Tom Evslin: Defeating Putin requires winning the energy war

This commentary is by Tom Evslin of Stowe, an entrepreneur, author and former Douglas administration official. It is republished from the Fractals of Change blog.

We in the West unilaterally disarmed when we shut down our nuclear plants, discouraged fracking for oil and gas, stopped building pipeline, and — in Europe, at least — outsourced fossil-fueled energy supply to Russia. Bloated on revenue from oil at over $90 barrel and with Europe literally over an energy barrel, Putin has unleashed real war. BTW, his war is not very good for the environment as well as being a calamity for the Ukrainian people and a clear threat to the rest of us.

Tom Evslin

This is a war we must win. The only hope for winning without actual fighting – and this may be a vain hope – is to take wartime measures to defang Russia by relieving European dependency on Russia’s gas and oil and crushing the price of those commodities. We can do this but not by pursuing business as usual.

Germany, despite initial reluctance, has ruled out opening the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to their country — at least for now. Biden has said that we will release oil our strategic oil reserve.

Some of the proposed sanctions will make it more difficult for Russia to finance its energy industry. These are good first steps but not nearly enough.

Germany must postpone the closing of its last three nuclear plants; this closing is now scheduled for the end of the year. Anywhere in the west including the US any scheduled nuke shutdowns which can safely be postponed must be postponed. This is a good green move, by the way; the alternative is burning more very dirty coal to keep the grid operating.

Here in the US we must stop our civil war on fossil fuel extraction. Our fossil fuel competes on the world market with fossil fuel from Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia — not with green energy. We can drill responsibly — and must. How much do you think Putin worries about fugitive methane emissions from Russian wells? We crashed the world price for oil just a few years ago (pre-pandemic), brought it down below $40/barrel. We can do that again. Our natural gas coming by tanker is now crucial to keeping Europe from having to choose between freezing and absolute surrender.

By NEXT winter we must make sure we can ship twice as much natural gas to Europe. Yeah, I said NEXT winter. That means we immediately permit and build new pipelines to new LNG terminals from areas of the US – like the Marcellus – which have an over-supply of trapped gas. It also means we build and commission new LNG tankers immediately. The tankers are the warships of the energy war. They can and must be built now.

We now need to finish and open blocked oil pipelines like Keystone XL. Remember, they are an alternative to a hot war and dirty Russian oil; they are not instead of renewables but in addition to them.

Speaking of renewables, we need to rebuild our grid to carry renewable and non-renewable energy around the country and allow us to further electrify and take some of the pressure off fossil fuels. It is possible that some sub-species of chipmunks will have their habitat disturbed. Can you imagine the environmental impact statement for Putin’s war?

Europe can’t leave all the fracking to us. Tapping their own gas fields is now clearly necessary.

Longer term the US and Europe and Japan and Australia must license several standard models of small, safe nuclear plants and actually build them. We should set a moon-shot target of having the first new nuclear plant in decades online in the next two years. We must achieve this target. We also must finally open the nuclear waste facility in Yucca Flats. Two years doesn’t solve the immediate problem of Russian energy blackmail, but it reduces Russian energy prospects and financing available for them to continue to build out their oil and gas industry. Putin has left the Russian economy almost entirely dependent on oil and gas revenue. The Russian people must be shown that that dependency will lead in short order to financial ruin.

What we must not do is trade allowing Iran to build a nuclear weapon for some short-term relief by having Iranian oil as a substitute for Russian supply. We don’t want to put both the energy weapons and nuclear weapons in more aggressive hands. We can and should tell Saudi Arabia to drop out of the oil cartel with Russia and start pumping if they expect any further help with Houthi rebels or Iran itself.

Human energy is required as well to win the energy war. This is an effort like building during WWII. Factories must retool; retraining must happen. It’s time to shake off the Covid fear and lethargy and get back to work. No sitting back and watching it play out on TV and twitter.

We handicapped ourselves with a premature retreat from nuclear energy and fossil fuels. The world is in immediate danger. Just as we did after the disaster of Pearl Harbor, we can emerge from weakness stronger than ever.

