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An employee with Ipsun Solar installs solar panels on the roof of the Peace Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Virginia on May 17, 2021.

An employee with Ipsun Solar installs solar panels on the roof of the Peace Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Virginia on May 17, 2021. (Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Groups Urge Biden to Invoke Defense Production Act to Counter Putin, Accelerate Green Transition

"A renewable energy future," the groups wrote, "is a peaceful and ultimately more prosperous one."

Andrea Germanos

A coalition of over 200 groups on Wednesday called on President Joe Biden to leverage his authority under the Defense Production Act to simultaneously "produce alternatives to fossil fuels, fight the climate emergency, combat Putin's stranglehold on the world's energy economy, and support the transition to a renewable and just economy."

"With one fell swoop, you would reduce energy costs and move the world away from fossil fuel markets that are all too easily manipulated by bad actors."

The demand was delivered in a letter to Biden—signed by groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, Global Witness, and Stand.earth—and follows the administration's move Tuesday to ban U.S. imports of Russian fossil fuels in response to Russia's ongoing military attack on Ukraine.

The groups thank Biden for that immediate ban and say it must be followed not by "short-sighted policies" like ramping up domestic drilling, as the U.S. fossil fuel lobby and industry supporters like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have called for, because that would worsen the climate emergency and "deepen our dependence on fuels that lead to global instability."

"Oil and gas constitute 40% of Russia's national revenue, meaning Russian exports of oil and gas are literally funding this invasion," the letter states.

Ramping up fossil fuel extraction and use would also worsen the climate crisis, the groups note, referencing the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released last week showing that "natural and human systems" are being driven "beyond their ability to adapt."

What is needed instead, the letter states, is a massive surge in the deployment of renewable energy.

Biden can lead that effort by utilizing the Defense Production Act (DPA), with specific actions on three fronts, all of which should center communities most impacted by the current fossil fueled-based system. The letter calls on the president to:

  • Rapidly scale up production, manufacturing, and deployment of renewable energy technologies, heat pumps, storage, and weatherization technologies here and abroad. These green technologies can be exported to Ukraine, the rest of Europe, and the Global South to help wean them off of their dependence on Russian fossil fuels. And they should be simultaneously deployed across the United States to jumpstart the renewable energy revolution and prioritize construction in climate-vulnerable communities. With one fell swoop, you would reduce energy costs and move the world away from fossil fuel markets that are all too easily manipulated by bad actors.
  • Create millions of long-term, high-paying domestic jobs and position the U.S. to be a global leader in showcasing the economic benefits of the just and renewable energy transition. Investments by the federal government can create high-quality, family-supporting jobs; and build worker power by including high-road labor standards.
  • Accelerate the transition to zero-emission public transportation, alternatives to car based transportation and related infrastructure domestically, and deploy it nationwide, prioritizing communities who are most vulnerable to the climate emergency. These steps will reduce the burden of higher gas prices at the pump for U.S. residents.

"A renewable energy future," the groups wrote, "is a peaceful and ultimately more prosperous one."

Climate advocates have previously linked Russia's military attack on Ukraine with reliance on fossil fuels.

American author and climate activist Bill McKibben, for example, wrote last month in his newsletter The Crucial Years that "it is a war underwritten by oil and gas" and urged Biden to invoke the DPA to produce "electric heat pumps in quantity, so we can ship them to Europe where they can be installed in time to dramatically lessen Putin's power. "

Fridays for Future youth activists also took to the streets of cities across the globe last week to #StandWithUkraine and heed a call from the Ukrainian arm of the global climate movement.

In a series of tweets last Thursday, the day of the demonstrations, the global group called this "an eye-opening moment for humanity to see that the world is aflame with new and old wars caused by fossil fuels."

"We want to call out the era of fossil fuel, capitalism, and imperialism that allows these systemic oppressions," they said. "We demand a world where leaders prioritize #PeopleNotProfit."


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