The words of Ukrainian president, spoken on 29 March 2022, the 34th day of Russian aggression against Ukrainian people, sum up the schizophrenic attitude the world has to fossil fuels.
We can’t let go of oil, gas and coal, we are addicted, and like a desperate craving junkie we are prepared to kill for it. Our modern high-tech society is dependent on the stone age technology of burning wood. We watch Ukrainian children being burned with phosphorus bombs, and console ourselves that an oil embargo would hurt us more. Come climate disaster and nuclear World War 3, we will meet the end sitting in our SUV in a drive-through clutching a burger.
We are the stupidest species this planet ever evolved.
For decades, scientists have been warning of an impending climate disaster, caused by the ever-rising CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. How did we react? We kept convincing ourselves that there was no need to change our ways of life because the global warming won’t happen. Or if it will happen, it will be mild, slow, over many centuries, why worrying now. Or that we will have some magic technology like carbon capture or “geoengineering” to make climate change go away. Or that a warming climate is actually good for our economy and agriculture, this is certainly what the Russian regime thinks.
And now the same Russian regime, led by the murderous tyrant Vladimir Putin, armed to the teeth with nukes, started a massive aggression and genocide in Ukraine, which can easily turn into World War 3. No prizes for guessing where Russia got the money from to militarise itself.
We, the west, and especially Europe, and especially Germany, have created a monster. And we did this not just out of our naive belief into the peaceful nature of the poetic Russian people, or that if you keep chanting the mantra “Never Again”, a new genocide will be avoided. We assumed Russia was our friend for all eternity because of the crimes the Third Reich committed 80 years ago in Ukraine and Belarus, consider this.
We even had the common enemy: those Ukrainian Nazis, whom we kept seeing everywhere, especially the Azov battalion now defending Mariupol from the Russian genocide. Never mind that Azov fighters are not Nazis, that the Ukrainian president is Jewish, that no far-right parties ever even made it into the Ukrainian parliament, while our own European parliaments are very well-staffed with far-right thugs from AfD, Rassemblement National, Lega Nord and other fascist parties, all sponsored for many years by and utterly loyal to… guess whom. World’s leading fascist Putin of course, who already successfully achieved his goal in USA by installing Donald Trump as president.
We kept calling everyone Nazis and fascists except the fascist Russia, which even has its own Zombie swastika now, and we still insist that the Russian Zombie nation are just as innocent victims of Putin’s as Ukrainians are.
But I wanted to talk about fossil fuels, and Russia is rich in those. World’s biggest producer of gas, second biggest reserves for coal, and 8th biggest for oil, how can one not love such a country. To make it even more stupid: we created the Russian war monster while chasing our idiotic idea of “natural” gas being a cheep “green” solution to climate change. Because gas burns so much more efficiently and cleaner than coal, you see. The EU Commission’s decision to label Russian gas green was made just days before the war in Ukraine began.
We also are dependent on Russian oil because we firmly believe that cars are sacred. We build our cities for cars and not for humans, and we sacrifice countless lives every year to cars, due to traffic accidents and pollution. In Germany, the idea of speed limits or car-free inner cities is considered to be a heinous attack on human rights and democracy, while windmills are banned to unpopulated areas for reasons of being too ugly, spoiling property value.
How about some pictures from destroyed Mariupol on German billboards, maybe windmills won’t look that ugly afterwards, dear German house owners?
Germany and EU sponsored the Russian military for decades, directly and indirectly. Every bomb and rocket dropped on Mariupol, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities and towns was paid by European fossil fuel customers.
And we still are buying gas, oil and coal from Russia, financing this war, while trembling in fear of the possibility of Putin turning off the taps. Which might nevertheless happen now, because Putin categorically demands payment in roubles, which in turn would overthrow EU’s own sanctions on Russian economy.
