Our Best Weapon Against Soaring Gas Prices Is Dramatic Climate Action

One week from tomorrow, the world will pass — and likely ignore — a most curious anniversary. On that day two years ago, as the true scope of the COVID-19 pandemic was revealing itself and the infrastructure of “How Things Are” began to wobble and quake, the price of petroleum dialed down to zero. Actually, it was less than zero. If you had petroleum reserves, you were in the hole for about 40 dollars a barrel.

Why? Because COVID was responsible for everything stopping or in the process of ending. Travel became virtually nonexistent and the global appetite for oil plummeted almost to zero (comparatively to a typical day). The oil industry is a juggernaut. Like a full-steam oil tanker at the sea, it cannot stop. Instead, the inertia needs to be acted out before forward motion can be stopped. So here were the world’s oil spigots pumping millions of gallons of petroleum into an already-flooded market, unable to halt… until that day, when every barrel of oil on Earth transformed into a bucket of iron pyrite, colloquially known as “Fool’s Gold.”

“If you had oil,” I wrote at the time, “you had to theoretically pay to get rid of it, instead of getting paid for delivering it. Monday was the price of one barrel of oil stoodAt -$37.63 Pay attention to the minus sign. Before yesterday, the lowest priceA barrel of oil was worth $10 in 1986. You will notice that the minus sign is absent. This is beyond unprecedented territory.”

It didn’t last, of course. Despite being utterly helpless on the global stage, petroleum was still the undisputed champion of economic motivators. Amid irony-laden cries from the capitalists for a “Big Oil bailout,” the industry eventually eased down global production, enough oil was burned in the daily process of murdering the environment even in that slowed setting, and the glut resolved itself. Rust never sleeps.

It was surreal for quite a while, even more so since it occurred on 4/20, the official holiday to celebrate pot in all its benefits. You weren’t stoned — well, maybe you probably were — and that shit happened.

I went to fill up my tank two days later as capitalism and petroleum were still waging an economic insurrection. I plugged the nozzle into the tank and set the toggle on it to allow me to keep my hands warm. After a few minutes of cold, the toggle finally closed with a strong KA-JONK and the pouring stopped, the universal signal for “full tank.”I looked at the price line on the pump’s readout; it said “$20.44.” That can’t be right, it’s usually twice that at least, I thought, and tried to keep filling the tank. I could not continue pouring because the handle wouldn’t allow me to. KA-JONK, KA-JONKI acted as if the tank was full. “Great, it’s broken,” I fumed, “all I need right now… wait.”

It wasn’t broken; the gas cost$1.59 per gallon The tank was full for 20 dollars. I hadn’t paid that little for gas since high school, back before the first oil war jumped off in the Middle East.


Two years later, I was making another trip to the station on Wednesday. Already terrible news was coming out of Ukraine: The U.S. had stopped all imports of Russian oil and the Russians responded. blowing up a maternity hospitalIt was full of new mothers and their infants.

The gas price went crazy, despite already rising. I spent $50 for half a tank of gas that day, and grimly thought about the possibility that this would be cheap in the next weeks and months. An attendant by the pump thanked me for my business and then punched me in the face. Inflation was a political problem before the Russian invasion. set to be a long-term financial residentMillions of people hate their roommate for leaving the lights on and eating your groceries.

I stood there, listening to my car take my five-dollar paycheck and thought about the power of petroleum. It is now. nearly too late to fully confront it, a preponderance of learned scientific opinion — goosed along by Mordor fires and epochal droughts in the West, thousand-year floods every year in the Midwest, and coastal storms that threaten the existence of entire cities — has come to the conclusion that anthropogenic climate disruption is, in fact, a thing… a thing that was manageable and preventable at one time, but is now “baked into” our collective future to at least some deadly degree, and all due to the deliberate profit-bent interference of Big Oil, as I wrote back in 2015:

ExxonMobil was aware of the dangers and existence of global climate change from 1981 onwards, according to a number recently released internal memos. The company was planning to exploit an enormous natural gas field in Indonesia. But their in-house scientist advised against it. The field was 70% carbon dioxide, and drilling would release the CO2, which could be dangerous for the environment.

