Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

Vladimir Putin isn't persuaded by green-energy dreams

Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have made it clear they want to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, even as countries that could pose a serious threat to U.S. security and the economy double-down on their efforts to extract and control fossil fuels.

Upon being reelected speaker, Pelosi claimed she would focus on what she called the "climate crisis" as "an economic decision for America's global preeminence in green technology; a security decision to keep us safe."

By contrast, Russian President Vladimir Putin, unencumbered by an environmental vision of a carbon-free economy, is engaged in a global effort to unite authoritarian regimes with significant fossil fuel reserves.

Putin envisions a kind of "Dark OPEC" that controls enough of the world's crude oil and natural gas to control supply, dictate prices and engage in political mischief.

For example, Putin has been casting Venezuela's strongman President Nicolas Maduro a financial lifeline in return for a significant share of several Venezuelan oil and natural gas fields. In addition, Venezuela has reportedly signed over a major share of Citgo, a U.S.-based but Venezuela-owned oil refiner, pipeline transporter and marketer, as collateral for Russian-provided loans.

And Putin supplied Caracas with two Tu-160 supersonic bombers, which seems odd given the country can't feed its people, keep the electricity on or even supply toilet paper. Venezuela's problem is people fleeing, not countries threatening to take over.

Russia has also become heavily involved in the Middle East, especially in ensuring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains in power, and providing financial and technical assistance to Iran, Iraq and other countries' oil and natural gas industries.

The result is a critical swath of the oil and gas-rich Middle East under the influence of Russia, which could pose a number of future problems for world energy markets.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. is now the top crude oil producer, with 15.6 million barrels per day. Longtime U.S. ally Saudi Arabia comes in second with 12 million bpd.

However, Russia produces 11.2 million bpd, Iran 4.7 million and Iraq 4.5 million. Add in Venezuela's 2.3 million bpd and you have 22.7 million barrels per day. Enough to manipulate world markets if Russia and its strongman-cohorts choose to do so.

And Saudi Arabia just announced plans to cut crude oil exports to 7.1 million bpd, down from 7.9 million last November.

Given those evolving geopolitical forces, it is absolutely critical that the U.S. not just maintain its drive for energy independence, but seek energy dominance.

We are now the world's largest crude oil and natural gas producer. And while the U.S. produces more natural gas than it consumes, it hasn't reached that point with respect to crude oil. We are still about 4 million barrels per day short of self-sufficiency.

Speaker Pelosi's notion that "green technology" will keep us safe is a throwback to the mid-1970s, when U.S. oil and gas production had seemingly "peaked," leaving us vulnerable to OPEC countries wanting to punish us for supporting Israel.

U.S. security and the economy face numerous existential threats and we must have the energy security to meet them. Those Russian Tu-160 supersonic bombers weren't plug-ins, and China didn't send its lunar rover to the moon with solar power.

Renewable energy may play a bigger role in the future, but it won't make us "safe" — and neither will Pelosi's green-energy dreams.

(Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MerrillMatthews. This piece originally ran in The Hill)