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Opinion: How President Biden can win the energy war with Russia — and lower gas prices


Editor’s note: Kevin Johnson is an Iraq War veteran and board director of the American Resilience Project and the Environmental Defense Action Fund. Mark Ruffalo is an actor, conservationist and co-founder of We Stand United. Both are founding members of the Clean Energy Freedom campaign. The opinions expressed in this commentary are their own.

As energy tensions continue to mount in Europe amid the war in Ukraine, Americans are feeling the effects at home. Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria last month, and the European Union recently proposed a ban on Russian oil imports. Meanwhile, just last week, the U.S. Consumer Price Index showed that gas price increased by 44% (on an unadjusted basis) in the 12 months ended April, and the national average currently hovering around $4.52 per gallon.

Clearly, Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to weaponize Europe’s reliance on his country’s fossil fuels to deter support for Ukraine. This moment should serve as a wake-up call to recognize that our heavy reliance on fossil fuels is incompatible with the national security interests of the United States and our European allies.

This is why a rapid transition to clean energy is imperative.

In the United States, President Biden is expected to invoke his emergency powers under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate the production and installation of clean energy at a rate and scale similar to the production of military weapons during World War II. Except this time it won’t be the bombs, planes or tankers we need to scale up, but the production of heat pumps, solar, wind and other energy technologies. own.

The DPA grants the President broad powers to mobilize the US economy, including the private sector, to produce essential goods and infrastructure necessary for national defense. This includes building and, if need be, transforming the US energy system. In fact, the DPA explicitly recognizes clean energy independence as essential to our national defence. It directs the President, “To the extent possible, domestic energy supplies should be augmented by relying on renewable energy sources (including solar, geothermal, wind and biomass energy sources), technologies more efficient energy storage and distribution and energy conservation measures.”

The clean energy transition will of course take time, no matter what. A recent analysis by UC Berkeley shows that the United States could achieve 90% clean, carbon-free electricity by 2035. Others suggest 2050. The speed of our transition largely depends on the extent to which our government, our businesses, and the American people decide to finally increase investment in clean energy. Using DPA will help prioritize this transition and get us there faster than our current pace.

President Biden’s use of the DPA would not be surprising or unprecedented. Former President Trump used it to increase production of personal protective equipment and ventilators during the Covid-19 pandemic. President Biden used it to increase production of supplies needed for vaccines. And this year it used it to increase the raw materials needed for electric vehicles and energy storage. It was a critical first step, but now Biden must go further by invoking the DPA to not only build electric vehicles and batteries, but also rooftop solar panels, wind turbines, tidal and geothermal power stations, pumps. heat and electric water heaters, and related components. update our energy network.

The alternative is increased reliance on fossil fuels, which jeopardizes national and international security by accelerating the climate emergency. In October 2021, the US Department of Defense released its Climate risk analysis, identifying climate change as having “significant implications” for US national security. He even raised the possibility of “state failure” if climate impacts strain economic and social conditions. Continued and increased reliance on fossil fuels only creates more opportunities for adversaries like Russia to gain political influence or military advantage, the report said.

By using the DPA to accelerate technological innovation and move us toward clean energy independence, Biden can protect national security and protect against Russia-induced shocks to fossil fuel prices. Clean energy will give Americans more choice in how we power our lives and businesses and protect us from the growing impacts of the climate emergency.

Accelerating clean energy will also create jobs across the country. To build, install, and maintain our clean energy infrastructure, the United States will need to recruit, train, and hire hundreds of thousands more people. workers.

The United States has a long tradition of global leadership in times of crisis through bold innovation. We, together with our NATO allies, can emerge victorious from this war by harnessing the power of the sun and the wind, our water and our tides, and even the earth itself. We know it’s possible, and it’s time for President Biden to lead the way.