Maybe the real reason why we are not giving Ukraine war planes and tanks to liberate its besieged starving cities is not our fear of “escalation”, i.e. Russia’s war on NATO’s eastern members. Russian army is not able of that in its current state, and it is highly unlikely Putin would start a total nuclear war with USA or Europe, he is even afraid to use tactical nukes on Ukraine. But Putin can easily switch off oil and gas supplies to Europe.
It is insane. Our politicians proved at best stupid and at worst evil by creating such total dependency on Russian fossil fuels, despite Putin proclaiming for all these years that he intends to destroy Ukraine and then take back the rest of Eastern Europe. We fooled ourselves he was surely just joking. When the Ukrainian war started in 2014 with occupation of Crimea and Donbass, we convinced ourselves it was all mostly Ukraine’s fault. When Russia attacked the entire country on 24th of February 2022, our biggest shock was not the repeated aggression or its scale. We kind of knew and expected that. Our biggest shock and cause for worry was the Ukrainian resistance. Our cunning plan to keep buying fossil fuels from our Russia business partners despite their many wars of aggression is about to go tits up because Ukrainians refuse to demise as expected.
When the war started, German finance minister Christian Lindner ridiculed the Ukrainian Ambassador in his face, saying Ukraine had “hours left” and that he was waiting to negotiate business with the puppet regime Putin will install in Kiyv. Linder is the boss of a small lobby party for the wealthy (FDP), the smallest partner in a three-party coalition government, but the Social Democrats chancellor Olaf Scholz did not sanction his finance minister, quite the opposite: Linder and the FDP was rewarded with signing their pet demand of a gasoline price subsidy into law. Germany sponsors SUVs and luxury cars in these difficult times.
Despite the Ukrainian war going on for 8 years now, Germany and the rest of Europe wilfully manoeuvred itself into an idiotic situation where its economy is utterly dependent on Russian gas as energy source. Germany never bothered to build an LPG terminal and doesn’t even have its own gas storage tanks, those are owned by Gazprom. If Russia cuts off gas: lots of energy-intensive industry will just stop.
And as for oil: well, Zelenskyy put it right. We are not ready for an oil embargo yet, maybe when Kyiv is wiped out with chemical or nuclear weapons attack, maybe then. Not because we are as dependent on Russian oil as we are on Russian gas, that is not the case, thank god. Dear Ukrainians under the rubble, as you die of thirst, hunger and injuries, please understand the pleas from people like Lindner: we must make sure our wealthy comfortable lives can continue as before – which means driving our huge cars all day everywhere, to work, to buy cigarettes, or just for fun. The sacred German value of Fahrvergnügen. I am sorry, but a choice between your lives and a gasoline price of €3 a litre is no choice at all.
If only it was that easy though. Problem is, Putin clearly said he wants the rest of eastern Europe also. We might even consider giving in to his demands, but then again, Putin is also threatening nuclear strikes against the rich NATO states, worse, he threatens a gas and oil blockade! Which kind o makes it difficult to do business with such a person.
One would think, those who never believed in climate change will sure believe in the imminent danger of World War 3, and how that is incidentally also due to fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the second part is not being communicated clearly enough by our politicians and media. Because it would mean telling people to change their life styles.
Now is the perfect time to ban private cars from inner cities, turn parking lots into parks, plant trees where cars used to be. Sure, you probably need a car to get around in the countryside, but why exactly can’t you leave it at the train or bus stop and take public transport into the city? Too crowded and too expensive? Exactly this has been our elected representatives’ undeclared policy of self-sabotage, to make public transport as miserable and humiliating as possible, a punishment, a monetary fine in fact, for being too poor to use the car like decent people do. Public transport users bear the brunt of up to 100% of total operational costs, and still receive an overpriced bad service back. Car drivers pay nothing or next to nothing for the highways, roads and parking spaces which are constantly built for them from public coffers to avoid the inconvenience of traffic jams. States and communes have no money to spare for public transport, but they are always ready to build new streets and bypasses for sprawling private home settlements planted where wild ecosystems used to be.
