In late February, Russian President Vladmir Putin declared war against Ukraine. The military assault has left cities in ruins, cost thousands of human lives, and displaced millions of people nearly overnight.
There’s no way to summarize Putin’s motivations for attacking Ukraine. This in-depth explainer unpacks why the nation of 44 million plays such an outsized role in global politics. One thing, however, isn’t complex: Putin’s war of choice is powered by fossil fuels.
How fossil fuels enable Putin’s aggressive tactics
Russia is an oil and gas giant in a fossil-fueled world – and that’s a dangerous advantage.
Fossil fuel wealth powers Putin’s military might. Russia is the world’s second largest producer of gas and third-largest producer of oil. In 2021, fossil fuel revenue provided 36% of Russia’s federal budget.
Europe is dependent on Russian fossil fuels. Europe gets 40% of its gas and nearly a quarter of its fuel from Russia, complicating its ability to respond with harsh fossil fuel sanctions.
Russia dominates the global fossil fuel market. Russia is the world’s largest oil and second-largest crude oil exporter – in 2019, at least 48 countries bought Russian crude oil totaling $123 billion. Tough sanctions on Russia’s energy sector, coupled with inflationary market conditions, have sent global oil prices soaring.
As world leaders scramble to limit loss of life and energy, one thing is clear: our global dependency on oil can be dangerous.
The Ukraine war could mark the beginning of the end for fossil fuels – if we make the right choices.
As world governments mobilize to address the current energy crisis, we have the opportunity to drastically restructure our energy systems.
World leaders need to use this sober moment to lock-in a peaceful, green energy future. If we want to achieve this – a lot needs to change. Above all, we need climate-first legislation that transitions global infrastructure away from fossil fuels. But consumers have a role to play, too.
One thing YOU can do? Switch your electricity to renewable energy
As consumers, we can increase the demand for clean alternatives - and update our personal infrastructure for lower emissions - by switching our utilities to renewable energy.
In the US, residential energy use accounts for roughly 20% of total greenhouse gas emissions. One big reason for this? Most of our homes draw from a centralized electrical grid, which is still overwhelmingly powered by fossil fuels.
5 Ways to Switch to Green Electricity
Clean energy gets an unfair rap for being time-consuming and expensive. But it can be a lot cheaper and easier than you think. And whether you rent or own your home, you’ve got options.
1. Install Rooftop Solar
If you’re a homeowner, there’s never been a better time to invest in residential solar. Not only can you reduce or eliminate your electric bill – you’ll increase the value of your home. According to Energy.gov, houses equipped with solar panels sell faster, and for $15,000 more on average, than those without.
While solar installation rates are lower than ever, it’s still a big investment. There are ways, however, to offset the cost:
Federal Tax Credit: The residential solar energy credit allows taxpayers to claim 26% of the cost of home solar installation through 2022. The credit drops to 22% in 2023 and expires in 2024 unless congress renews it.
State Incentives: Depending on your state, you may be able to get additional credits or incentives for installing solar, which can greatly offset the cost. Check DSIRE’s database of state tax incentives.
Fannie Mae: The HomeStyle Energy mortgage is the latest Fannie May energy improvement offering. This flexible program enables borrowers to make clean energy upgrades when purchasing or refinancing a home, eliminating the need for a subordinate lien, home equity line of credit, or other higher-credit loans.
Getting Started: Check your home’s potential sun exposure on Google Sunroof. If you’re in a good spot for solar, use EnergySage to shop around for competing quotes and offers.
2. Purchase Green Energy Through Your Utility
At least 50% of Americans have the option to purchase green energy directly through their utilities provider. Program specifics vary, but it’s usually easy and inexpensive to opt-in; you might even save money.
You can opt-in to green energy whether you own or rent, and even if you share a meter. If you live in a multi-family property, research your options and share what you learn with your landlord, HOA, or neighbors.
Getting Started: Check your utility provider’s website or call to inquire about green power programs. If you find a plan you like, you should be able to sign up on the spot. You’ll still get a bill from your utility company, but the supplier will be a clean energy provider.
3. Subscribe to Community Solar
Community solar is when a group of local energy-users come together to develop a solar farm. Community solar enables you to access clean energy without installing equipment of your own – while saving an average 5 - 15% on your annual electricity costs.
Formats vary by project, but you’ll usually subscribe through your utility provider or third-party developer. Each month, you’ll get a credit on your electric bill for the energy produced by your portion of the solar array and a separate bill from the CSG.
Getting Started: There are more than 1,600 community solar projects in the US, but over 70% are in Minnesota, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York. Enter your zip code at EnergySage to see what’s available where you live (and how much you could be saving). For folks in Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York, Solstice is a well-regarded option.
4. Switch to a Green Utility Provider
In some (but not many) US markets, you can switch to a different utility provider if you’re unhappy with your current one. In these deregulated markets, you may be able to buy your energy directly from a provider that specializes in renewables.
While some states are fully-deregulated, partially-regulated states - like California - limit the providers you can choose from.
Getting Started: Explore this map of deregulated markets to see if you qualify. (Here’s looking at you, Texas.) If you have the option to switch, type your address into WattBuy to compare your renewable energy options.
5. Purchase Renewable Energy Certificates
An electron in one part of the grid is equal to an electron in another part of the grid – regardless of how that electron was produced. That means, when you flip the lights on, there’s no way of knowing if that electricity was generated by solar, wind, coal, or natural gas.
A Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) signifies 1,000 kilowatt hours (1 MWH) of solar or wind power contributed to the electrical grid. When you purchase RECs, you pay for clean energy production equivalent to your usage – in effect, greening your slice of the grid.
Getting Started: Anyone, anywhere in the US, can purchase RECs to support clean energy. Arcadia is a quick and reputable option available to all US households (and in some areas, you can even buy into community solar). Explore GreenE’s database of certified REC providers for even more.
More Ways to Support Ukraine
Putin’s war in Ukraine has done more than disrupt global energy security – it’s created a humanitarian crisis that has forced millions of people to flee their homes. For more ways to help: explore this list by NPR of organizations supporting Ukrainians displaced by and caught in the conflict.
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