How to Fight Putin, Climate Change, and Your Energy Bills
We’re at war.
Putin decided that your freedom doesn’t matter. That the Free World should not believe that we can be free and safe from foreigners invading us, shooting civilians in the back, stealing our families, slaughtering our children, committing war crimes, genocide, looting, raping, torturing.
Putin believes in the law of the strongest. I’m stronger than you, I can do whatever the fuck I want.
What’s at stake is not just Ukraine. If Putin wins, will he stop there? He didn’t stop in Georgia. Or Crimea. Or the Donbas. What’s next, the Baltic countries? Poland? Finland? Revive the “magnificence” of the USSR?
Xi Jinping is taking notes. Will he take over Taiwan? Bully China’s other neighbors? What will every dictator in the world do if he sees Putin victorious? Do we want a return to the Cold War?
Putin can only keep the war going as long as he has the support, weapons, and money to fuel it.
It’s hard to reduce the support directly: Putin has a complete grip on Russian media. But the historical sanctions that the Free World has enacted to hamper Russia’s economy and weapons manufacturing capability might do it indirectly
Some Western media are appeasers and defeatist, and claim that sanctions are not working as intended: Russia is still selling its oil! Prices are at all-time highs! The ruble is strong! They’re making money hand over fist! Countries representing 40% of global GDP aren’t applying any sanction! Russia circumvents them! The Russian economy has contracted less than expected!
These facts are true, but the conclusion they draw is wrong. Because the point of the sanctions is not to throw Russia back into a dirt-poor, food-rationing, Stalinist-era USSR. The goal is first to prevent Russia from making weapons, and second to economically undermine popular support. In both of these regards, we’re winning.
Russia’s imports have plummeted by 60% from sanctioning countries. Surprisingly, they have also gone down by 40% from non-sanctioning countries!
You can imagine that these imports include especially the most advanced tech that Russia can’t produce. As a result, its industry is grinding to a halt:
Russians can’t buy imported cars… or local cars!
So the first goal, hampering Russia’s weapons capacity, appears to be working. The other one, undermining popular support through economic sanctions, appears to be working too.
The sanctions are not just hindering imports. They’re also affecting exports. Gas exports are down by 36%, steel and fertilizers by 30%, coal by 29%, wheat by 27%. Oil exports have gone up by 20-35% because of the increase in oil price, but that’s because the volume didn’t go down by too much, and the prices shot up.
But oil prices are now below their level when the war started.
And the full European sanctions have a ramp up period that reaches 90% in December.
The sanctions are decimating the economy, which will drop by 6% to 12%. This, along with the progress of the war, might be why Russian support for the war is faltering, going from 72% in May to 48% now.
In other words: The Free World sanctions are working.
They’re strangling Russia’s military by preventing its imports of necessary technology.
They’re suffocating its internal economy.
They’ll be suppressing Russia’s only remaining asset: Its oil and gas exports.
We must continue the pressure for as long as we can. This is where you and I come in.
How You Can Help the Free World
All of Putin’s strength comes from one thing. If you understand it, you can take it back from him, and his house of cards will fall. His strength is that we’re his bitches.
Putin holds us by the neck.
We’re the drug addicts and he’s the dealer.
We walk to him on our knees for our daily dose of gas cocaine. He scorns us, kicks us, jeers at us, spits at us, all the while we ask him to forgive us, hand him our money, and thank him for his generosity. Whatever the fuck it takes for that one shot. Tomorrow, we’ll crawl back for more.
Until we wean ourselves off of our addiction to Russian gas and oil.
So how do we do that? As individuals, as leaders, and as politicians.
What Individuals Like You Can Do to Fight Putin
1. Save Oil
What every Free World citizen can do is reduce their demand for oil. Oil is fungible. It moves around the world in tankers that go to the highest bidder. A reduction in demand anywhere in the world reduces the price everywhere.
So if you’re looking for a car, go for an electric one. If you can’t, at least opt for a hybrid. If you can get one that consumes less, take that one.
If you already own a car, reduce your consumption. If you can work more from home and avoid a commute, do that. You can also use mass transit instead, or walk or ride a bike if distance permits.
If you have to take your car, but can simply drive more slowly, do that. Fuel consumption grows faster with speed.
Gas is much less fungible than oil: As a gas, it takes a lot of space, so it is more efficient to circulate it through gas pipelines. To move it great distances, it must be cooled into liquid (LNG, liquid natural gas), put in a tanker, moved to its destination, and regasified. This process is expensive so most countries don’t have LNG terminals.
But several of the countries most exposed to Putin’s gas pressure are getting them at breakneck speeds.
This means that your actions to curb gas consumption are most effective if you live in Central or Eastern Europe, but any citizen of the Free World can contribute by lowering their consumption: The lower the local price of gas, the stronger the incentive to send the gas to Europe.
So what can you do to reduce your gas consumption?
2. Lower Your Home’s Temperature
This is by far the most impactful thing you can do. Just reducing your home’s temperature by 2 degrees Celsius (about 3 Fahrenheit), say from 20°C to 18°C, can make a massive difference2. Even single degree matters. How does this work?
