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Big Oil and Conservatives Are Using Russia’s Conflict to Call for More Drilling

It took big oil cronies less than 24 hours after Russia invaded Ukraine to call for more drilling.

Oil pumps and equipment in the South Belridge oil field in Kern County pictured on March 4, 2014, about 40 miles west of Bakersfield, California.

Republicans, conservative pundits and Big Oil took less than 24 hours after Russia invaded Ukraine to begin advocating for more oil drilling and fracking in the name of supposed energy independence.

As climate journalists Amy Westervelt and Kate Aronoff pointed out on Thursday, news outlets like Bloomberg and conservative commentators like The Atlantic’s David Frum are calling for expanding oil production and fracking in response to the conflict, even though the U.S. is currently already producing near its limit.

“Fracking may be America’s most powerful weapon against Russian aggression,” read an op-ed from a Bloomberg columnist who formerly led a Standard Oil and Koch family funded think tank.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) made a Twitter thread just as Vladimir Putin was announcing attacks on Ukraine. “As crisis looms in Ukraine, U.S. energy leadership is more important than ever,” API wrote, encouraging the White House to lease and permit even more drilling on and offshore.

In an earnings call on Thursday by natural gas exporter Cheniere, CEO Jack Fusco said that the invasion is good for business, Aronoff reported. “It’s tragic what’s going on in Eastern Europe, and it saddens me to see the satellite images on the newscreen that we’ve all witnessed this morning,” Fusco said. “But if anything, these high prices, the volatility, drive even more energy security and long-term contracting.”

Conservative lawmakers also hopped onto the Big Oil cronyism. Far right Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) posted a video saying that the federal government should immediately start producing oil at full capacity and exporting gas to Europe in order to combat inflation. Boebert has close ties to the fossil fuel industry; her husband has made hundreds of thousands of dollars consulting for Texas driller Terra Energy Partners.

Meanwhile, Republicans are saying that Democrats’ “green agenda” and supposed “war on American oil and gas” is to blame for Putin’s invasion – nevermind the fact that Biden approved oil and gas drilling at a higher rate than Trump did in 2021.

It’s extremely cynical to use this moment to encourage expanding fossil fuel production – and thus attempt to worsen the climate crisis – as thousands of people in Ukraine face instability, vicious attacks and uncertainty due to Russian forces. As conservatives and Big Oil attempt to exploit this moment for profit, antiwar activists in Russia and Ukraine are potentially putting their lives on the line to protest the Russian invasion.

Experts say that there’s not much that President Joe Biden can do to control gas prices and that there’s little connection between oil production and gas prices.

Rather, oil and gas companies have already been making record profits by taking advantage of inflation and economic uncertainty, causing President Joe Biden and other Democrats to probe whether or not companies are breaking antitrust laws in order to pad their pockets. Indeed, in remarks on Thursday, Biden urged oil and gas companies to “not exploit this moment to hike their prices to raise profits.”

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