Writing exclusively for the Telegraph on 14.03.22, PM says Russian leader has exploited our need for his oil and gas, but now we must take back control
When Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine the first time round, in 2014, the West made a terrible mistake. The Russian leader had committed an act of violent aggression and taken a huge chunk out of a sovereign country – and we let him get away with it.
We decided we could somehow go back to normality. Economic relations did not just resume – they intensified, with the West taking more Russian gas than ever before, becoming more dependent on the goodwill of Putin and more exposed to the vagaries of the global gas and oil price.
And so when he finally came to launch his vicious war in Ukraine, he knew the world would find it very hard to punish him. He knew that he had created an addiction.
That is why he feels able to bomb maternity hospitals. That is why he is emboldened enough to launch indiscriminate assaults on fleeing families. And as his bombs fall, the cost of oil and gas rises still further, meaning less money in your pocket and more in Putin’s.
We cannot go on like this. The world cannot be subject to this continuous blackmail. As long as the West is economically dependent on Putin, he will do all he can to exploit that dependence. And that is why that dependence must – and will – now end.
Putin’s strength – his vast resource of hydrocarbons – is also his weakness. He has virtually nothing else. Putin’s Russia makes little that the rest of the world wants to buy. If the world can end its dependence on Russian oil and gas, we can starve him of cash, destroy his strategy and cut him down to size.
The United States has already announced a ban on imports of Russian oil. The UK will be doing the same. The EU has agreed to rid itself of Russian hydrocarbons as soon as possible. And we will do all we can to work with them, and indeed all friends of freedom looking at making similar moves, to help ease that transition for us all.
Because this strategy will not truly work unless everyone does it. The only way to force Putin to cease his aggression, and to respect international law, is for the world to stop mainlining Russian hydrocarbons – and we have to accept that such a move will be painful.
The Government is doing all we can to help – spending billions of pounds to ease the cost of living and cut hundreds off your household bills. But none of us can afford to carry on like this for long.
Green energy at heart of our strategy
We need permanently to reduce the cost of energy at source - and that will only happen if our supply is more secure, more sustainable and less vulnerable to manipulation by others.
We need to take back control. Later this month, I will set out a British Energy Security Strategy - how the UK will become more self-sufficient and no longer at the mercy of bullies like Putin.
At the heart of the strategy is green energy of all kinds.
Green electricity isn’t just better for the environment, it’s better for your bank balance. A kilowatt from a North Sea wind turbine costs less than one produced by a power station running on gas shipped to the UK from overseas. And if a quarter of our power wasn’t already coming from renewables, your bills today would be even higher than they already are.
Renewables are the quickest and cheapest route to greater energy independence. They are invulnerable to Putin’s manipulations. He may have his hand on the taps for oil and gas. But there is nothing he can do to stop the North Sea wind.
That’s why our ambition to go for net zero is not the problem. Renewable power – which is getting more efficient the whole time - is a crucial part of the solution. We are going to double down on new wind power and greatly accelerate the rollout of new offshore farms.
We will do more to exploit the potential of solar power. Even in this country, solar power is remarkably cheap and effective. We will modernise our grid and our distribution networks.
Time for big new bets on nuclear
We will exploit the potential of all renewable energy technologies in this country, from tidal power to hydro to geothermal. But we also need baseload energy – power that can be relied upon even when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.
So now is the time to make a series of big new bets on nuclear power. The 1997, the Labour manifesto said there was “no economic case” for more nuclear – even though nuclear is in fact safe, clean and reliable.
It is time to reverse that historic mistake, with a strategy that includes small modular reactors as well as the larger power stations. It was the UK that first split the atom. It was the UK that had the world’s first civilian nuclear power plant. It is time we recovered our lead.
In the years ahead, green technology will enable us to continue our extraordinary progress in reducing carbon emissions. We have switched away from coal-fired power stations and we are switching to electric vehicles.
In fact, the UK has already cut CO2 emissions further and faster than any other G7 country. We will continue to do so – but at the same time, we will of course continue to use oil and gas as we make the transition.
It is crazy that we are importing oil and gas from Putin’s Russia when we have our own resources in the North Sea. It is time to give investors more confidence in British hydrocarbons. That way, we will have more domestic energy resilience as we make the transition to a zero carbon future.
And we will need hydrocarbons to make hydrogen – the low carbon fuel that has perhaps the greatest potential of all.
I don’t doubt that there will be tough times ahead. The process of weaning the world off Russian oil and gas, and hydrocarbons in general, will be difficult.
But it can be done.
We can further boost the use of low carbon energy, continuing to lead the world in the race to net zero.
We can cut the crippling bills being inflicted on homes and businesses across the country.
And we end the bullying from the Kremlin.
From the destruction of Aleppo, to the deadly use of Novichok on the streets of Salisbury, to the barbarism we are currently witnessing in Ukraine, Putin has been able to get away with too much for too long because he has encouraged and exploited a Western addiction to his oil and gas.
That addiction must now end – and the winners will be British consumers, the natural environment and the cause of freedom itself.
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Boris Johnson says the world cannot be subject to 'continuous blackmail' by Vladimir Putin Credit: Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP