It's too late to save Crimea, and possibly half of Ukraine, now that Vlad the Annexer has articulated the Putin Doctrine: Russia will invade any country that "oppresses" its Russian minority.
But Putin's Doctrine is underpinned by Russia's oil and natural-gas industry, which provides 70 percent of the country's export income and 52 per cent of its governments revenues. Moscow now controls half the energy market in Europe and is able to adjust prices to punish or reward countries and to keep others quiet.
This strategy has made Russia, with an economy the size of California's, wealthier than ever but also exceedingly vulnerable. Russia is a petro-economy and little else.
Since Ukraine's crisis, sanctions have been imposed and its stock market and currency have tanked. But a geopolitical and energy policy shift is needed to stop Putin in his tracks, and only the United States and Canada can flex enough energy muscle to impede the Russian energy juggernaut.
Together, the U.S. and Canada have more oil and natural-gas reserves than Russia or the Middle East. Obama has been dragging his feet on the pipeline, but now might be the right time to rethink his position. The Keystone pipeline would add enough barrels a day into the US oil market to replace imports from Russian ally Venezuela.
Canada is the only supplier of natural gas and largest supplier of oil to the United States, at 2.5 million barrels a day. The U.S. is nearly self-sufficient in natural gas, thanks to shale deposits, and in 2013 became the world's second-biggest oil producer at more than 10.3 million barrels a day. But Americans consume 19.4 million daily and, despite gains in oil production from shale, cannot become self-sufficient in oil until 2035, with 4 million barrels a day from the oil sands, according to the International Energy Agency.
Clearly, the two must gear up for battle by deploying oil and natural-gas weaponry. The most immediate retaliatory blow would be the approval of Keystone XL from Canada. This oil pipeline would add 830,000 barrels a day into the U.S. oil market, more than enough to replace the 755,000 barrels a day of oil imports from Russia's western hemispheric ally Venezuela.
A Keystone bomb would deliver several payloads: punishment toward anti-American Venezuela; proceeds toward Canada which buys more goods and services from the U.S. than the European Union does; punishment toward Russia by casting into the markets more Venezuelan oil; replacement of Venezuelan oil with Canadian oil that is $30 a barrel cheaper (roughly 30 percent less) and even an improved environmental outcome.
A recent study by U.S. energy consultant IHS Global Insight showed that oil sands crude represents 6 per cent more emissions than average crude consumed in the US, but Venezuela's is 14 percent higher.
President Obama has been dragging his feet on this pipeline even in light of his November speech that stated "after years of talk about reducing our dependence on foreign oil, we are actually poised to control our own energy future."
The fact is that the only way the United States can control its oil future is by tapping into the oil sands. For these and other reasons, Bill Clinton has called upon his environmental friends to "embrace" Keystone and move on.
America's other weapon is natural gas exports in concert with Canada. Natural gas can only be transported by pipeline and vessel unless chilled to -161 degrees Fahrenheit. This process makes the gas more expensive, but the world now knows that Russian energy carries with it a hefty and hidden price tag.
A glimpse into a burgeoning American-Canadian strategy occurred this week when the Department of Energy and Canadian authorities approved a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant and port in Oregon using Canadian natural gas. Shipments will go to India and Japan, the world's largest importer of LNG, reliant on Russia for 76 percent of its LNG.
This week, Canada also approved its first four LNG projects in British Columbia and in the past 10 months, the U.S. has approved five more LNG projects. One bill in Congress proposes immediate approval of the two dozen projects pending in the U.S.. Most will help Europe and Asia reduce their dependence on Russian natural gas over time.
Europe's 22 LNG ports are under-utilized but have the capacity to reduce Russian gas imports by 25 percent. Likewise, Japan, India, China and South Korea have the facilities and are eager to reduce dependence on Russian LNG.
The importance of North America's entry into the energy war cannot be understated, as Lithuania's energy minister Jaroslav Neverovic explained to the U.S. Senate this week. His country is gouged by Russia, which has the monopoly on its gas supplies. So Lithuania is just 250 days away from completing its first LNG plant and he pleaded for the U.S. "to release its gas to world markets as quickly as possible."
The only obstacle to fighting fuel with fuel will be the environmental movement that has held up Keystone for five years and now opposes LNG exports.
But Putin is going to continue his aggression and the world is going to continue to use oil and natural gas until alternative energies are capable of replacing fossil fuels. Environmentalists should invest their time, and donations, on conservation efforts and financing scientific efforts to come up with viable alternatives -- not opposing reality.
