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Unpublished Letters: Solution to Ukraine isn’t “Drill, Baby, Drill” to “Pollute, Baby, Pollute”

March 23rd, 2014 · 5 Comments

WarrenS has taken on an admirable resolution: to send a letter to the editor (LTE) (or, well, a major politician) every single day, on the critical issues of climate change and energy. This discusses his approach and here is an amusing ‘template’ to for rapid letter writing.

Now, I have always written letters and even had many published — just not one every day. WarrenS inspires me to do better.

Many newspapers state that they will reject letters that have been published elsewhere, thus I have not been blogging letters … perhaps that should change. Thus, on a delay from ‘rejection’ (or lack of publication), here is an installment of the “unpublished letters” series publishing those LTEs that don’t get picked up by the editors.

To the Editor,

“Energy” is a complex system.

In “Fueling Independence” (6 March), the Washington Post looked at the Ukraine situation through a “supply” mentality – advocating increased drilling in Ukraine and increased liquid natural gas (LNG) imports, including from the United States.

America’s role in the Ukrainian energy system shouldn’t be “drill, baby, drill” to “pollute, baby, pollute.” Instead, we should promote energy efficiency throughout the Ukrainian economy and help Ukraine develop alternative and cleaner paths for fueling its economy.

Promotion of liquid natural gas (LNG) exports only has one true winner: the fossil fuel industry. For the rest of the U.S. economy, mark it as a loss due to increased U.S. energy prices and worsened climate implications.

Enhancing energy efficiency and energy diversification in the Ukraine, on the other hand, is a real win-win-win opportunity:

  • Strengthen Ukraine’s economy and security with ever more sustainable independence from imported fossil fuels – Russian or otherwise;
  • Improve U.S. economy via export of clean energy expertise and products; and,
  • Reduce pollution.

In the Ukraine and elsewhere, dealing with energy complexity matters. Integrating our approaches to national and natural security challenges can create wins for us all.


A Siegel

NOTE: Sigh … Sadly, The Washington Post editorial board has doubled down on its stove-piped thinking with today’s editorial “Using natural gas as an energy wedge against Russia“. While they would likely, if asked, agree with the Pentagon that climate change creates national security risks, they seem unable to connect their calls for increased fossil-fuel exports with the increased climate change risks that would result from the exports.  As well, they do not seem able to process that the old adage ‘give a man a fish … teach a man to fish’ fits well here.  Rather than continue to supply Ukraine’s natural gas habit, much better to help the Ukrainians — far more cost effectively for them and us — reduce their demand for natural gas. This can be done faster and less expensively than creating an export system to send liquified natural gas overseas.

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Tags: Energy · unpublished letters · Washington Post

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John Egan // Mar 23, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Adam –

    For many Americans, let alone Ukrainians, the existence of moderately cheap natural gas this past winter meant affordable heating bills. For those dependent upon propane or heating oil, monthly bills of $500-plus were not uncommon.

    John – Do you care that exporting of natural gas — increased exports — will drive up the cost of natural gas in the United States? Cove Point, alone, will increase Henry Hub prices by 5% — according to analysis that Dominion Resources paid for. (Navigant Analysis (paid for by Dominion Power) showing a 5% impact on natural gas prices: See “NORTH AMERICAN GAS SYSTEM MODEL TO 2040” page 20 showing Henry Hub prices 5.7% higher in 2020, 4.1% in 2030, 6.0% in 2040.)

    And yet you blast fossil fuels as if they were some sort of existential evil.

    Simply put: Unrestrained continuation and expansion of burning of fossil fuels does represent an existential threat.

    That is the basic set of implications of the science related to global warming / climate change.

    I can assure you that the kind of energy costs that result from your policy goals will only serve to drive millions of people into the clutches of right-wing populism.

    Again, the point of exporting LNG is not to lower US energy costs but to drive them up to increase profitability for the producers.

    Ukraine is bankrupt with a highly inefficient energy system.

