April 7th, 2014
12:38 PM ET

Ukraine crisis underscores need for renewables push

By Russ Carnahan and Michael Shank, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Russ Carnahan was a U.S. Representative from Missouri and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is now a partner at Carnahan Global Consulting, a consultancy that also advises firms in the energy sector. Michael Shank is associate director for legislative affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the advocacy arm of Friends (Quakers) in the U.S. The views expressed are their own.

At the heart of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is the question of energy independence and energy security. We’ve witnessed this before in previous violent conflicts – whether in the Middle East, Central Asia or North Africa. Energy wars are real and they will continue to dominate our geopolitical agenda for the coming years unless the United States and its allies decide to act.

In discussions with our European Union counterparts in Berlin and Warsaw in the past month – as part of a U.S.-E.U. transatlantic dialogue on, among other salient topics, the annexation of Crimea – energy was very clearly at the core of this conflict. There was also consensus that the present moment couldn’t be a more historic opportunity to ensure an energy transition happens – and soon – lest more wars be fought, more territories acquired, or more people literally left out in the cold. The urgency of this effort cannot be overstated.

To be clear, when it comes to energy security and energy independence, anything that’s got a valve on it and has to be transported thousands of miles across borders decreases a country’s capacity for stability. That pipe – whether carrying oil or gas – is a target for acts of sabotage, political and physical. In 2009, for example, Russia turned off the spigot to gas exports to Ukraine, leaving the country out in the cold in the dead of winter. The Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. is proving similar in serving as a political target, whether erroneously or accurately.

Without question, oil and gas remains a persistent driver of conflict, doing damage to social, economic and environmental stability. But there is another way. And now, as tensions rise between the West and Russia, the optimal moment to make the case for a more sustainable energy transition is now.

The move in Washington to decrease dependence on Russian gas imports and increase reliance on American gas exports – as a way of sending a sign to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the illegal annexation of Crimea and the contravening of international law won’t go without economic and market consequences – is a stop-gap measure that won’t be operational in the short-term and won’t be sustainable in the long-term. We should take advantage of this rare bipartisanship in Washington to go further.

Given that gas is a finite fossil fuel, it would be wise, instead, to view it as a transitional energy source, weaning us off oil and coal, and readying us for renewable energy. Too many people are seeing it solely as an energy savior, upon which we can rely for ultimate energy security and independence. Not only is that an incorrect assessment but sets up America for future energy shocks and instability. This gas revolution will be short-lived and we must prepare for its post-revolution demise.

The good news is that it’s possible to produce electricity with wind power and large solar facilities at the same price it costs to build new coal or gas power stations. The Germans are currently doing it as part of their Renewable Energies Act, adopted in 2000. At the same time, America is increasing its gas intake (now at 40 percent of electricity), Germany’s gas makes up only 11 percent of their total energy grid. And they’re trying to wean themselves off of that remaining 11 percent.

This is the direction America should head as well, adding biomass and other sustainable sources to our renewable energy mix. A crisis like Crimea will only increase the cost of carbon-based fuels, especially if America ramps up gas exports to the E.U. In contrast, renewables can lower costs considerably. For example, Germany’s wind and solar energy markets has reportedly reduced energy prices by ten percent from 2012 prices and by 32 percent from 2010 prices.

Transitioning to renewable energy, furthermore, will give this country a solid economic shot in the arm with much-needed employment. In Germany, the renewable energy sector employs nearly 400,000 workers, which is more than double the workers in their conventional energy industry.

According to the latest Clean Energy Report, U.S. biofuels market stands to grow from $95.2 billion to $177.7 billion within the decade, the wind energy market is estimated to grow from $73.8 billion to $124.7 billion and the solar energy market stands to grow from $79.7 billion to $123.7 billion. And these are likely conservative estimates. Imagine what’s possible if our government prioritizes these investments. The returns will be even greater.

America’s investments in these markets are a start, but we’re currently outpaced by the Europeans. The world’s largest wind turbine maker and installer – Vestas – is Danish, with General Electric not far behind. Furthermore, while the U.S. is investing in solar energy, it’s still behind Germany and China, which continue to dominate the markets.

We can and must do better. America should be dominating each and every one of the renewable markets and selling the technology to emerging economies, like Ukraine’s, so that they’re self-reliant and not susceptible to Russian resource wars. This is the democratization of energy supply, empowering emerging democracies with the skills, technology and capacity to harness their country’s innate renewable energy resources.

The crisis in Ukraine should be a wake-up call for anyone concerned about potential energy conflicts. Unless we transition now, we can expect to see many more in the years ahead. Upholding international law on national sovereignty rights is a must at this moment, but so too is upgrading international investment in a nation’s energy security. And short-term fossil fuels won’t suffice. Much like democracy, it’s all about the long game. It’s time, then, for a rush on renewables. And if America wants to fend off Russian influence, that’s ultimately how you do it.

