Green orgs accuse oil and gas industry of ‘taking advantage’ of Russian invasion of Ukraine

One year ago, President Joe Biden called climate change “the number one issue facing humanity.” Alongside other world leaders, he made a slew of ambitious pledges to mitigate the use of fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy sources.  

A year later, the economic consequences of war have relegated these concerns to an afterthought.

As Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, oil prices, already roiled by rising inflation, hover at about $100 a barrel. Gas prices in the U.S. and in Europe are soaring, and experts say the ongoing conflict could further disrupt the flow of oil supplies in the region. Russia is currently the world’s second-largest oil producer, behind the U.S. 

With the security of the energy supply suddenly becoming an even greater issue, climate advocates worry that the oil and gas industry are “taking advantage” of consumer fears to advocate for an increase in fossil fuel usage and a temporary suspension of concerns over greenhouse gas being pumped into the atmosphere. 

Advocates note that oil and fracked gas lobbyists are using the Ukraine crisis to send memos to politicians advocating for more domestic fossil fuel production. 

One example is the American Petroleum Institute. In a statement yesterday, its president and CEO Mike Sommers argued, “policies that restrict U.S. natural gas and oil development are steps in the wrong direction. Indeed, few things are more critical right now than providing energy security to American consumers as well as our allies abroad.”

On Thursday, the same day Russia invaded Ukraine, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida, and said Biden “shuts down American energy production and greenlights Russian energy production…Is it any wonder that Vladimir Putin feels emboldened to do whatever the heck it is he wants to do?”

Hawley’s colleague, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), told conservative outlet Newsmax the same day that Biden had made several decisions on energy “that really hindered the U.S.,” such as stopping the Keystone XL pipeline and ending drilling on federal lands. According to Blackburn, Putin saw this and concluded, “Joe Biden is weak. I am going to move forward.”  Blackburn has received more than $800,000 in donations from the oil and gas industry throughout her career.

“What’s happening in Ukraine is absolutely harrowing and make no mistake: fossil fuels enabled this dictator,” Evergreen Action, an advocacy group created by former staffers of Washington Governor Jay Inslee, wrote in a statement. “Contrary to what Republicans and API energy are saying, transitioning off of fossil fuels would be a defense against the volatility of dictators like Putin.”

ClearView Energy Partners warned this week that Russia’s “connectedness to global markets” and its oligarchs’ stakes in energy companies may make repercussions difficult to completely avoid. At a press conference on Thursday, Biden said it was “critical” for him to “limit the pain the American people are feeling at the gas pump.”

Even before Russia’s invasion, inflation fears have prompted an increase in drilling. In December, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm urged American oil producers to increase output, telling them to get “rig counts up.” Exxon Mobil announced this month that it would increase its spending on new oil wells, and frackers who once thought their industry was dead are coming back with a vengeance

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