For too long, I think, we’ve seen that one of the many downsides to our reliance on fossil fuels is that it empowers autocrats in petrostates to spread chaos at home and across the world. It’s time to Electrify & Decarbonize.
From Venezuela to Nigeria to Saudi Arabia to most recently (and blatantly!) Russia, we’ve witnessed how the dynamics of fossil fuel production and dependency harm both the countries that possess them (through the aptly named “resource curse”) as well as other countries that are held hostage to the whims of despotic leaders.
Not only does our fossil fuel dependence line the pockets, and buy the weapons to prop up and now expand dictatorships, but it also hamstrings democracies in their response to petrostate agressions. This last point was evidenced by the Biden Administration’s recent decision not to sanction Russia’s oil and gas sector because of fears that it would rock energy markets and raise the already high price of fossil fuel at home and with important allies in Europe.
If climate change, and its ever scarier consequences, weren’t a big enough reason to get off the fossil sauce, Vladimir Putin’s recognition of the power he holds over an addicted world should do the trick.
Luckily there’s a solution that’s rapidly advancing, and individuals can help to accelerate it: produce electricity exclusively with renewable energy and then electrify everything.
Renewable electricity production is following an s-curve, exponential growth trajectory and alone holds the potential to both eliminate emissions of planet-baking carbon dioxide and methane and provide a homegrown, distributed, price-insulated energy system that will end the lose-lose dynamics of petro-state power. Wind and solar power are available in virtually every region and country in the world and the costs of generation are plummeting. Electricity is also subject to less price volatility than fossil fuels because there are so many ways to produce it. Like all good investments, it’s diversified.
As we phase out coal and natural gas, a diverse mix of renewable fuels — from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, hydro, some nuclear, and emerging technologies like wave and tidal — mean the clean energy sources of the 21st century will not be concentrated in the hands of a few, but distributed to benefit many. This even includes individuals who can themselves produce the very energy their homes and vehicles need to operate. Renewable energy is the ultimate form of energy independence and energy democracy.
Electrifying buildings with heat pumps and electrifying transportation with electric cars, bikes, and trucks will reduce our energy needs by half simply because new electric technologies are so efficient. They also provide better heating, cooling, and vehicle performance than their fossil fueled counterparts. And this isn’t some far off dream. We can power our buildings and transportation today without petrostate fossil fuels. Much of the electricity needed to power our buildings and vehicles already comes from clean, local sources and this trend accelerates as new renewable generation is added to the grid. This means that electric solutions produce far fewer emissions than fossil fuel-powered devices today and will approach zero emissions as the grid transitions to all renewable energy.
So this week, while we watch a fossil-fueled madman invade a sovereign nation with tanks and helicopters paid for by the proceeds of gas pumps and gas furnaces, let’s double down on electrification and renewable energy. Whether you’re directly consuming Russian natural gas or burning gasoline that keeps the world locked into a nightmare of pollution and petrostate bullies, there is something we can all proactively do.
By buying solar panels and electric cars, investing in community solar, and installing heat pump furnaces, heat pump water heaters and induction stoves, we can do our democratic, patriotic, and climatic duty to reduce our dependence on corrupt petro-states that hold so much power over the world, while fighting the climate crisis at the same time.
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