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Topics: Energy • Environment • Ukraine

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Tubby Eyes

    Exactly what does the U.S. or the EU need with Crimea anyway? The U.S. already owns Iraq which has 11% of all the oil in the world and the EU owns Libya which can supply these countries with more oil than they need. It's high time we quit starting all these stupid wars and enjoy what we have.

    April 7, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Reply
    • cosmicjawa

      Its not oil its that Ukraine and the countries around it are like a Buffer zone between the West and the East but now the West has decided to take that buffer zone and make it part of the West and Russia is Threaten by this action so they are acting accordingly. now Why The west decided to interfere we may never know. but there is alot in motion behind the curtain

      June 11, 2014 at 3:14 am | Reply
  2. ✠RZ✠

    Gee, not quite the "heart of the message" I sensed from that "I am a Ukrainian" chick on YouTube. You tellin' me this whole thing is over energy, oil, gas, money, power and politics? REALLY ? NO WAY ?!?

    April 8, 2014 at 12:43 am | Reply
  3. The GOP Solution

    The GOP Solution: Turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, Female, and Gay people into slaves. Then whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Male, and Straight. Or until they are dead. Then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military during the next "unfunded/off-the-books" war. And don't forget the GOP all time favorites........TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!!!..........and........GET RID OF SS AND MEDICARE!!!

    April 8, 2014 at 9:38 am | Reply
  4. Name*heho

    US for first time has run out of options as this crisis unfolds.
    RUSSIA will act only as far as it's interests are safeguarded and guaranteed.The self appointed world policeman has run out of option after running all over the world fighting far away wars with no strategic interest to her.

    April 8, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  5. j. von hettlingen

    To wean ourselves off oil and gas is important. We have to change our behaviour as well and opt for frugal consumption.

    April 10, 2014 at 10:28 am | Reply
  6. tellali elkheir

    If science desalination Understanding is wishful because he is growing Caldrs and watered Kalnept and collected Kaltzlsl with it asynchronously so
    Da flag was outward appearances Understanding is wishful because he Azko Caldrs and watered Kalnept and collected Kaltzlsl with it asynchronously so

    April 13, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Reply
    • Alexandr

      Militiamen say that in the hospital Slavyansk come affected with symptoms of poisoning by chlorine
      Victims with symptoms of poisoning by chlorine come into hospitals Ukrainian Slavyansk after firing its suburbs controlled by the Kyiv security forces, said the Deputy commander of militia Igor Strelkov.

      "Symptoms, pain in the eyes, scratchy throat. I think it's something on the basis of chlorine. Explosions occur in the air, after which there is a cloud of smoke. Shoot these shells, when the wind blows in our direction", – said Igor Strelkov.

      On the eve of the militia said that the army used the unknown of possible chemical weapons in the village Semenovka under Slavonic, reminds RIA Novosti. Two soldiers in serious condition were taken to hospital.

      June 30, 2014 at 10:27 am | Reply
  7. Alexandr

    Militiamen say that in the hospital Slavyansk come affected with symptoms of poisoning by chlorine
    Victims with symptoms of poisoning by chlorine come into hospitals Ukrainian Slavyansk after firing its suburbs controlled by the Kyiv security forces, said the Deputy commander of militia Igor Strelkov.

    "Symptoms, pain in the eyes, scratchy throat. I think it's something on the basis of chlorine. Explosions occur in the air, after which there is a cloud of smoke. Shoot these shells, when the wind blows in our direction", – said Igor Strelkov.

    On the eve of the militia said that the army used the unknown of possible chemical weapons in the village Semenovka under Slavonic, reminds RIA Novosti. Two soldiers in serious condition were taken to hospital.

    June 30, 2014 at 10:27 am | Reply
  8. Alexandr

    International hacker movement Green Dragon said about hacking the system of Internet banking Ukrainian Privat. This is stated in the microblog groups in Twitter.

    As at 15 hours Moscow time, on Monday, June 30, the site Privat either unavailable or loaded with long delays.

    According to the statements of the Green Dragon, received by the editorial office of "Lenta.ru", stolen access codes clients to online banking, the base of credit and debit cards.

    "We don't want to cause harm to ordinary customers of the Bank, however, keeping money in it, You are indirectly financed by the murder of residents of Donetsk and Lugansk, as Kolomoisky (founder of the Bank Igor Kolomoisky ─ approx. "Lenta.ru") is funding the war and make a profit on it, selling the army petroleum products for the triple prices," the message says Green Dragon.

    The group announced the creation of "innocent passage" for clients of PrivatBank, which will be valid until July 4.