Heat energy goes from hot towards cold. The amount of heat lost depends on two things: the insulation, and the difference in temperatures.
Assuming your home’s insulation is fixed, the higher the temperature inside, the bigger the difference from the outside, the more heat escapes, and the more energy you need to insert back into your home to keep the temperature stable.
If instead of 24º you move it to 18º, this happens:
The difference in temperatures is much smaller, so the heat energy leaving the house is less, which means you need to bring back less energy to keep the home’s temperature stable.
To give you a sense of the impact, turning down the thermostat by just one degree celsius saves four times more gas than turning off the heat in all the unused rooms.
So if there’s one thing you’re going to do this winter to help wean off gas, it should be to lower your home’s temperature. A German economic group suggests that the average reduction in Germany to meet our goals should be 2.5°. If you can do more, that’s better.
3. Reduce the Temperature of Your Heat Boiler
Another way of reducing the temperature—and hence the energy expenditure—of your home is to reduce the boiler3 temperature to 55°C (130 F). At that temperature, it appears that it runs more efficiency. Avoid it in very big buildings4.
4. Reduce the Temperature of Single Rooms
You can, of course, also fine-tune the temperature of individual rooms with your radiator valves.
If you don’t use some rooms at all, you can stop the heat there. Some heat will leak from the rest of your home, and if you have lowered your boiler temperature, this might not have as much impact. But it can still help. It’s especially valuable if some rooms are too warm.
5. Lower the Home’s Temperature While You’re Away
Some people think that it makes sense to keep homes warm even while they’re not used because otherwise, the energy needed to warm them up is higher than keeping it constant. In most cases, this is not true5.
Remember how the heat works: It’s proportional to the temperature difference. If you keep it at a high temperature while you’re away, you’ll be losing more energy while you’re away. So lower the thermostat when the temperature doesn’t matter as much: at night, on holidays, if everybody leaves the home during the day… The longer you leave, the lower the temperature can be. Just be wary of the time to heat it back up again.
6. Replace Furnaces or Electric Heaters with Heat Pumps
You’ll notice that I haven’t talked about electricity yet. That’s because a little bit of heat is equivalent to a lot of electricity. Think how much your computer can work while barely warming up6. So if you want to save energy, you will focus on reducing heat.
Heat can come in two ways: through burning something directly (for example with a furnace), or by getting electricity into your home and converting it into heat (for example with an electric heater). Either way, what you’re getting is energy (chemical in the case of wood or gas, electric in the other case) into the house.
Heat pumps are cleverer. They extract energy from the air. They release cold air outside and put the extracted heat inside the home. It turns out that taking some air and separating it into hot air and cold air requires much less electricity than creating heat from scratch. Remember: Heat is very energy-intensive. Releasing cold air is like releasing “negative energy”, while you keep the “positive energy” for yourself. The electricity to do that requires three times less energy than burning something or using an electric heater.
Electric heaters are the exact same thing as air conditioning, but in reverse. The majority of AC units are able to work as heat pumps. If you can use them instead of heat, do it.
You get the idea. Anything that reduces the generation of heat in your home will save a lot of gas or electricity: long hot showers, cooking with the oven (instead of the microwave for example), etc. Cut as much as you can. That’s the biggest way you can personally contribute to the war effort7.
7. Insulate Your Home
We should not assume that your home’s insulation is fixed. Some homes lose much more energy than others:
You can use a thermal camera to see if your house loses heat, or simply ask for a heat loss analysis. Insulating your home might be expensive, but it will repay every year—both when there’s too much heat or too much cold.
8. Cut on Heat Appliances
This graph illustrates how much different appliances consume in energy:
Notice how heat is by far the biggest culprit. But some electric appliances also use a fair amount of electricity: All the ones that need heat.
if you can try to cut your usage of these appliances, that’s great. If you can’t, there’s one thing you probably still can do: Move the usage to trough hours.
9. Use Appliances Outside of Peak
Generating electricity with gas is expensive—you burn the expensive gas—so it’s the last energy source to be put online. If you consume electricity at 8pm, it might well come from gas. But if you consume it at 2am, it is much more likely to come from some renewables or nuclear plant. Simply switching your appliance use from peak to trough can save you money and your country’s gas.
10. Use Alternative Sources of Energy
Do you have an unused chimney? This winter might be the one to dust it off.
Have you been toying with the idea of installing solar panels? It might be time to do it.
Thought of installing batteries to accumulate electricity from the night to use it during peak hours? Now’s the time.
Whether it’s for heat or electricity, any investment that you can make to use alternative sources of energy is welcome.
With the current cost of electricity and gas, all these advices might very well be worth it even just economically. If you are in favor of the environment, each one of these changes helps. And you’ll be doing your part for the war effort: If you wonder whether this type of action can have an impact on Russian gas, consider this: Gas corresponds to about 25% of Germany’s energy mix, and Russian gas has gone from 55% of it to 25% of it in June. So only about 6% of all the energy consumed by Germany’s economy comes from Russian gas. Shave a few percentage points of energy usage, and you can get Russia out of the picture. This is the war you can fight.
