The Russian Oil & Energy Independence Debate Dissected

The Russian Oil & Energy Independence Debate Dissected

ICYMI gas prices have been rising over the last few months. This past week they skyrocketed after Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, with prices reaching almost $5 a gallon across the U.S. Yikes. The bad news: they’re expected to go up even higher because President Biden announced a ban on all Russian energy imports this past Tuesday. No thank you.

These price hikes are only fueling (pun intended) the conversation about reliance on fossil fuels and energy independence. So what are they saying?

On one side, we have people who think we need to “Drill, baby, drill” and boost U.S. oil and gas production. Even though Russia only makes up 10% of U.S. oil imports, the American oil market is getting hit hard. This is steering many people to see the problem as “foreign” oil that is out of our control and want to push for boosting U.S.-sourced oil and gas. Essentially they’re calling for the U.S. to become Miss (Energy) Independent.

But here’s the thing: former President Trump deregulated the fossil fuel industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. That, coupled with the lifting of the export ban in 2015, means the oil and gas industry currently has fewer limits to drill than it’s had since regulation began. 😳 U.S. oil production has been steadily increasing since about mid-2020, almost getting back up to pre-pandemic levels. And even if oil companies were to start drilling a new pipeline, it would take years before it would become fully operational. And no, not even the Keystone XL Pipeline would have made a difference.

On another side, we have people reminding us that we export more oil than we import, and technically could already be energy independent if we wanted to be. Right now, as in literally today, oil and gas companies could increase production if they wanted to. There are 9,000 approved oil leases that oil companies are not tapping into currently, and may still not tap into in the future. So why aren’t they? Essentially, a combo platter of money, labor, and materials.

Like pretty much every other industry during the pandemic, the oil and gas industry was hit with material and labor shortages. But even if those weren’t concerns, oil and gas executives have explicitly said they don’t want to increase production because the high prices are working out really well for them (aka their pockets) at the moment.

“Whether it’s $150 oil, $200 oil, or $100 oil, we’re not going to change our growth plans,” Pioneer CEO Scott Sheffield said during a Bloomberg Television interview. “If the president wants us to grow, I just don’t think the industry can grow anyway.”

Another good reason not to ramp up oil and gas production and drilling in the U.S.? The health of the planet. Another key argument in this debate is the one calling for a transition away from oil and gas forever. While economically speaking, ramping up U.S. oil and gas production could be beneficial both short- and long-term, it would be devastating to our planet. Which is why a transition to renewable energy sources would be vital to the future of the U.S. and the planet as a whole. That means reducing demand and consumption wherever possible, for starters. And then phasing out gas and oil production and systems with clean energy systems.

So, what can you do right now as a consumer besides shell out more money for gas?

You can start with trying to cut down on your overall energy usage, since our energy and heating systems run primarily on natural gas, and car usage (if you own one) to reduce your petroleum usage. But tbh, that isn’t going to do too much in the larger scheme of things. Unless we all did it together.

Don’t let that discourage you from reducing your consumption, though. Just take it a step further. By sharing your thoughts, you can influence others, which can lead to collective change. Start a petition. Write a blog. Post on social media. Talk about it with friends.

And don’t just stop there. Make it political because, well, this is political. When it comes to the future of energy in the U.S., the best thing you can do is contact your representatives, from local to state to federal, through email, phone, or by letter, and let them know your thoughts on what kind of energy you’d like to see more investment in.

It might be hard to think beyond the strain your wallet is feeling and the war in Ukraine right now, but change is possible and it needs to start now. The sooner we start the sooner we can stop relying on these polluting petrochemicals.

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