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Ukraine war stiffens energy-security resolve

Nick Sobczyk
Feb 22, 2023
Illustration of the Ukrainian flag as a landscape with oil rigs and wind turbines

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's been one year since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the war has only reinforced preexisting political narratives about energy policy.

  • But it’s also spurred bipartisan concerns over energy security — with China the subtext of a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing last week on the invasion.

Why it matters: Lawmakers' views on the war tug at the fundamentals of the energy transition. Everyone wants cheap, secure energy, but what that means is often a matter of opinion.

We asked senators for the energy-related lesson they've learned from the war. Here’s a selection of what they told us:

  • Bill Cassidy: “Energy is a geopolitical tool.… If the United States does not develop our energy resources with our environmental standards, the rest of the world will burn more coal."
  • Jack Reed: “I think the lessons remain that if we're energy independent, that's one less critical resource we have to depend upon which can be disrupted by either attacks or sometimes multiple ways.”
  • Brian Schatz: “We have to generate our own electrons and our own fuel supplies. Eventually that should all be carbon-free, and in the meantime, it should at least be American."
  • Jon Tester: “Energy can be used as a weapon. Not that we didn't know that before, but it's been absolutely done with Russia.”
  • John Cornyn: “Energy security is important. That’s probably the single most important thing we’ve learned. We need an all-of-the-above strategy.”
  • John Kennedy: “All of us should seek (A) affordable energy. And (B), all of us should agree that we should use technology to improve and make more efficient and more climate-friendly, all forms of energy.”

What we’re watching: Senate Energy chair Joe Manchin introduced a bill last week with his GOP committee counterpart John Barrasso to create a domestic nuclear fuel program.

  • It’s another attempt to counter Russia, which currently controls much of the global enrichment capacity for nuclear fuel.
  • The Ukraine conflict "has drastically disrupted energy supply chains around the world, and now is the time to take a hard look at how we source the raw materials necessary to power our nation and develop advanced energy technologies," Manchin said.
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