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Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, and blatant disregard for other nations’ sovereignty, is a glaring example of why democracies worldwide need to establish energy independence from despotic authoritarian regimes. Unfortunately, western dependence on Russian oil and gas has left the United States and our allies at a disadvantage and only emboldened Russia as they bully their neighbors. 

As the United States considers aid for Ukraine, we must also consider the impacts that failing to protect imperiled democracies could have on American power and influence worldwide. Historically the United States has been willing to intervene in defense of democracy and free expression. If America steps back from this long-time priority, tyrants will take note. Authoritarians depend on a disengaged America that chooses to bury its head in the face of aggression from bad actors. If the United States doesn’t lead, the flame of global freedom and democracy could be snuffed out. Too often, we have seen some democracies fail to defend the growth of emerging ones around the globe; this is in part because many times, they have been overly reliant on warmongering countries for their own energy needs. It is time to stand up for what is right: freedom. 

It is clear that to protect democratic ideals and U.S. long-term interests abroad, we must throw off our dependence on energy from countries who threaten us and our allies. At the end of 2021, America was importing around 8 million barrels per day of crude oil and other petroleum products from foreign countries. That includes over 200,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Russia and an additional 500,000 barrels per day in other petroleum products. These numbers need to be zero. 

These onerous federal restrictions during a time of Russian aggression raise many questions. Why do President Biden’s sanctions not target Russian oil and gas? Does President Biden want to continue to be harder on Alaskan energy producers than on dictators like Putin? The Biden administration’s “woke” war on domestic oil is crushing middle-class families at the pump, and the dangerous reliance on oil from foreign adversaries leaves our country strategically vulnerable.  

A path forward: 

We need to end our reliance on foreign fossil fuels TODAY. 

To offset the loss of imported oil, the United States should be looking at our resources right here at home. Alaskan oil and gas can fill the void left by turning off Russian imports while also eliminating the stranglehold enjoyed by authoritarian energy producers abroad. As Europe transitions away from Russian oil and gas, the demand for energy will only increase. Some argue that Russia’s action will also open new markets for green energy in Europe. The good news is Alaska can fill that void as well. We support an all-of-the-above approach to energy. In addition to traditional oil and gas, Alaska is home to hydropower, solar, geothermal, and liquid natural gas (LNG). In particular, LNG provides an exciting opportunity, as it is easily extracted and convenient to transport.  

Putin and Russia must be held accountable for their actions, and short-term sanctions are not enough. If we can move away from Russian energy and help other nations do the same, we can reduce Russia’s global standing and economic strength forever.  

The Biden administration needs to take a hardline approach. The world is watching, and the implications of not acting forcefully enough will be severe. Before we served in elected office, both of us served in the U.S. Army. State Sen. Revak spent two deployments across two years serving on the ground in the Middle East. He knows what it’s like to be shot and get blown up. Every bullet sent his way, every gun that fired them – including the mortar round that killed his friend and wounded the senator – were made in Russia. If we are unwilling to commit U.S. forces to defend democracy abroad, we must take all other actions within our power to limit Russian influence and power around the globe. 

The United States should consider the Russian Federation to be a global pariah, unfit for doing business with the developed and developing world; diplomats should be expelled, Russian assets should be frozen and seized, all Russian imports should immediately cease, all U.S. exports to Russia should immediately stop, we should bolster our commitment to NATO and consider fast tracking democracies under threat. If boots on the ground are not an option, all other actions short of open conflict should be considered and implemented immediately. This especially includes action on energy independence, and Alaska stands ready to assist. 

For too long, democracies have been unable to escape the grip of despotic energy-producing nations like Russia. It is time for the United States, and Alaska in particular, to be empowered to step up and responsibly develop our resources, so that we can protect democracy and American ideals around the world. The late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) once said Russia is “a gas station masquerading as a country.” This is our moment to make it so that Russia can’t even pretend to be a gas station. Alaska will lead the way. President Biden needs to end his war on domestic oil production, unleash the power of American energy, and put Alaskan energy front-and-center around the globe. 

Don Young represents Alaska at large in Congress. Josh Revak is an Alaska state senator. 

Tags domestic energy Don Young Energy Joe Biden John McCain Russia Ukraine

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