Ukraine crisis offers opportunity to expand thinking about energy policy
Nevins is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and co-founder and board chairman of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.
As so often happens in our hyperpartisan political environment, members of Congress and their constituents use events of the day to re-enforce positions they already have.
A perfect example is the Ukrainian crisis that has heightened the debate between those who believe we need to increase oil production and those who believe we need a more environmentally sustainable energy policy that is less reliant on fossil fuel.
Of course it is not surprising that our elected representatives are using the crisis to craft arguments and cherry pick facts to support their respective positions on the issues of climate change and the need for more or less oil production in the United States.
Those members of Congress who for years have been supporting a stronger clean energy policy are using the Ukrainian crisis, and the threat of a Russian cut-off of oil to the West, as an example of why we need to increase our efforts for energy sustainability.
On the other hand, many Republican lawmakers are using the Russian invasion as an opportunity to criticize President Biden’s energy policies they claim have limited domestic production, urging him to step up production so we can wean ourselves of dependence on Russia.
Kevin Stitt, the Republican governor from Oklahoma recently said: “The recent events in Ukraine are yet another example of why we should be selling energy to our friends and not buying it from our enemies."
The debate has been fueled by the dramatic increase in oil prices resulting from Vladimir Putin’s escalating war on Ukraine. Benchmark crude oil jumped past $110 per barrel last week to the highest level since 2014 and politicians have used the dramatic increase to support whatever position they already had as to the solution, as opposed to reevaluating and adapting their initial position based on the new circumstances that have arisen.
Unfortunately, members of Congress are reluctant to think deductively, analyze multiple premises and come up with conclusions based on the facts as opposed to preconceived opinions. How else can you explain that, despite the considerable change that the Ukraine crisis portends on the energy supply-and-demand equation, there is no apparent desire to adapt positions.
There is no doubt that the desire to get elected subjects political aspirants to what is called motivation emotion, influencing their reasoning and judgment. Peter Ditto, a social psychologist at the University of California, Irvine who studies how motivation, emotion and intuition influence judgment, explains the phenomenon this say: "People are capable of being thoughtful and rational, but our wishes, hopes, fears and motivations often tip the scales to make us more likely to accept something as true if it supports what we want to believe."
The energy issue is of course complex and all the more reason that all of the relevant facts need to be considered to make a balanced decision. Is it too much to ask our leaders to stop allowing their ideology to undermine their ability to think critically? Admittedly it is not easy to access the facts. Recently the Financial Times stated:
“Not only does the crisis demonstrate our dependence on such regimes, giving them the ability to blackmail us, but we should also understand that our energy imports, in fact, bankroll the dangerous revisionist adventurism of the current government in Moscow.
“In addition to the all-important climate motivation, replacing imported gas with renewable energy is now a geopolitical priority.”
Yet at about the same time Auke Hoekstra, an expert on the path to 100 percent renewable energy, states that “700 studies (and # growing fast) of many researchers and research groups are now showing 100% [renewable energy] systems are possible and cost-effective.”
700 studies (and # growing fast) of many researchers and research groups are now showing 100% RE systems are possible and cost effective.\n\nDoesn't mean we *should* go for 100% RE. But pls grow up and acknowledge that we *could*.https://twitter.com/ChristianOnRE/status/1496193199597047811\u00a0\u2026— AukeHoekstra (@AukeHoekstra) 1645558076
Whatever your position is, on this issue or the other great issue that our country must address we need more from our elected officials. We need leaders who take full accountability for actions through a willingness to amend one's positions by seeking our current research and analysis, thus resulting in a more constructive approach to problem identification and solutions.
As a citizen we must demand more of ourselves and our leaders. While it is difficult to accept facts that challenge opinions and beliefs you already have, it is time we all do so.
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