A rare political alignment offers an unmatched moment to finally break our addiction to fossil fuels
Across-the-board bipartisanship in Washington is as rare and stunning as a rainbow, so it’s good to pay attention when it happens. Just about everyone—from Trump stalwarts like Senators Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham to progressive champions like Representatives Ro Khanna and Pramila Jayapal—supports cutting Russian oil imports to counter Vladimir Putin’s criminal invasion of Ukraine. There’s universal agreement that oil is Putin’s Achilles’ heel.
I keep thinking back to another moment, nearly 20 years ago, when millions of Americans made the connection between war and fossil fuels.
Maybe you were there and remember it too. In February 2003, millions of people across the United States marched against President George W. Bush’s plan to invade Iraq. Many of us in the streets carried signs and banners that read “No Blood for Oil.” It was a demand anchored in anger over how a preoccupation with the oil-rich Middle East has warped US foreign policy. In four short words, that slogan called for bolstering US security and global peace by reducing our dependence on the dark lifeblood of industrial society: oil and gas.
Those were heady days for the American peace and justice movement. The New York Times declared “world public opinion” a second “superpower”—the only force capable of frustrating the militarism of Bush’s oil-patch cabinet. Anti-war members of Congress were calling for a rethinking of US energy policies. The phony WMD smokescreen aside, it seemed obvious enough that the US wouldn’t be invading Iraq if its number one export were figs (to borrow from Republican senator Chuck Hagel).
The Bush administration steamrolled the peace movement and marched into Baghdad. By the end, there was much blood: a half million Iraqis were dead, more than 30,000 US troops wounded and killed. And Americans went on guzzling oil, buying SUVs, and building McMansions. For the remainder of the aughts and well into the teens, mainstream political conversation in the United States continued to ignore how oil dependence threatens global peace and security.
Prognostication is a fool’s craft; Big Oil’s obituary has been written many times before. But this moment feels different. We’re now facing as good a chance as ever to once and for all kick our oil addiction.
It’s time to update the “No Blood for Oil” slogan to “No Blood or Oil.” This is the opportunity to make the case that a global economy fueled by renewable energies is the smartest path toward peace, security, community well-being, and a livable planet.
We’re in a moral moment, and such moments can make for unusual alignments of political interests. Russia’s murderous aggression might be the thing to unite foreign policy hawks and longtime doves, Bernie bros and Wall Street bankers, anti-fascist progressives and faithful conservatives, deep greens and eco-modernists in a collective call for international security and global sustainability based on decarbonization. As Senator Elizabeth Warren said last week, “If a moment like this with Russia doesn’t remind us why we need to get off fossil fuels, then I just don’t know what it’s going to take.”
(Courtesy Sierra Club/By Jason Mark)