This shift is most apparent in Europe, which is heavily reliant on imported Russian energy to keep the lights and heat on and has been experiencing a steady rise in energy prices. The new conflict, and the escalating sanctions and scrapped pipeline plans in response, has raised concerns that additional projected price hikes could trigger supply shortages as soon as next winter.
“We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said in a statement on Monday. “We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us. We need to act now to mitigate the impact of rising energy prices, diversify our gas supply for next winter and accelerate the clean energy transition.”
The European Commission recently unveiled a plan for how the region could transition away from Russian fossil fuels before 2030, involving a near-term push to find fossil fuel alternatives to Russia’s gas imports and maximize energy efficiency combined with a longer-term shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy consistent with the region’s existing climate plans.
“I view this as an important step in fostering the decarbonization of the European economy,” Andreas Goldthau, an energy transition expert at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, told BuzzFeed News by email.
The commission’s modeling suggests something to the tune of “two-thirds of Russian gas being replaced within one year only through those measures, which strikes me as very ambitious,” Goldthau said. He later added: “At current prices, this would mean a significant cost to industry and households, and possibly a too high cost to some.”
Meanwhile, also on Monday, President Joe Biden announced the US would immediately ban Russian energy imports, yet another layer of economic sanctions meant to punish the country for its attack on Ukraine.
“We’re moving forward on this ban, understanding that many of our European allies and partners may not be in a position to join us,” Biden said, noting that US domestic oil production gives the country flexibility Europe does not have.
But even with vast fossil fuel production at home, the US is not immune to the dramatic fluctuations in energy prices set by global energy markets. As of Thursday, gas prices hit a national average of $4.31 a gallon (adjusted for inflation, the record price for gas was $5.53 a gallon, set in 2008). Biden’s solution to preventing this problem from recurring is the same as Europe’s: embracing clean energy.
“To protect our economy over the long term, we need to become energy independent,” Biden said. “It should motivate us to accelerate the transition to clean energy.”