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Russia’s folly, an opportunity for renewable energy?

Russia’s folly, an opportunity for renewable energy?

Russia’s folly, an opportunity for renewable energy?
Rhett A. Butler,
January 3, 2006

With its willingness to use energy as a political instrument, Russia has provided the world with further incentive to pursue renewable energy. The Kremlin has shown it cannot be counted upon as a reliable source of energy and western markets should see this as an opportunity to take a long, thoughtful look at energy security and re-evaluate the benefits of developing renewable energy technologies.

Sunday, Russia reduced gas flows through the pipeline system for Ukraine. The move, widely seen as a form of protest against Ukraine’s increasingly western ways, resulted in diminished gas supplies across Europe and met condemnation by European leaders.

Michael Glos, the economics minister of Germany, wondered whether Russia could be trusted to deliver gas in the future, while the U.S. State Department expressed its concern saying the move “creates insecurity in the energy sector in the region and raises serious questions about the use of energy to exert political pressure.”

Russia’s actions, combined with continued insecurity in the Middle East, Venezuela, and Nigeria mean that the energy concerns for United States and western Europe are not diminishing. While pursuing new oil and gas fields is an option (i.e. like the recent attempt to drill in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), it would be prudent for governments to focus on renewable energy sources and technologies, especially in the light of growing concerns over the contribution of fossil-fuel combustion to global climate change.

In recent years, high energy prices have provided impetus for the innovation in the development of solar, fuel cell, tidal, geothermal, wind, biomass, and other technologies that can help reduce dependence on energy from politically and socially questionable sources. These development efforts become all the more important now that Russia cannot be considered an energy supplier of last resort.

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