What Leaders Can Do to Help the Free World
All of this is for individuals. Those of us who can do it should: We’d be doing our bit. But it’s better if we can also have leverage.
If you’re a leader, or you can talk with your leaders, you have that leverage. You can talk with your office managers to do the same with the offices. Some leaders might not think about it, care, or dare to put the team in discomfort. But if it comes from the team, they will be more likely to approve.
So try to push for your office to lower the temperature this winter, reduce it in off hours, replace furnaces or electric heating with heat pumps when possible, and better insulate the building.
But industries can save much more energy in other ways
11. Replace Gas with Heat Pumps
Industrial uses are one of the biggest sinks of natural gas. For example, in Germany:
Anything that reduces burning gas for industry will save a lot of it.
Industries usually need it for heat, when some process needs a high temperature8. Many industrial processes can easily switch from burning gas to oil. But this is not the only option. If you lead a company that needs a lot of heat for its processes, you should know that heat pumps can now replace gas in many of them.
Look into whether this might apply to your company, and if so, explore adopting heat pumps. If you don’t, you can import the products altogether.
12. Import Gas in Other Forms
The products that result from these gas-intensive processes can be imported instead of produced locally. That way, you import the gas and its heat in the form of the finished product.
For example, certain energy-intensive precursors in the metal-producing industry can be purchased on the world market, as can ammonia and urea in the chemical industry or simple products in glass production such as beverage bottles. This then leads to a drop in production for the domestic manufacturers concerned, but avoids cascading effects on other industries and reduces gas consumption in winter.—How it can be done, ECONtribute.
It’s important for you to get on this, because governments might well incentivize these imports to save gas anyway. Better be part of the loop than out of it.
More importantly, leaders can influence in another way: By setting the example, talking publicly about it, and talking about it with other leaders to push them to do the same.
What Governments Can Do to Help the Free World
13. Alternative Energy Sources
We wouldn’t be in this situation if governments had not made mistake after mistake in their management of energy9:
If they had not imposed unreasonable standards on nuclear energy.
If fracking had not been virtually banned in Europe.
If they had diversified their sources of energy.
Now they’re furiously backpedaling. Good. But it’s hard to correct decades of mismanagement. They need our help, just as Germany is turning around and keeping its three nuclear reactors open.
So let’s keep up our pressure to reform our energy generation industry.
European governments must approve renewables as fast as they can.
They must unleash as much nuclear energy as they can.
They should urgently approve new oil and gas operations.
They must invest heavily in LNG terminals and gasoducts, especially the MidCat pipeline.
14. Gas Imports in Other Forms
As mentioned before, governments also have a role to play in importing gas in other forms. Changing tariffs to incentivize the import of high-gas-consumption products that can easily be imported should be a priority.
15. Finance Heat-Saving Investments
Governments can also do more to help us save energy.
Many of the things I suggest in this article require investments, especially the insulation and the replacement of furnaces and electric heating with heat pumps. Governments should eliminate taxes and offer interest-free loans on these to encourage the transition.
Uncharted Territories is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Summary: How to Help Your Pocket and Ukraine
If you’re an individual:
If you can, lower your home’s temperature: all of it, the parts you don’t use, when you’re not there, delaying the beginning of the heating season… either directly or through the boiler. A couple of additional sweaters is a reasonable price to pay to fight Putin.
Reduce the usage of hot water: shorter showers, colder showers, doing the dishes with colder water…
Replace furnaces and electric heaters with heat pumps.
Insulate your home better.
Try to use your heat-generating appliances less frequently, or at least outside of peak hours.
Try to reduce the usage of your car. Commute less. Drive more slowly.
If you’re a leader
Apply the above advice to your organization.
Review whether you can now change your processes from using gas to oil, furnaces to heat pumps, or simply import the products that consume too much gas.
If you’re a politician:
Do everything you can to increase our energy sources: renewables, nuclear, gas (including fracking10), oil.
Incentivize the import of gas-intensive products by lowering tariffs and securing supplies.
Also, help companies and citizens to finance investments in saving energy.
And if you know of any leader that might have influence on this, or anybody else who might benefit from reading this article, send it to them!
If we continue our pressure, Putin will run out of fossil fuels to sell and money to fund his war. Ukrainians are dying for our values. We’re not on the frontline, but we can help back at home.
The device that heats water that is used for either house heating, warm water, or both.
Just be careful: Legionella can start spreading below 45°C. If you live in a big building, make sure the temperature doesn’t go down below 45°C anywhere.
It can happen, but only if the heat goes down for just a few hours, and when it’s turned back on, it runs for a long time in a very inefficient mode.
Even when they overheat, you don’t use an overheating computer to warm up a room. If their worst overheating doesn’t make a dent in room heating, that tells you something.
And it’s good for your economy too, especially with these energy prices.
Sometimes the need the CH4 (methane) for chemical reactions.
I’m sure you disagree with some of these. I am yet to support these in more detail. I will in the future
Natural gas is usually better for the environment than coal or oil as a source of heat or electricity. This can include fracking, but it depends on how it’s extracted. If the products injected to extract the gas hurt the environment, or if the extraction causes earthquakes, it might not be worthwhile.