.
An energy strategy “all of the above” would make it more difficult for Russia to fund its war, save Ukrainian lives and alleviate their suffering. It would show that America is ready to challenge Russia’s energy dominance now and in the future.
Unfortunately, exactly the opposite happens. The US is destroying energy transmission pipelines, restricting the licensing of refineries and natural gas export facilities, suppressing oil and gas leasing and drilling, and worst of all, stifling longer-term investment in the industry. Fueled by an all-encompassing determination to limit CO2 emissions, Europe and now America have declared war on fossil fuels. Meanwhile, Russia and China burn oil, gas and coal and emit greenhouse gases on a scale that dwarfs those of the West.
The governments of Europe and now America have completely overlooked that by suppressing fossil fuels they are giving away enormous power to countries like Russia, Iran and China – who use these very fossil fuels to bolster their own economies, military power and others to threaten .
Energy has been weaponized and the West is in full energy disarmament mode. The West is losing its ability to achieve peace through strength, with energy being the all-encompassing weapon in state and alliance arsenals.
The Russian people experienced much greater suffering when all-out war was waged on their own territory and millions died. This time, the Russian people are not feeling the brunt of the war, so the pressure to end it is limited and Russia’s vast fossil fuel revenues stand ready to continue for perhaps years to come.
It is doubtful that this support for Ukraine from potentially fickle Western democracies could last that long.
Nations’ economies and militaries are still powered by fossil fuels. There is no substitute for fossil fuel dominance, even in the longer term. To believe and act otherwise is suicidal. It is the real “existential threat”.
Don Ritter has a Ph.D. in natural sciences from MIT and served fourteen years on the House Energy and Trade and Science and Technology Committees. He was a fellow of the USSR National Academy of Sciences, is fluent in Russian, and was the senior member of the Helsinki Commission of Congress and the founding chairman of the Baltic States-Ukraine faction.
After leaving Congress, he founded and directed the National Environmental Policy Institute. He is Founder and President Emeritus and CEO of the Afghan American Chamber of Commerce and Trustee of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC), where he is co-chair of the Museum Capital Campaign.