Western democracies and corporations have rightly ratcheted up sanctions on Russia to hit the warmonger where it hurts most: energy. Big energy companies like BP, Exxon, and Shell are withdrawing holdings in Russia; Germany halted the massive Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline; and this month, President Joe Biden announced a bold ban on Russian oil and gas imports.
While these are important punitive actions against Russia for its devastating attacks on Ukraine, they have also exposed how dangerous the over-reliance on fossil fuels is for global diplomatic and economic stability. Even as crude oil prices fall from the recent peak, everyday New Yorkers will likely continue facing high gasoline prices because energy companies are reluctant to give up these wider profit margins so soon. We need to seize this moment to reevaluate our dependence on oil and gas and double down on resilient renewable energy infrastructure and mobility.
Unfortunately, the knee-jerk reaction is to make gasoline cheaper with the levers closest at hand. While pump anxiety has real economic impacts, the solutions proposed so far to lower costs are temporary. Increasing oil production to fill the gaps left by banning Russian imports, which accounted for about 8 percent of imports in 2021, will take months to years to become operational, and the additional drilling and refining will incur severe environmental costs. Likewise, tapping the nation’s strategic stockpile is hardly a band-aid to this substantial issue. And a tax holiday, which some Republican state lawmakers are advocating for, is only pennies on the gallon and would create an artificial rush to fuel up, ultimately lining oil and gas company pocketbooks.
The only long-term solution to the gas crisis is accelerating electric vehicle (EV) adoption. With transportation accounting for roughly half of New York’s CO2 emissions, the transition to EVs is one of the most important and immediate steps we can take to mitigate climate change.
That’s not to say New York consumers should have been purchasing electric vehicles to prepare for the extreme, nor could they. Until recently, EV production was a very small part of the automotive industry, the options available were not affordable for most people, and the lack of reliable charging infrastructure was and remains a barrier to EV adoption.
The Biden administration’s $5 billion investment, including $26 million for New York this year, to build 500,000 EV charging stations across highways is a crucial commitment. But equally important is EV infrastructure in cities, where the vast majority of Americans live and where cars and trucks are more likely to idle and contribute to congestion fumes which significantly hurt the environment and human health—often with a racial disparity.
Most cities have sparse, slow charging sites that need to be used overnight, if they have any at all. The company I cofounded, Revel, is working to change that. We’re expanding our network of fast charging sites usable by any electric vehicle, anchored by high-volume “Superhubs,” in New York City and other dense metros where drivers typically don’t have access to charging at home. Our first Superhub in Brooklyn—the largest publicly available, universal fast charging station in North America—has made a measurable difference since it opened last June, offsetting more than 760 metric tons of CO2 with over 481,000 kWh of charging, but it’s not a panacea. More public and private dollars need to be directed at urban EV infrastructure, alongside policy solutions to expedite charging development and incentivize EV purchases.
Even with that attention, there are challenges across the resource to consumer chain that need fixing for EV infrastructure to succeed in New York. It’s encouraging to see New York investing in clean energy, like the new offshore wind farm Mayor Eric Adams announced and the 339-mile hydroelectric transmission line being developed from Quebec to New York City. More clean energy sourcing is obviously good, but if we do not have localized, large-scale battery storage to strategically deploy clean energy to outputs like EV charging stations, we’ll end up still using emission-heavy power when demand is highest. Investments like these, while significant today, will pass savings to consumers over time as the economic and environmental costs of renewable energy production—and therefore of EV ownership—become marginal compared to fossil fuel alternatives.
As the oil and gas crisis continues to unfold, let’s hold the energy companies responsible for fossil fuel dependence and our elected leaders accountable to invest in a zero-emission EV future and prevent further damage to our planet.
The River is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the newsroom.