Originally published in the New York Times on April 18, 2022. Access the full article here.
Today’s energy crisis has a familiar ring. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, energy supplies have faltered, and prices have skyrocketed. Americans are seeing costly gasoline, and in Europe, natural gas prices are around five times typical levels for this time of year, driving up the price of electricity and even threatening bankruptcies across industries that depend on gas.
After previous global energy crises — 1973, 1979, 1990 and 2008 — tensions abated, prices fell, people forgot, and governments turned to other priorities. And global dependence on oil and gas kept rising.
This time could be different. Western nations have aggressively employed sanctions against Russia, and those sanctions are expected to tighten and include Russian oil and gas exports, as Europe and other importers gain confidence that they can replace those supplies. But what really matters for the long term is whether the West can lower its dependence not just on Russian exports but on fossil fuels altogether.
To do that, companies and investors have to take risks on new, clean technologies, but many won’t if governments don’t give them the signal. What’s new in this crisis is how the European Union, in particular, is using the war in Ukraine to give investors a big green light.
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