Can’t we?

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Antoniorosset
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33 thoughts on “Tom Evslin: Defeating Putin requires winning the energy war

  1. This is a very animated discussion. Both sides are represented. I read Martin Armstrong’s blog almost every day. He is very well connected all over the world and through his computer program has been making correct forecasts for a long time. SO, start reading his blog regularly. You may not agree with him when you start but read him long enough, you will find that the forecasts are right and scary. This whole mess wil only get worse. http://www.armstrongeconomics.com Mr Evslin would benefit from reading him.

  2. I hereby nominate conjoined twins blue-pilled John Freitag and identical twin ‘brother’ red-pilled “Jim” for the Shari Lewis Lambchops Sockpuppet Award – may the best man win lol

    • Try contributing something positive to the discussion? What’s your opinion on Russia and Ukraine? Because even if John and I were somehow connected– which we aren’t, except for the fact that we both care about reason and logic– that contributes zero to the discussion.

  3. Appreciate having your perspective added to the conversation Mr. Evslin.

    With the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the valiant struggle by the people of that country to retain their freedom, it is time to focus on what the United States and its allies can do to support them and oppose this attempt by Putin, a former KGB operative, to re-establish what Ronald Reagan correctly termed “the evil empire”.

    Putin is using Stalin’s playbook at taking over and establishing puppet regimes in Eastern Europe right down to having “kill lists” of those who should be eliminated once they take over. Do we who truly love freedom and the right of people to determine their own leaders and destiny want to continue to make excuses for such a tyrant as Putin? Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, Margorie Taylor Green and other apologists for Russia should simply admit they got it wrong on this one.

    The question is what action we should take now. Mr. Evslin has offered one course of action worthy of consideration.

    • John,

      Your take on this presumes that Russia would’ve invaded Ukraine even if the West had agreed that NATO on Russia’s doorstep was a violation of past agreements and an unnecessary provocation (i.e., what’s wrong with a neutral Ukraine)? Do you really believe this is true?

      One needn’t coddle Russia or be a Russian apologist to understand that this is basic geopolitics and that Ukraine is a highly-divided country with no real ability at this point to self-determine what’s in the best interests of the country regarding NATO, and in any case has been nothing but a pawn for Russian and US interests.

      Interesting that Georgia and Ukraine both have US-sponsored facilities for bioweapons manufacture and testing. Do you suppose Russia is unaware of these or happy about them? If Ukraine has bioweapons facilities, how would that appear to Russia if Ukraine was then absorbed into NATO? Or is the mere fact of their presence evidence of creeping western military expansion into eastern Europe that’s an insult to Russia? And then Blinken comes out and says that Ukrainian membership in NATO is up to them, which is simply cover for: we don’t care about past understandings, we’re taking Ukraine. https://dilyana.bg/the-pentagon-bio-weapons/

      How would the US react if Russia had bioweapons facilities in Mexico (or Canada) and threatened mutual defense treaties with Mexico? Maybe like how we reacted during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

      • Jim,

        I checked out the article you cited. dilyana.bg is a website of a Bulgarian journalist with little credibility and not backed up by any other credible sources. It is in fact part of a Russian disinformation campaign as can be easily found by doing a google search.

        I am still astounded people like Trump, Carlson, and others think so highly of Putin. He is a nasty KGB thug and a fitting successor to Stalin and all who love freedom should be opposing his brutal attack on another nation. God bless the freedom loving people of Ukraine who are willing to put their lives on the line against this tyrant.

        • John,

          You and I might be on different sides of the information war.

          You say dilyana.bg isn’t credible. I looked up some references there and found that the US apparently does have a more-or-less secret agreement with Ukraine regarding bioweapons research– as claimed by dilyana.

          I randomly picked a few other references and they checked out, but to be honest, one reference was less than convincing. My original source for the dilyana site was someone I consider a trusted source.

