In sanctioning Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, President Biden has been slow to target Russia’s energy sector, only belatedly imposing sanctions on Gazprom, a state-owned Russian energy company. This is likely due to concerns that such sanctions would not only hurt the Russian economy but ours as well. founder Bill McKibben, said that “Continued dependence on fossil fuels is the greatest single gift we could give to Vladimir Putin — it’s the gift that keeps on giving.” But is it our dependence on fossil fuels that prevents us from confronting Russia directly?

“Continued dependence on fossil fuels is the greatest single gift we could give to Vladimir Putin — it’s the gift that keeps on giving.” founder Bill McKibben

Mostly false or misleading. Significant errors or omissions. Mostly make believe.

McKibben is correct that reliance on Russian oil and petroleum products has crippled our response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But the problem here is not reliance on fossil fuels but Russian fossil fuels. 

In 2021, the U.S. imported an average of about 20,000,000 barrels of Russian oil and petroleum products per month. The EU is even more reliant on Russian gas with around 45% of its gas imports coming from Russia in 2021. But McKibben, along with other climate activists, is advocating an approach similar to that taken by Germany, which recently pledged to speed up their transition to 100% renewable energy, aiming to reach the target by 2035. 

Unfortunately, even if it were feasible, a renewables only approach would not release us from Russian influence. Russia is rich in a variety of natural resources beyond oil and gas. A recent Politico article noted that Russia is also the world’s leader producer of critical minerals for clean energy technology including nickel and copper. If President Biden and climate activists continue to promote an aggressive shift to renewable energy, the global demand for such minerals will increase dramatically. 

The reality is that renewable energy is wildly insufficient to substitute for fossil fuels in our energy supply. And while nuclear power is a good alternative, and one that the Biden administration and other nations should pursue, it will take some time to deploy on a broader scale. To wean ourselves off of Russian oil, we need to free domestic producers to increase their production. But the Biden administration is doing the opposite, just recently reimposing a moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal lands. 

In fact, the Biden administration’s stance can be summed up by comments from his climate czar and a former U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry: Before Putin ordered the troops into Ukraine, Kerry decried a potential Russian invasion, not because of the disregard for national sovereignty, or the Ukrainian blood shed defending their homeland, but because the invasion was bound to raise carbon emissions in the area. 

This is a ridiculous stance to take, and one that is an embarrassment for a nation that calls itself a leader on the world stage. It doesn’t matter how much we reduce carbon emissions if Russia and China don’t follow suit, and they are much more concerned with geopolitics and world power struggles than their carbon emissions. The good news, however, is that the U.S. can produce a lot more fossil fuels and secure ourselves and our allies against the aggression we’re seeing right now in Ukraine. 

This Russian invasion must be a wakeup call to our leaders. We cannot afford to be so dependent on foreign nations for our energy needs.