Stick It to Putin–Drive Electric Now

By Paul Gipe

You can—and should–do more to help Ukraine than waving a digital flag on social media. You can stick it to Putin, weaken his war machine, and drive a stake through the heart of oil oligarchs, wherever they are, by going electric. Ditch the diesel truck, park your polluter, get yourself an electric vehicle (EV) and drive on 100% American-made electricity.

Every gallon you pump, every mile you drive, contributes to funding murderous Saudi autocrats, who think nothing of dismembering journalists or beheading their citizens, Venezuelan dictators who starve their own people, or a Russian dictator who threatens nuclear Armageddon.

Oil and natural gas accounted for 68% of Russia’s total export revenues in 2013 and as much as 40% today. Most of this has been siphoned off to build the tanks now rolling across Ukraine.

If we want to help Ukraine, we have to starve the beast. Biden’s banning Russian oil isn’t nearly enough. We must wean ourselves off oil entirely because it’s costly, fuels despots, and leads to war–not to mention drought, wildfires, and catastrophic climate change.

The farcical clamor from America’s oil oligarchs and their paid political pawns, who want to drill anything that doesn’t move, conveniently ignores a fundamental fact. Oil is an international commodity. It’s not “our” oil. It’s the property of our own price-gouging plutocrats who are sitting on the leases to drill they already have, raise prices at will, produce what they want, when they want, and sell to whomever they want.

An edited version of this op-ed appeared in the Bakersfield Californian 21 March 2022.

Here’s what you can do now. You can buy or lease an electric car. There are numerous models available and more are on the way. Tesla has two new factories under construction as does Volkswagen. Even laggards like GM and Ford are building factories as fast as they can. And as a Californian and a resident of one of the most polluted valleys in the country, you can take advantage of hefty subsidies intended to clean the air. The tide is turning toward EVs, but the invasion of Ukraine has shown us that we must move even faster.

The race to dominate the manufacture of EVs is on and the US is, as in so many other ways, falling farther behind. Last year only 4% of the cars sold in the US were electric. In contrast, EVs were 9% of Chinese sales, and 14% of European sales.

The transition to EVs will happen one way or another. We can either join the revolution and reap the benefits in well-paying manufacturing jobs or let it sweep over us and buy our cars from China as we do so many other things.

Even in California, the so-called green leader in North America, only 10% of cars sold last year were electric. Compare that with booming EV sales in Europe. Last month EV sales reached 12% in France, 14% in car-loving Germany, 18% in Great Britain, and 26% in Sweden. Even more inspiring is oil-exporting Norway, where EVs were 76% of the market last month and everyone drives on 98% renewable energy. The war in Ukraine will turbocharge Europe’s switch to EVs.

Here in California, we’re fortunate. We can drive on freedom wind and liberty solar for true energy independence. And more wind turbines and solar panels are being added every day. You can go solar yourself and drive on sunshine. It’s now cheaper and easier than it’s ever been—and no one owns the sun.

Better yet, you don’t have to buy solar panels made in China. You can buy American or Canadian panels at competitive prices today. We did. And we installed our solar for less than most in Bakersfield.

In the future people will be dumbfounded that we burned valuable petroleum to power our vehicles, polluting the air that we breathe as a result, when we could just as easily have used the wind and sun to do it instead.

If you want to help Ukraine fight a Russian despot, dump the pump. Stick it to Putin: walk, ride a bike, or drive electric and refuel at home.

There’s never been a more overriding public interest in moving rapidly to domestic, American-made, clean, renewable energy. It’s time, as Captain Kirk would say, “Scotty, warp speed ahead for our all-electric, all-renewable future.”

Paul Gipe has worked with renewable energy for the past four decades and is a member of the prestigious Energy Watch group. He’s driven electric for seven years.