Putin’s aggression is being felt in our electric bills

As Russian tightens exports of natural gas, prices are rising

The announcement this week that Saudi Arabia, Russia, and other oil-producing countries — known as OPEC plus — are planning to cut output and inflate gas prices for drivers makes it clear that energy is going to be weaponized by nations seeking to challenge America’s global influence.

Indeed, here in Massachusetts we are feeling the sting of higher energy costs.

This month, one of our regional utility companies, National Grid, announced that people should be prepared for very high electric bills this winter. For families struggling to keep up with inflation, or those already behind on their power bills, this is disturbing news.

Over the last few months it has become clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin is going to cut off his country’s supply of natural gas to Europe as retaliation for its support of Ukraine.

Even though the US actually produces more natural gas than we need, Russia’s actions push up the price of natural gas for our domestic markets. Understand, natural gas is used to power the turbines that create electricity. These elevated costs to produce power get passed onto customers.

Of course, hindsight is twenty-twenty; if we could redo the past we would have allowed more natural gas to be produced in this country. We would have also invested more heavily in renewables like wind and solar, so we aren’t so dependent on fossil fuels. Going forward, it is clear we need to do both.

As we struggle with these high energy costs, we should also keep our European allies in mind who are suffering even more severe energy spikes. Indeed, Germany, France, England and other nations are facing an existential crisis if there is a cold winter, with gas being in such short supply. This could drive those countries into a recession, as non-essential businesses are closed in order to ensure that people’s homes stay warm.

We know that Vladimir Putin is taking these drastic steps, in the hope that the European nations supporting Ukraine will rethink that decision. That likely won’t happen, because Europeans are almost uniformly refusing to ignore Russian perpetrated war crimes on their continent.

We must also realize that if we have a cold winter in America, and electricity prices become crippling, there is going to be political pressure applied to President Joe Biden to suspend exports of natural gas to Europe to help ease domestic prices. While this might be tempting, I am confident that President Biden will resist these calls in order to help our European allies. It will be a tough decision, but the right one.

After all, it is in all of our best interests that Putin is not successful in Ukraine. If Putin does get what he wants, history tells us that men like him will not be satisfied with just one country. His ambitions will grow, and the threat to our allies and our democracy will be in peril.

Putin also views the U.S. as his primary enemy, and the stronger he is, the more he will undermine America. This could be in the form of eroding confidence people have in our elections, fanning the culture wars which are driving rural and urban Americans apart, and corrupting our economic system.

Let’s all pray for the people of Ukraine, and a mild winter in Europe and the U.S. After all, the future of the free world may depend on it.

Hank Naughton served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1995-2021, and during that time served as chair of the Homeland Security Committee.