This originally appeared on the New York Post.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
In September, the Dalai Lama was one of nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates who sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama urging him "to say 'no' to the plan proposed by the Canadian-based company TransCanada to build the Keystone XL, and to turn [his] attention back to supporting renewable sources of energy and clean transportation solutions."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was among a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates who signed letters to both U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, urging the men to stop the Keystone pipeline.
Gore has said it is essential to stop the Keystone pipeline because the tar sands oil it would carry is "the dirtiest source of fuel on the planet."
Actor and environmentalist Robert Redford recently added his name to the list of prominent individuals who are calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. In a video for The New York Times, produced with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Redford described the negative aspects of the proposed tar sands pipeline and said, "By deepening our reliance on oil, the pipeline would be a job killer." Redford has previously been vocal about calling for alternatives to oil. Writing last month for HuffPost, he said, "Let's build the next generation of energy efficient cars, homes and workplaces. Let's develop wind, solar and other cleaner, safer, more sustainable sources of power and fuel. Let's invest in high-speed rail and smart communities that give us better transportation options."
Actor Mark Ruffalo, famous for films like "The Kids Are All Right" and "Zodiac," is also an outspoken activist and opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline. Ruffalo said in a video for the Tar Sands Action group, "I've seen the kind of damage that out-of-control energy development can do to water and to communities near my own home, where fracking for natural gas is causing widespread pollution ... All these problems are connected -- we need to get off fossil fuels." In the past, Ruffalo has also expressed his ire for hydraulic fracturing natural gas extraction, or fracking. He told The Huffington Post, "The world is already leaving us behind. We're being left behind. America. Because the gas and oil industry has a strangle hold on us. And our politicians."
Environmentalist and author Bill McKibben has expressed strong disapproval for the planned Keystone XL pipeline. In fact, he was one of the first of over 1,200 who were arrested at the Tar Sands Action sit-in at the White House in August. Referring to his opposition to the Keystone Pipeline, McKibben told HuffPost, "The people who've carried this fight for three years are indigenous people on both sides of the border who have a huge stake in it because it's on their land, and farmers and ranchers from places like Nebraska," he said. He added, "It wasn't until I sat down and read Jim Hansen's analysis of how much carbon was in those things that I understood that this was not just a national issue, it's a global issue of the first order."
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, known for her role as Elaine on the popular sitcom "Seinfeld," has released a video urging President Obama to reject the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. Dreyfus recalls when Obama said "Let us be the generation that ends the tyranny of oil." But she says, "Big Oil is still pretty much running the show." She claims that by rejecting the pipeline, Obama has a chance to "make good on [his] word." Louis-Dreyfus asks Obama, "Denying the permit for a brutally stupid, money-grab like the Keystone XL pipeline is a no-brainer, right Mr President?"
Actress Daryl Hannah has also lent her voice to the movement against the Keystone XL pipeline. In August, Hannah was one of the over 1,200 people to be arrested as an act of civil disobedience in front of the White House. Shouting "no to the Keystone pipeline" as she was handcuffed, Hannah made it clear she opposed the proposed Canada to Texas pipeline.
Maude Barlow, a Canadian author and activist and chairperson of The Council of Canadians, was arrested in September at a Keystone pipeline and oil sands protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. She was one of over 100 protesters of the demonstration's estimated 400 to be arrested. Writing for HuffPost Canada about her first experience being arrested, Barlow blogged, "I did it because I fear we are killing the planet and I can no longer be content to only write and speak about it. Today my feet spoke for me as I crossed that barricade and took away one more fear in my life." She also said, "By investing trillions of dollars into these pipelines, governments and the energy industry are ensuring the continued rapid acceleration of tar sands development, instead of supporting a process to move to an alternative and sustainable energy system."
Kyra Sedgwick, star of the television crime drama "The Closer," has voiced her opposition to the pipeline. In a video for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sedgwick said "Just like the BP oil spill, one glitch in the tar sands pipeline could destroy our clean water sources, possibly forever."
Joining several other prominent actors, David Strathairn appeared in a video urging President Obama to reject the Keystone Pipeline. He calls on his fellow Americans to join the November 6 Tar Sands Action in Washington, D.C. Strathairn, who is known for his portrayal of journalist Edward R. Murrow in "Good Night, and Good Luck," said, "Obama ran for office speaking of the dangers of our fossil fuel addiction, promising to fight climate change and fully embrace a clean energy future. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a dangerous step away from that commitment."
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