          Does the US sponsor pathogen research in the Ukraine? Yes, it does, through the Biological Threat Reduction Program. https://ua.usembassy.gov/embassy/kyiv/sections-offices/defense-threat-reduction-office/biological-threat-reduction-program/ Does this really shade off into bioweapons research and serve as a cover for such research? Maybe. Was Wuhan just about emerging pathogens or did they actually create one?

          Since adding more links subjects my post to moderation, look up the Nunn-Lugar Central Public Health Research Laboratory in Tbilisi, Georgia. You’ll probably find information from the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. “Nunn-Lugar labs are critical for cooperative efforts to identify and report potentially deadly pathogens before they can spread.” In other words, something very close to bioweapons/GOF research.

          My judgment is that dilyana isn’t just blowing smoke. In any case, the main point of my argument isn’t the existence of bioweapons labs in Ukraine; it’s that Putin is on the offensive because the West continues to insist and act as if Ukraine should be allied with Western interests and Russia has always viewed Western expansion into eastern Europe as a threat. And yes, Putin now sees the US as weak.

          My argument isn’t that the people of Ukraine shouldn’t be free. It’s that this war with a nuclear power could have been avoided. Haven’t we been through enough in the past two years, and if there are disagreements, can’t we set them aside and agree to a neutral Ukraine instead of insisting that Ukraine has a “choice” about NATO, which really means that the West has decided?

      • Jim: Why do you think “that Ukraine is a highly-divided country with no real ability at this point to self-determine what’s in the best interests of the country” any more so, for example, than ‘we the people’ in the U.S. are able to do?

        Do you agree with Mr. Freitag’s premise?

        Re: “I am still astounded people like Trump, Carlson, and others think so highly of Putin.”

        While his characterization of Carlson and Trump is dishonest (at best), Mr. Freitag appears to be putting you (and others) in the same category, at least as a Putin apologist, if not thinking highly of Putin.

        • Jay, I base my assertions that Ukraine is highly-divided on Prof. Mearsheimer’s lecture. This was linked by someone whose wife is Ukrainian as insight into what’s really happening there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrMiSQAGOS4&t=13s This corresponds with what Glenn Greenwald has said, and so far I’ve found Mr. Greenwald’s interpretations of events credible and perceptive even though he’s ostensibly on the left (or at least, was.)

          I’m not apologizing for Putin, and I think we should stop seeing this as “you’re either for Putin or against Putin.” The larger picture is that NATO in Ukraine is a threat to Russia– a well-established and indisputable fact. Western incursion/influence into Ukraine is a threat to Russia. Despite this, the US insists that Ukraine is free to decide about NATO but I’m sorry, Ukraine has no real agency to decide whether or not it should be in NATO. That decision rests with players much stronger on the world stage than Ukraine: the West and Russia. Whatever Ukraine “decides” would simply be an expression of the underlying geopolitics between the West and Russia.

          The central point is: did we really need a war right now? Could it have been avoided through diplomacy, without any real harm to the West but for a modest concession of Ukrainian neutrality? That is, agreeing with Putin that NATO in Ukraine is a threat to Russia, just as a Chinese military alliance with Canada would be a threat to the US? Or that Russian missiles in Cuba would be a threat to the US? Did the US really have to dig in and poke Russia in the eye, as Blinken did, on the Ukrainian issue? Is that what the world needs now? There was no diplomatic way out? Really?

          • Re: “Do we want to threaten Russia and back it into a corner by military defense of Ukraine”.

            Well, that’s what we agreed to do in 1994. Again, the NATO argument is a misdirection, a false dichotomy. Read my above referenced citation on the Budapest Memorandum. We agreed to guaranty Ukraine’s sovereignty more than 25 years ago.

            Re: “I think we should stop seeing this as “you’re either for Putin or against Putin.”

            Really? And just who is it accusing people of ‘thinking highly of Putin’ in the first place, Jim? That would be John Freitag.

