The Russian invasion of Ukraine – mounted by a man who, for all intents and purposes, is a petroleum dictator – brings to the forefront the risk posed to the energy security of all nations who depend heavily on fossil fuels for power, transportation, heating and other functions. It also brings into sharp focus the need for a new, clean and secure energy future.
This has been one of SfL’s core goals dating back to our formation in 2004 of the 25x’25 Alliance. That farmer-led group sought – and as SfL continues to seek – to shape the national dialogue and policy decisions that bring about a future that simultaneously improves energy, economic and national security. It’s a future that can also stimulate new economic development, improve public health, protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Much progress has been made in bringing about that renewable energy goal here in the United States. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported last week that strong solar and wind power growth drove electrical generation by renewable energy sources (which also include biomass, geothermal and hydropower) to more than 21 percent of total U.S. electrical generation in 2021.
The need to further boost our renewable energy resources and any other measures we can take to stem climate change was made clear by a United Nations report that was issued this week. It found that “(H)uman-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability.”
Furthermore, the “rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt.”
But the war in Eastern Europe has laid bare the world’s continuing indifference to these warnings, underscoring the risk our dependence on petroleum-derived fuels and the precarious situation it puts us in when nations like Russia exploit dependence on fossil energy to achieve their geopolitical goals. While there is no immediate solution to climate change, action can be taken to decarbonize the economy and reduce our dependence on oil.
A clear example is unlocking the wider deployment of biofuels. One of the quickest ways to achieve national energy and economic security is to remove any impediments to deploying ready-to-distribute homegrown, low carbon and lower cost biofuels. EPA has the authority to improve fuel quality by approving higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel in our nation’s gasoline and diesel fuel supply, and President Biden should direct the agency to do so immediately.
Furthermore, the ongoing fighting has also brought into sharp focus the world food system’s interdependence. Becoming more and more obvious is that what happens in the “breadbaskets” of Ukraine (and Russia, it must be pointed out), affects the lives of millions. Just one example is Egypt, which is deeply dependent on imports that are heavily concentrated from Russia (53 percent) and Ukraine (17 percent).
SfL Senior Advisor Denny McGinn, a retired U.S, Navy Vice Admiral and a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, warns that the conflict will bring about both near- and long-term impacts on global supply chains, including for food production and delivery. He says critical agricultural system components like energy, fertilizer, equipment, technology, and management controls will be adversely affected.
SfL promotes Climate Smart Agriculture and other integrated land management solutions to help meet food security, economic development, climate change and conservation of biodiversity goals. Our approach has principally been designed to help growers better deal with the increasing challenges posed by Mother Nature and to contribute high-value GHG emission reductions. But as the conflict in Ukraine is showing, our work can also serve to buffer the geopolitical upheaval and intimidation that seem to arise in this world all too often. A new world order is emerging, and the good news is that sustainably managed farms, ranches and forests are shovel-ready solution platforms. Let’s step up the call for policies that not only enable these platforms, but also provide for their full potential and the contributions that can be realized.