For the next 27 years, despite knowing better, ExxonMobil spent millions of dollars to promote “scientists” and think tanks who worked hammer and tongs to promulgate the idea that climate change was a myth. Climate-deniers such as Willie Soon from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics made a fortune by spreading scientific falsehoods in the polluted winds. thanks to the largesseExxonMobil is one of many energy companies.

They knew. They lied. They paid others for their lies. They manipulated the conversation, made bedrock science a mess of greed-inspiring opinion-based nonsense, which may have meant that humanity missed its chance to fix all this.

The tyranny of profit is tied to poison in the ground that is treasured for its quality of burning, and never mind the multifaceted doom that waits so patiently for us all: Armageddon once we’ve squeezed the last black drop from the sand and stone with no plan for what to do next, Armageddon when we can no longer breathe, Armageddon when the wretched petroleum elites in various nations go to war over their precious product, Armageddon when the planet can no longer grow sufficient food to feed its billions of human passengers, Armageddon in the end of potable water, Armageddon at every turn.

Russia’s gruesome war in Ukraine is not specifically about oil, but its impact has everything in the world to do with oil. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia became a state controlled by wealthy oligarchs, including Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer. Big Oil grabbed the vast and almost untapped oil resources of the USSR and made Russia a world-class petroleum power in a matter of hours.

Multiple European nations — particularly Germany — leaped at the chance to exploit this cheaper energy alternative as a means of escaping the clutches of Saudi Arabia’s expensive product. It is no accident that all those damaging sanctions levied against Russia after the invasion barely touch that nation’s energy sector. The U.S. has shut down its own imports from Siberian oil. This was about 3 percent of our total use. We here would notice it more if we’d cut off Venezuela.

This is a bad decision, and only makes things worse. If the U.S. and the world came down on Russia’s oil business with both feet, the economic shock in Europe would have potentially been enough to rattle, if not splinter, theNorth Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance. It would have been a strategic discombobulating act to throw Europe into the dark with a war on its east porch. This was at a time when solidarity and a united front were all that kept Putin from rolling his tanks into Moldova, Georgia, and possibly other places.

This was the thinking anyway, and nothing has happened since to contradict it. There are no Russian forces in Moldova, and NATO hasn’t fired a shot, yet. Germany is still lit. However, five dollars per gallon at the pumps will have serious political weight on North America’s continent, especially if the Republican Party can figure out how to blame President Biden for the impending economic earthquake. It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to make sense. Fox News.

Meanwhile, for the most part, Russia’s oil business chugs on. This is causing a lot of anger in the U.S. but it’s not the same as a Hollywood romantic comedy. Americans want to support Ukraine with more vigor — some even advocate no-fly zones that would have us shooting down the warplanes of a nuclear-armed adversary — but they also want the cheap gasoline that has been their seeming birthright since the introduction of the internal combustion engine and steering wheels.

Big Oil, always in search of its profits and position in an ever-eroding world, hovers over it all. Something has to give. But what?


An increasing number of voices are recognizing the need to find clean, renewable energy and are pointing out the Ukrainian catastrophe. A strong renewable energy infrastructure will make the militaristic whimsy Putin’s far less significant on the global economy. Doing so could save all our lives. “This moment is a clarion call forThe urgent need to transition to domestic clean energy so that we are never again complicit in fossil-fueled conflict,” Democratic Senator and Green New Deal sponsor Ed Markey told the Guardian.

As the title of the filmThe oil industry’s early days warn of bloodshed. Capitalism will fight for its incredible profits in this sector. In fact, it is already fighting. A second GuardianArticle explains:

Oil and gas companies could be benefited from the Ukraine war. However, few people in the industry wish to admit it. Some are using rising prices and fear of fuel scarcity to consolidate their position with governments. This could have disastrous consequences for the climate crisis.

