Earlier in April, around 22 million UK households were hit by massive increases in energy costs — adding an additional £700 to the average annual gas and electricity bill. Considering there are only 27.8 million households in the entire country, in all likelihood, (if you’re based in the UK) you were one of them. 

For people already struggling to make ends meet, the energy price rises are a kick in the teeth. The cherry on the cake? The energy price rises are likely to hit lower income families disproportionately, as they spend a higher proportion of their income on utility bills and are more likely to be in fuel poverty.

There are many reasons for the price hikes but the one that’s getting the most limelight is Russia’s war on Ukraine. Banks, the International Energy Agency, the government ,and the energy regulator, Ofgem, have all been pointing the finger in the same direction: at Putin. 

What Has My Energy Bill Got to Do With Putin?

You might be asking yourself: “But what has my energy bill got to do with Putin?” The invasion of Ukraine caused an instantaneous global shock to the fossil fuel industry. Russia is one of the biggest oil producers in the world and as its attacks on Ukraine intensified, traders, shippers, and financiers rejected the country’s oil, removing a lot of it from the daily global supply. 

This decrease in global supply made prices jump because when there is less of something (especially if the world is dependent on that something to keep on turning), it becomes more valuable. 

This means that although the government says “the UK is in no way dependent on Russian gas supply,” it doesn’t have to be to feel the shockwaves of a war on the other side of Europe. 

Fossil Fuels Enabled This War

Experts have highlighted that this war was enabled by fossil fuels and is being fuelled by the world’s dependence on them. According to the chief of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, Putin has used Russia’s dominance of Europe’s gas market as an “economic and political weapon.” 

As environmental campaigner, Kostiantyn Krynytskyi, told Global Citizen: “If Europe and other countries didn’t rely so heavily on fossil fuels from Russia, Putin and his regime, Russia itself, wouldn’t have so much power, so much military power and bargaining power.”

If this seems quite abstract, this is what it means for the average person living in Europe: when they turn on their heating or cook their dinner, they are pouring money into Russian coffers to fight the Kremlin’s war — and no small amount either at an estimated $500m a day.

This is a pretty horrifying thought and the UK has rightly stated that it will “phase out imports of Russian oil in response to Vladimir Putin's illegal invasion of Ukraine.” 

By this point — given the pressing need for the world to move away from fossil fuels — you might be expecting the UK government to say that Russian oil will be replaced with renewables, that they might think twice before investing in more fossil fuels. 

Surprise: More Investment in Fossil Fuels

Yet, on April 7, the UK government published its “Energy Strategy” (basically a document that says where we’re going to get our energy from over the next few years). The strategy in a nutshell? More investment in fossil fuels. It’s like getting bitten by a venomous snake and deciding to keep a pet scorpion instead. 

The reasoning behind this is that now we can’t buy oil and gas from Russia, we need to increase domestic supply. Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg even said that the energy crisis could be tackled by extracting “every last drop” of oil from the North Sea.

This is a totally false narrative. To be truly energy-independent, we should be supercharging investment in renewable energy, not simply switching where we get our planetary dynamite from. Yet, as the eagle-eyed Bloomberg columnist Javier Blas pointed out, the press release accompanying the UK energy security strategy did not include the words "climate", "emissions", or "CO2."

Not only have climate scientists been sounding the alarm for years that we must stop burning fossil fuels to avoid climate catastrophe, but renewable electricity is now six times cheaper than that from gas-fired power stations

Climate change and human rights lawyer and founder of the climate campaigning group Uplift, Tessa Khan, said: “This strategy is a betrayal of the millions of families across the UK who are being pushed to the brink by energy bills caused by our reliance on gas.”

The kicker of the whole situation is this: the government’s announcement came mere days after the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report revealed: “We are on a fast track to climate disaster.”

We should be turning the page on the fossil fuel era, not investing in new licences. As UN Secretary General António Guterres said: “Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.”

4 Actions You Can Take Right Now to Help

Investing in more fossil fuels will not decrease the prices of energy in the UK, but it will harm the planet for generations to come. Scientists are warning that governments must act immediately to keep fossil fuels in the ground but politicians need to listen. 

Take action today and use your voice to urge the UK government to put an immediate stop to new fossil fuel projects and prioritise renewable energy now. 

1. Send a Tweet — Tweet the UK government to stop new fossil fuel projects now and switch to renewable energy here.
2. Email Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng — Urge the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy to stop the new planned fossil fuel projects and instead channel investment towards renewables to protect our global future. Use our email template here.
3. Sign the Petition — Sign this petition demanding that the UK government move away from fossil fuels and invest in clean renewable energy immediately here.
4. ​​Email Your MPFind out who your local Member of Parliament is and send them an email asking them to speak out against new fossil fuel projects here.


Defend the Planet

The UK's Using the Energy Crisis as an Excuse to Reinvest in Fossil Fuels. What You Can Do About It.

By Tess Lowery