            And no, the ‘central point’ is not whether or not we ‘need a war’ (no one needs a war, unless, perhaps, they need a diversion from a bogus southern border policy, or high inflation, or rising crime rates, suicide rates and drug overdoses), or the absurd notion that a Canada-China military alliance could threaten the U.S., or whether any of the other strawman fallacies you raise are ‘the central point’. That kind of misdirection is what Mr. Freitag does when he tries to deflect the fact that he lied when he said, “Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump were openly in support of what Putin was doing.”

            And while you may think “Putin isn’t insane” (some aren’t so sure these days), and “he isn’t the new Hitler” – are you willing to bet your life on it. The Ukrainians did – and look where that has them now.

          • So then, Jay, what’s my central point? My central point is that we could’ve prevented this invasion through negotiating a neutral Ukraine not allied with NATO. Instead we poked the Russian bear. That’s my point. My point isn’t that Putin is wonderful or has never violated treaties, etc., etc. And NATO is relevant. We agreed to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty but this never meant that the West would fold Ukraine into NATO, and it’s been very clear to all concerned that Russia’s red line was NATO expansion on its doorstep with missiles pointing at it.

            Your argument seems to be that we could not have avoided this war and that Russia would’ve invaded anyhow. Maybe. But it sure doesn’t look like the West even tried to find a diplomatic solution to avoid the prospect of war.

            Another, more cynical perspective: https://tinyurl.com/3j85n624

          • Jim: I don’t care what your ‘central point’ is. I consider whatever you have to say, as I do with everyone who posts here. The greater the diversity of viewpoints, the better. There is always something to learn.

            My concern is with truthfulness. And when Mr. Freitag is dishonest, I call him out. And I’m calling you out now, not because you’re dishonest, but because you continue to deflect attention from Freitag’s dishonesty. While he is, in my opinion, an incorrigible lost cause, your persistent deflection in that regard is now bordering on complicity.

            Postscript: Could this Ukraine circumstance have been prevented with diplomacy? Of course. But sometimes ‘diplomacy’ is speaking softly and carrying a big stick. I look at results. We must face the fact that during the Trump administration, dislike him as many apparently do, there were very limited Russian or Chinese incursions around the world. He was either doing something right or was very lucky. Today, in just 12 months of the Biden administration, all hell is breaking loose – everywhere.

            Here’s the deal. The harder we work, the luckier we are. And while half of winning any battle may be luck, knowing what to do with that luck is the other half. It’s time to stop cutting off our collective noses to spite our face because we don’t like Trump’s personality. I wouldn’t hire a good defense lawyer or a good bodyguard, strictly because they’re nice guys. I don’t invest in businesses because everyone ‘likes’ the CEO. But I’m going to support Trump’s policies, and anyone who espouses those policies, because they get the job done more efficiently, AND more compassionately, than the irresponsible anarchy we’re witnessing today. I only hope we can weather this current storm – because, in my humble opinion, we’re on the verge of losing everything for which the United States and its Constitution stand.

          • Jay, if you don’t care about my central point then we have nothing to talk about, do we? Because I was making a point. And “whatever I say” was defending that point.

            That was the point of my posting anything in the first place.

  4. Brussels RE bureaucrats, likely with little hands-on experience in the energy sector, have urged EU countries not to sign long-term gas supply contracts with Russia, because that would send the wrong “virtue signal” regarding “weaning the EU off fossil fuels”. Just google, if you find this incredible.

    As a result of Brussels RE bureaucrat myopic decisions, EU spot prices for gas have become “volatile”, i.e., about 5 to 10 times long-term prices

    Russia made sure to reliably provide pipeline gas, to clients with signed long-term contracts, as confirmed by Brussels, Germany, Turkey, etc.
    Russia has no contractual obligation to supply gas to the EU spot market.
    Russia has no contractual obligations to fill the EU above- and belowground gas storage reservoirs
    This was known by Brussels RE bureaucrats, prior to their myopic decisions.
    The sanctions on Russia did not include any restrictions on energy and materials flow from Russia.

    Russia will continue to supply 200 BILLION CUBIC METERS per year of pipeline gas to all of Europe.