The biggest danger for children are not some perverts lurking in the shadows whom the media warns us about. It is other parents with their cars, who insist on driving their own children everywhere to protect them from those perverts and… car accidents. But of course we refuse to let go of cars, even if we kind of accept that the oil era must end. Electric cars are a big thing now, so your child can be run over in an eco-friendly way! Never mind the ecological question of battery production and recycling, or the energy costs of moving a 2-3 ton heavy car to carry one single little wanker to his or her bullshit job. That’s how stupid our society is.
It should be public transportation switching to electricity, but there is no money for that. It is tied to new highways you see. So let’s briefly talk where we would get energy from, if we really aim to divest from fossil fuels.
Many will say: nuclear power! It’s so clean and efficient, right? I don’t think so. First of all, it is economically not viable. Nuclear power plants are so expensive, they can only be built with state money. And it is also the state which pays for the long term storage of the spent radioactive fuel. A key argument is that this storage problem cannot be solved safely and satisfactory anyway, what with the centuries-long radioactive decay period. The politicians just keep moving and hiding the radiative waste back and forth, just hide it long enough for the next generation of voters to be poisoned.
Finally, nuclear power plants do not run on air. They use uranium as fuel. Russia just happens to be sixth biggest uranium exporter. World’s by far leading uranium producer is Kazakhstan, an oppressive regime controlled by both China and Russia. The second biggest uranium producer, with less than a third of Kazakhstan’s output, is Canada, followed by Australia, Namibia and Niger. The two African countries outsource their uranium mining to China. Again, number 6 is Russia, followed by Uzbekistan (another Central Asian authoritarian state controlled by Russia and China), then China itself, and number 9 is Ukraine, which Russia is currently trying to conquer. Basically, nuclear industry is dependent for its fuel on China and Russia.
What Russia is also trying in Ukraine, is to cause a nuclear disaster. Two of Ukrainian power plants, Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhya, are occupied, Russian army even fired at the reactors and destroyed power lines to cooling facilities where spent fuel rods are stored. Even the safest and most technically advanced nuclear reactor will explode when directly hit by a missile, and will make the area around it uninhabitable for centuries. Maybe this is why France with its 56 nuclear reactors is so afraid to provoke Russian wrath, with Macron constantly on the phone with Putin while refusing to help Ukraine with arms.
So maybe nuclear power is not really a good choice, for a variety of reasons. Which only leaves us with regenerative energies, like wind, solar, water, geothermal, and the green hydrogen these can produce with excess electricity from water hydrolysis. Hydrogen can be easily transported, stored long-term and burned in already existing gas power plants. The technology is all in place, it needs only to be built and applied. Sure, this means investment, but it’s actually much cheaper than building new nuclear plants.
If we keep clutching at fossil fuels, the war in Ukraine will grow into a World War 3, and then nuclear weapons will be quite liable to get deployed. The climate change keeps getting worse even if we stroke the topic off the political agenda and media coverage due to the war. Ukraine is one of world’s biggest food producers, incidentally the African and Middle East countries dependent on Ukrainian food imports are also the ones worst hit by climate change. Russia, unable to win against Ukrainian military defences, unsuccessful with breaking Ukrainian people spirit by war atrocities and genocide, now began specifically bombing fuel storages all over Ukraine, noteworthy far away from the frontline. The idea is to poison Ukrainian lands and to sabotage Ukrainian agriculture during the critical phase of seeding campaign, and thus to cause hunger, not just in Ukraine, but in the Global South.
Again, for those who felt climate change is not good enough reason to divest from fossil fuels, the war in Ukraine should end the debate.
Слава Україні! Героям слава!
Please find charities to donate to at the end of this article. Prof Timothy Snyder lists Ukrainian army and civilian help charities in US, Europe and Ukraine here. Or donate to a humanitarian charity project of your choice. Ukrainians are fighting for all of us.