Q1 2022 Director’s Note

The Imperative to become energy independent has been highlighted in this time of Russian invasion of Ukraine. Energy security will come with energy self-sufficiency locally when countries do not rely on foreign sources of fuel. OECD Europe imported 74% of Russia’s total natural gas exports in 2021, 49% of its crude oil, and 32% of its coal (EIA). This dependency on imported fossil fuels allows people in one country to become hostages of another to heat their homes and buildings and fuel their economy. Oil and natural gas are now a weapon for Russia.

The high cost of energy due to Russia’s war is creating a crisis for citizens of the EU where the price of gas at the pump is over $8 per gallon. People in the US are feeling higher gas prices too, though half that of the EU. Nations that oppose the killing of civilians and children in a free country will continue to have to finance the aggressor until they find other sources of energy and ramp up production of local renewable resources.

Combining the need for energy security with the “code red” status of the climate crisis made even more clear in both the IPPC Climate Change 2022 Sixth Assessment Report and “Wisconsin’s Changing Climate’ 2021 Assessment Report, should help drive the transformation to a clean energy economy more rapidly. One path to tackle heating vulnerability is to upgrade the energy efficiency of people’s homes and buildings and to invest strategically in renewable energy locally and regionally that is not subject to price volatility and foreign intervention.

Moving to clean forms of transportation that don’t rely on imported fossil oil is another part of the solution. Venture funding is accelerating for EV battery startups, the biggest automotive companies are investing in manufacturing electric vehicles and batteries, and in the US, the federal government is investing in R&D for battery supply chains, workforce development, national charging infrastructure, and clean public transit. In the first month of Russia’s war in Ukraine, consumer search interest in electric vehicles reached a record high according to GoogleTrends and there was a 400% increase in the search question “how much does it cost to charge an electric car?”.

While becoming energy independent won’t happen overnight, now is the time to accelerate and ensure the transition to the clean energy economy.  It is important for global, national, and local food, water, health, and economic security, stability, and resilience. It is the most cost-effective path that will fuel good livelihoods and the greatest job creation. It is important to young people who want to live on a stable planet with a good quality of life so that they can have children of their own.

This time in history, with the nexus of the risks to humanity from our warming climate with the fossil fuel dependence of the free world on hostile governments, creates a moment for us to see and act beyond today’s short term interests to a greater long-term good of clean energy.  It’s the time to embrace Wisconsin’s motto –  Forward.

Sherrie Gruder