    Calculation of Additional LNG Carrier Loads

    Assume an average LNG carrier capacity at 170,000 m3, equivalent to 76,500 metric ton of LNG
    In 2020, world LNG demand was 360 million metric ton, equivalent to 4,706 LNG carrier loads/y. See URL
    The 200 bcm/y of pipeline gas supply from Russia is equivalent to 1903 LNG carrier loads/y

    There would need to be an enormous, worldwide INCREASE in LNG carrier loads of about (4706 + 1903)/4706 = 40.4%, if Russian gas to the EU were stopped. See table

    There would be a gigantic, additional strain on the world’s LNG system, which would send spot prices to unprecedented levels for many years.
    At present, Europe lacks the capacity to receive and gasify that many carrier loads.
    At present, there is a significant shortage of large-capacity LNG carriers

  5. Wag the Dog, Wag the Dog.
    Wag wag wag the dog…

    What is the concern over fossil fuel pipelines? I thought we were switching to EVs Mr. Evslin?
    OH that’s right… WE feel it is our beholden duty to control the worlds oil and gas supply lines…because we’re really interested in electric cars…that rely on coal and gas fired plants… I get it now.

    That EV car is going to start right up this morning at 5 below zero F. …IF its been inside all night next to the electric heater.

    Globalists in Vermont is an oxymoron. Is NO ONE seeing this but me?

  6. It certainly seems that anyone with a high school education could understand the issues, but then again maybe we have a real educational issue or people just don’t care or the MIC is really in charge.
    The effects are finally hitting home, maybe this time people will wake up.
    Honk Honk!

  7. Glenn Greenwald has a good take on what’s really happening with Russia and Ukraine. You can look this up on his substack page; another take that says the same thing is here: https://peterbeinart.substack.com/p/bidens-cia-director-doesnt-believe?utm_source=url

    In a nutshell, this isn’t a war we must win. In fact it’s likely a war that we can’t win. What Putin wants is what he’s stated repeatedly over the years: no NATO in Ukraine. After the reunification of Germany– which had invaded Russia twice– the west appeased Russian fear by guaranteeing that NATO wouldn’t be expanded beyond East Germany. But what subsequently happened was that NATO was expanded to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. In recent years the US and Ukraine have been making noises on Ukraine as a member of NATO. Secretary of State Blinken has made it clear that Ukrainian NATO membership is a real possibility.

    Here’s a quote from 2008, by our current CIA Director:

    “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all red lines for the Russian elite (not just Putin). In more than two and a half years of conversations with key Russian players, from knuckle-draggers in the dark recesses of the Kremlin to Putin’s sharpest liberal critics, I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.”

    Why doesn’t Russia want Ukraine in NATO? For the same reason that we don’t want missiles in Cuba or Russian tanks in Canada. This is no mystery.

    So was there really no diplomatic solution to head off Russian invasion? You decide. Russia and Ukraine are now agreeing to negotiations and you’ll never guess what the Russia’s main demand is. That’s right: no NATO in Ukraine.

    So after years of the west saying that it wouldn’t expand NATO, it expanded NATO, and now it wants to expand NATO into Ukraine. No one wants to put troops on the ground in Ukraine; no NATO country is going to give Ukraine boots-on-the-ground aid.

    Maybe Putin said, “OK, I call your bluff, you won’t respect Russia’s fears of NATO in its back door (and Blinken has clearly ignored Russia’s concerns) so I’m going to invade Ukraine. I’m going to make Ukraine see that no one will help it and make them guarantee they won’t be part of NATO.” The best outcome would be for Ukraine to drop NATO dreams, Russia to withdraw, and the west to get a bit of a poke in the eye. The worst outcome would be for the US to take a hard line on supposed Ukrainian independence on the NATO matter– yet this had already been decided when Germany was reunited. Then this would become a protracted military operation with suffering on both sides.

