Power Shortages and Russia

Currently, there are concerns about power shortages in China, Europe, and the U.S. The Chinese economy is being held back by power shortages. People in the UK are worried about increased power bills and a possible food shortage this winter. In Germany, their power plants are short of natural gas and coal and they are hoping for a mild winter. All this reminds one of the various arguments in the U.S. about Russia trying to influence our elections. These concerns remind the U.S. that Russia benefits from power shortages and shortages of oil and natural gas.

Vladimir Putin is a smart man. Putin puts himself and Russia first and everything he does is to promote himself and Russia. Putin, as a former head of the KGB, is an expert at misinformation and manipulating public opinion, usually without leaving tracks.

The largest and most important sector of the Russian economy is the production and export of oil and natural gas. Putin is always looking for ways to improve Russia’s leverage in economics and geopolitics that comes from being one of the leading providers of fossil fuels. One of the biggest threats to his position was/is a growing, thriving U.S. fossil fuel industry. Whenever the U.S. moves from being a net importer of fossil fuels to being a net exporter of fossil fuels that is bad for the Russian economy. Putin knows this.

The U.S. has been a leading force in the application of new and innovative ways to extract oil and natural gas from the ground. Over the last couple of decades, the U.S. has increased its production of natural gas and oil significantly thanks to new technology. This new competition in the energy markets weakens Putin’s economic and geopolitical position. Putin knows this.

Given the above, it would make sense that Putin might be involved in spreading misinformation about the fossil fuel industry in the U.S. to handicap its growth. Putin might even support the anti-fracking and anti-pipeline campaigns in the U.S. since these would help Russia. Putin would favor the reduction of U.S. production of natural gas and oil to strengthen his position in the world energy markets.

Putin really has no choice, but to bet on his natural resources and the possible problems of implementing a shift away from fossil fuels in the West. He has no choice, but to hope that wind and solar will not be sufficient to keep the world economy growing in his lifetime.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, both Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton took clear positions with regard to the energy industry. Trump ran on a platform of working to achieve energy independence through increasing the output of all energy sectors, especially the oil and natural gas industries. He favored building the Keystone pipeline and leasing out federal lands to fracking and other extraction methods. Clinton was opposed to the building of the Keystone pipeline and to expanding the fossil fuel industry. Clinton favored reducing U.S. production of oil and natural gas.

Regardless of why the two candidates came to these positions, from Putin’s perspective, Trump’s energy platform was anti-Russian and Clinton’s energy platform was pro-Russian. Putin knew this. From the Russian perspective, this was the most important and clear-cut issue in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

Based on the energy platforms, Putin favored Clinton over Trump in the election. During the campaign and afterward, the Russians provided the Clinton campaign with misinformation about Trump but did not provide Trump with misinformation about Clinton. This is consistent with the analysis of the energy platforms.

Once Trump was in office, he appointed Rick Perry of Texas as his Energy Secretary and gave him the mandate to achieve energy independence for the country. Trump and Perry approved the Keystone pipeline and worked to open up leases on federal land. The price of oil and natural gas declined. Of course, from the perspective of economics, this was a huge plus for the bottom half of wage earners as their dollars went further.

But the decline in the prices of oil and natural gas had a negative effect on Russia and Putin. By 2019, the U.S. was energy independent for the first time in decades. These events reduced the leverage that Putin had on the U.S. and Europe. Putin’s economic and geopolitical influence declined during Trump’s Presidency.

The big increase in natural gas production in the U.S. gave Trump the opportunity to compete with Russia in providing natural gas to Germany. Trump approached Germany to sell them U.S. natural gas and worked to block the building of a natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. He succeeded in preventing the building of the pipeline through the end of his Presidency. This was bad for Russia and good for the U.S. Putin knew this.

During the 2020 Presidential campaign, Trump’s platform bragged about getting to energy independence, the approval of the Keystone pipeline, and the increase in production of fossil fuels. Like the Clinton campaign, the Biden campaign vowed to reverse the approval of the Keystone pipeline and to cease the leasing of federal lands for drilling. Putin knew this and, for this reason, would favor Biden over Trump.

Once Biden took office, he immediately canceled the Keystone pipeline. Subsequently, Biden has stopped the leasing of federal land for fossil fuel extraction. Biden also removed the Trump sanctions on building a natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. The result of these and other actions is that the U.S. is no longer energy independent and Germany is more dependent on Russian natural gas than ever before.

The prices of oil, natural gas, and gasoline at the pump have all risen significantly since Biden has taken office. Many Democrats view this as a good thing but it has a significant negative effect on the pocketbooks of working people with low incomes. Now, there are power shortages in China, Europe, and the U.S. This increases the economic and geopolitical power of Putin.

Putin is smart enough to have figured out long ago that this would be a likely outcome of the election of Clinton and/or Biden. Putin must have been rooting for all of this to happen all along. To believe otherwise is to believe Russian misinformation.

Biden’s actions on energy policy have contributed to the current situation in power production. Another important factor is the unreliability of wind and solar power. This lack of reliability has both short- and long-term effects. We have short-term power outages and long-term electricity grid unreliability. This is occurring in China, Europe, Australia, and California. Putin’s bets are paying off.

Image: Pixabay

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