“There is a huge opportunity for oil and gas companies, though I’m sure it is not one they would have chosen,” said Robert Buckley, head of relationship development at Cornwall Insight, an energy analysis company. “They have the opportunity to reposition themselves [as crucial to policymakers]. There is going to be a very high price for oil for a very long time, and even the prospect of physical shortages.”

Oil prices have shot up to $130 per barrel. This has caused petrol prices to rise to more that 155p a gallon in the UK, and gas prices to soar. Luke Sussams, of Jefferies investment bank, said: “The high-price environment is likely to last a long time. Boris Johnson said that along with the increased deployment of renewables, there will be more production from the North Sea. There are growth opportunities and upside potential. [for fossil fuel producers].”

It is sad and amusing that we are often told that more capitalism is the best way to solve the problems created by capitalism. In this instance, an oil shock caused by war is not taken up as a cause to question oil or war, but as a perfectly spiffy reason to produce more oil in the name of “energy security,” even as the climate along with various economies collapse around us.

This argument is surrounded by extreme political pressures. Biden has spent the past several days speaking from both sides of the table. Biden addressed a global summit on climate Monday. warned that “we only have a brief window before us” to avoid the worst of the looming environmental calamities. However, he was there days before. imploring the planet’s largest petroleum producers to crank up their production levels. Both concepts cannot exist in the same place at the same moment, but they are there.

It isn’t justThe oil companies that are in this to win it. “Goldman Sachs, the giant New York investment bank, is cashing in on the war in Ukraine by selling Russian debt to U.S. hedge funds — and using a legal loophole in the Biden administration’s sanctions to do it,” reports the Guardian. “As the Western world scrambles to defend Ukraine by locking down Russian money, the company is acting as a broker between Moscow’s creditors and U.S. investors, pitching clients on the opportunity to take advantage of Russia’s war-crippled economy by buying its debt securities low now and selling them high later.”

This, among many other reasons, is why journalist Matt Taibbi famously described Goldman Sachs as a vampire squid “wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” Taibbi wrote thatIt was 12 years old when it was first made. It has held up well over the years.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has become a catalyst for capitalist profiteering in its grossest form. Could this also be the spark which motivates people against the petroleum hegemony to demand a better approach, if only so that they don’t get financially degraded at the grocery store and gas pump? If grasped with both arms, enlightened self-interest can be a powerful motivator.

Take into account the U.S. job market during the COVID pandemic. The disease was a deadly catastrophe but it gave millions of workers cause to question the quality of their jobs as well as their satisfaction with their jobs. Many of those millions decided to leave their jobs and seek out happier, more fulfilling careers after being locked down or quarantined.

For the same reasons, there has been a flurry of successful union organizing. Many employers have been forced into higher wages, better benefits, more reasonable work hours, and other measures. Despite decades-old capitalist warnings, these improvements to the lives of workers have not caused the Earth’s collapse into the sun.


Because Russia invaded Ukraine and disrupted global petroleum profiteering, we will all be suffering significant economic pain in the coming months. While we are coping with the present moment, we must also come up with solutions such as the Green New Deal, as well as more powerful climate plans. We can do it if and when we want to. This has been our experience since before the moon landings. We can and must.

“Until we transform the underlying infrastructure from gas-fired power and plastic production,” writesSara Goddard Green That Life “we will still be hijacked by an industry that since its existence has buffeted regular people, destroyed homes and open spaces, and employs corruption and coercion as its business model. Putin is a tyrant who must be toppled, but global dependence on oil will continue to sustain petro-states like Russia until nations refuse to prop up Big Oil.”

Let’s make every day like 4/20/20, when the price of oil was nearly zero because almost nobody wanted it. It’s like that, except without the pandemic terrors or deep financial insecurities. You weren’t stoned — or maybe you were — and that shit happened. Let’s make it happen again for more than a day.