For George Monbiot and the Green lobby more generally, Russia’s recent actions are an object lesson in the need for the West to end its dependence on fossil fuels, specifically Russian gas.
As regards the UK context specifically, this is misleading. The UK gets very little gas from Russia, particularly when compared with mainland European countries. For a mix of historical and logistical reasons, the UK mainly sources gas from its own and neighbours’ North Sea fields, supplemented by exports from other sources.
Secondly, there is the broader point that most renewables are intermittent energy sources. Unless we can pioneer better electricity storage technology, they will always need to be supplemented by fuel-burning power stations which can quickly increase and decrease the amount of electricity generated.
In any case, it is a mistake to think that renewables are the route to geopolitical autonomy. Renewable energy generation and storage relies on heavily on rare earth metals. Yet China has already cornered much of the market, and Russia and Russia/Chinese-Central Asia are key suppliers of many materials. Western countries will need to actively intervene to guarantee energy security at all stages of the production line.
By contrast, the best immediate cure for the problem of energy dependence would be to exploit native sources of natural gas. Not co-incidentally, Putin’s Russia lobbied hard against fracking in the UK and EU to protect its own gas exports. This intelligence comes from Anders Rasmussen, former head of NATO and from the US Director of National Intelligence.
This lobbying extended to funding the very environmental organisations which have successfully opposed fracking in the UK. The Centre for European Studies reported in 2019 that Russia had given $95m to NGO’s opposed to fracking.
This is not the only instance of the West’s competitors having uncomfortably close relationships with Western environmental movements – many western environmentalists are notably reticent about criticising China. The modern Green Movement risks following the ‘useful idiots’ of the 1950s and 1960s, inadvertently advancing the foreign policy objectives of illiberal regimes.