    So, the answer is to send them natural gas that cannot be sold at less than roughly $15 per MMBTU?

    Do you understand the quite real synthetic natural gas from biomass options?

    Do you have a feel for the energy efficiency options to drive down Ukraine’s energy requirements? Oh, by the way, at far lower costs than buying/burning new fossil fuel energy sources?

    In Germany, with one of the most developed energy grids, electricity costs have doubled in the past decade.

    Perhaps you should dig into things.

    1. There are many cost components that have nothing to do with renewables

    since 2008, the cost of German electricity for household consumers, without levies and surcharges, has only slightly increased, by nearly 10 percent. Total cost of electricity, including these, has increased by 25 percent since 2010 .

    Electricity surcharges and levies (but excluding VAT) increased 63 percent since 2008. Surcharges, levies and VAT constituted 40 percent of the German electricity price in 2008, by the end of 2012 they constituted 46,5 percent …. the VAT has also risen: its contribution to total price nearly doubled since 2003.

    2. Remember that there are many skews in the policy — such as industrial entities being able to gain from the renewables but not having to pay the surcharges. There are good and weak elements in the Energiewende.

    A similar policy implemented in Ukraine would cause energy prices to skyrocket and the economy to collapse.


    My letter is pointing out that exporting natural gas to the Ukraine – very expensive to Ukraine and raising prices in the United States — would be less effective than other options in terms of addressing Ukraine’s energy/security situation while worsening climate change. A few hundred word letter to the editor does not provide the space to go into a full-blown set of recommendations. The linking of Ukraine to the Energiewende policy is a stretch from what my unpublished letter is.

    Putin would then be welcomed in the streets of Kiev with flower garlands.

    Your view seems to be ‘lets produce as much fossil fuels as possible and damn the consequences’.

  • 2 John Egan // Mar 24, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Petty bourgeois greenism – –

    What words should be thrown at you? Fossil Foolish pollution promoter? Enough …

    Meanwhile high, permanent unemployment and declining wages crush working people –

    Executing a biomass-based energy program in Ukraine with energy efficiency programs would create jobs while lowering requirements to import energy.

    Right-wing populism is the clarion call in much of Europe.
    The U.S. and E.U. do little to challenge Svoboda –
    And the Front National sees huge increases in its support in France.

    Did I not say precisely that – quite some time ago??

    And, yes, evidently the calls to increase employment and wages in the United States through a well-executed energy efficiency and renewable energy program is what gets Marie Le Pen her chance to be interviewed.

  • 3 Albanius // Mar 31, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    You are right, as usual, but the problem is much bigger than Ukraine. There is a big push now to expand NG exports, railroad through the Trans-Atlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, and expand fracking on both sides of the pond.

  • 4 John Egan // Mar 31, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Marine Le Pen continues to grow the Front National. She leads personal popularity polls. The FN is likely to have a big breakthrough victory in the May Euro Parliament elections – albeit the EP is rather powerless.

    And one of the core platforms of the FN is the cost of energy. She has identified two issues – neoliberal energy politics and the choice of energy mix. Obviously, since coal regions are one of the FN’s bases, she advocates for continued coal usage – for reasons of economics and of French energy independence.

    One ignores her critiques at one’s peril.

  • 5 John Egan // Apr 6, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    And Jobbik support grew to 20% in today’s Hungarian elections. Meanwhile, the Green Party refused to join a broad center-left coalition opposition.

    Where have you seen, here, a broad brush (or even any) support of “Green Party” in Hungary or otherwise?

    My basic point is that sensible climate policy leads to improved social strength (jobs and otherwise), improved environmental situation (reduced climate and other damage), and improved economic performance. E.g., triple bottom line. And, sensible analysis shows the profitability of climate mitigation and climate adaptation.

    You are systematic for blaming “environmentalists” for the world’s political ills rather than those — such as fossil fuel interests — who are fighting for economic disparity along with continued (if not worsened) polluting energy systems.