    There was a diplomatic solution and not a tough one to swallow, either. We ignored it. Now China is backing Russia and we have the threat of a nasty war and possible escalation with Chinese involvement. What could possibly go wrong if we insist that this is one we have to win? We need to diplomatically de-escalate. Is the Biden administration up to it? And is the nightly news going to continue to paint the picture of Russian aggression and insanity, when it looks like this is push come to shove regarding the US stance on NATO and Ukraine, and Putin is shoving back?

    • Hmmm. Shoving back?

      I think of the Ukraine – Russia (Putin) thing in much simpler terms. Ukraine wants what it wants. Putin wants what he wants. Ukraine was living and letting live. Putin attacked Ukraine, not because he was threatened (everyone is threatened). But because, like any criminal, he felt like it and figures he can get away with the felony because the police have been ‘defunded’.

      To say Putin is ‘shoving back’ is like saying the KKK shoved back against civil rights, or China shoved back against Tibet.

      Liberty and freedom vs. tyranny is a case well beyond merely ‘shoving back’ against one another. And if history teaches us anything, it is that whoever wins, writes the history.

      • More to the point: Mr. Evslin’s flipflop should not go beyond reproach. It was his progressive actions, voting for a guy like Biden, for example, that allowed this conflict to raise its ugly head in the first place. Hopefully he and his co-conspirators have learned a lesson. But something tells me he hasn’t … I mean really, learned anything.

      • “Observers … would be right to look at current developments over Ukraine in the context of Mackinder’s heartland theory [that who controls East Europe controls the world.] Understand that, and you have a grasp of Putin’s reasoning. Driving American influence out of the Eurasian continent has been his objective ever since America reneged on her agreement not to advance NATO any closer to Russia following the ending of the old USSR.

        “So, what is it that Putin wants? Basically, he wants America to get out of Eastern Europe.

        “Putin is now proactively leading this conflict instead of quietly letting America make all the mistakes and rolling with the punches, representing a major change in Russian strategy. It implies that Putin perceives America to be off balance, and he sees it as the time for a winning move.” https://www.zerohedge.com/geopolitical/how-ukraine-fits-global-jigsaw

        • Here’s an illuminating lecture by Professor Mearsheimer (from 2015) that explains it: Russia simply does not want NATO on its eastern flank and this is for exactly the same reason that the US doesn’t want China or Russia in, say, Canada. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrMiSQAGOS4&t=13s

          Putin will wreck Ukraine if the West doesn’t back off on this central point. He doesn’t want to rule Ukraine and get into another Afghanistan because western Ukraine would stage a huge resistance and it’d be a quagmire; he wants a neutral Ukraine, and the West has been threatening this neutrality for decades.

          Is Putin a thug? Yes. Is the US under Biden weak and bumbling? Yes. Do we want to drive Russia into the arms of the Chinese by insisting on Ukrainian NATO membership and the expansion of Western military might right on Russia’s doorstep? That’s stupid. Do we want to threaten Russia and back it into a corner by military defense of Ukraine, when Russia has nuclear arms? That’s stupid, too. Is the US smart enough to figure out that Russia only ever wanted a neutral Ukraine? Remains to be seen. Would Russia be doing any of this if the US had simply recognized and respected the logic of a neutral Ukraine to serve as a buffer between the eastward expansion of NATO from France-Germany-Poland? No.

          Putin isn’t insane and he isn’t the new Hitler, either. He’s authoritarian, anti-democratic, and perhaps even cruel. But he isn’t stupid, and the writing’s been on the wall regarding NATO in Ukraine for a very long time.

          • Jim,

            Would Russia be doing this, if NATO had not moved beyond East Germany, after promising in 1990 “not to move one inch”

            This whole brouhaha is entire the result of extremist NULAND types in the US State Department and Clinton’s Secretary of Defense

          • Willem,

            My point exactly.

            It’s not apologizing for Putin if one says that clear understandings given years ago have been repeatedly violated, and Ukraine was the last straw because it shares a long border with Russia. And dammit if Biden/Blinken didn’t poke the Russian bear.

            Maybe some here haven’t looked at maps recently?

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