    "Within 5 days you have the chance to take money from PrivatBank. Since July 5, funds from your credit card or account will be withdrawn and is directed on rendering humanitarian assistance to Eastern Ukraine," write the hackers in a statement.

    June 30, 2014 at 10:28 am | Reply
  9. Alexandr

    Igor Strelkov:

    The enemy tanks cut the road between Nikolaevka and Nikiforovka South-East of Paradise-Alexandrovka. Communication with Seversky was interrupted again. We have during the short fight three of the "three-hundredth" attacked the checkpoint. One – heavy.

    Fired at the enemy's position on reverse slopes of korochun all. The results are not known yet

    Update: according to preliminary data, was shelled areas "Podarki" (pasartele), Mashmet and virgin. One civilian is killed, three wounded. Many of destruction. Perhaps there are still victims (to be confirmed). The positions of the militia were not included at all.

    Again applied chemical munitions – directly in the city – the plant AIZ. Mortar shells 120-mm Another militia poisoned (in serious condition). Presumably – chlorpicrin. Taking samples.

    Oh and (traditionally) are being shelled a Semenovka...

    Filed Under: Main

    June 30, 2014 at 10:29 am | Reply
  10. Alexandr

    With reference to Minister of Defense DND Strelkova, reported regular use of the junta of chemical weapons white phosphorus:
    – Ukra used on our positions in Semenovka chemical weapons.
    Two other soldiers in a serious condition (poisoning of the phosphorus) sent to Donetsk. One, a very heavy.
    Now we have half of the eleventh night) continues shelling Slavkurorta.
    Confirmed by the use of "non-lethal" chemical weapons to doctors drawn more and more soldiers with Semenovka villages with symptoms is pain in the eyes, scratchy throat, etc. something based on chlorine. Explosions air, after them there is a cloud of smoke. Shoot these shells only when the wind is at our side. Finally all concerned to have and in time to pull a long time distributed gas masks.
    Earlier there were reports the special correspondent of the "KP" with shots fired Slavyansk phosphorous bombs.

    June 30, 2014 at 10:31 am | Reply
  11. Alexandr

    Everything for the front: heroes rear continue to operate under the bullets (video) | Russian spring
    Many samootverzhennyj people from the professional skills of which depends on the livelihoods of Donbass cities, has remained in their seats, to serve the civilian population. However, there are also those who rides in a hot spot to give her an indispensable skill of Novorossia. They are doctors and truck drivers delivering humanitarian cargoes. Those who are on the "road of life" lucky bread in the besieged Slavyansk.

    On the photo heroes, who rebuilt bombed by the Germans water Kramatorsk. Two of them were killed, while performing these works.

    In the video, the doctor of the military hospital militias, which arrived in Slavyansk his heart.

    June 30, 2014 at 10:33 am | Reply
  12. Alexandr

    Russian prosecutors opened a case about attack on the checkpoint "Gukovo" and houses in the Rostov region on the part of Ukraine. As reported by the UK representative Vladimir Markin, on June 28, soldiers of the "Right sector" and nazvanii released towards Rostov residents explosive shells. The victims were avoided due to the fact that people have time to hide.

    June 30, 2014 at 10:33 am | Reply
  13. Alexandr

    Kiev in any way prevents attempts to convey the truth about the events in the East of the country, stated the Russian foreign Ministry. The Ministry noted that the Ukrainian authorities are "even such methods as physical violence, targeted attack on journalists and prohibited by international law torture".

    June 30, 2014 at 10:34 am | Reply
  14. Alexandr

    Chapter LNR Bolotov: the Nazis cut ears and swartwout

    Author: NapoleO from Today, 13:21
    10012345
    29

    Reports of atrocities Kiev guards, killing wounded cutting the ears of the people's militia, confirmed the Head of the Lugansk national Republic Valery Bolotov:
    Even there are such (killed)that some don't and viscera. Indeed, they (the Punisher junta) cut off ears, probably by providing photos.

    Bolotov convinced that such atrocities can only seasoned criminals and mercenaries, in which nothing is Holy:
    It's a real gang that kills for money, kills civilians.
    According to his testimony, on the site of fierce battles militias with the fascist executioners, after the retreat of nazhalov, often find dead bodies without viscera.
    He also expressed his opinion about the preparation of the junta, during the so-called truce, full-scale operations to destroy the peace of Lugansk and the surrounding area.

    Source

    June 30, 2014 at 10:35 am | Reply
  15. Nicolay

    Lit building: porikmaherskaya, dentistry, small bar.
    20 metrs from my home.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2a-ZEs5jhA&w=640&h=390]

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7fcmPB1V7c&w=640&h=390]

    This is a residential quarter. 100 000 peoples live in this plays.
    Please, Please, Please, stop ukrainian army.

    My friends call my, ukrainian army use guns from Chastie. Hi live near Chastie. He saw all.

    July 14, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Reply

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