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As Vladimir Putin’s heavy hand uses Russia’s power over oil and natural gas as a weapon against Europe and the people of Ukraine, it’s impossible not to wonder how we can mitigate the damages he’s causing. Simultaneously, it’s a devastating reminder of the freedom we so often take for granted and a warning to increase our energy independence as a nation. There are many ways we can achieve this goal, but one of the best is to follow the lead of the European Union and quicken our transition to green and renewable energies.

We’ve known it for a long time: Our reliance on fossil fuels is a national security risk. Volatile prices mean that concerns over fossil fuel access have been a primary driver of foreign policy decisions. We’ve seen it happen countless times — most notably during the war in Iraq — and it is being played out again in Ukraine. Concerned by Russia’s power over the oil and natural gas market, the United States and Europe have been quite reluctant to impose the harshest, most recent sanctions because doing so would hurt their citizens’ pocketbooks. 

We know how much decisions like these can hurt, especially with gas prices being historically high. However, the solution to this problem isn’t to drill more, as well-funded oil and gas interest groups have claimed. The best long-term solution is to declare our independence from the global oil market and invest in American-made clean energy. We need to electrify our vehicles, appliances and infrastructure and make America fully energy independent. This will save families thousands of dollars a year, make our country more self-sufficient and provide hundreds of thousands of quality jobs here in the Midwest. Already, over 600,000 Midwesterners are employed in clean-energy professions, and they make 25% more than the national median wage.

As we employ our own citizens, we will defund Putin’s Russia, which has long been funded by his powerful oil and gas industry. Instead of diversifying his economy during the oil boom of the 2010s, Putin doubled down on petroleum. We should exploit his weakness by leading a global movement to abandon the very resource that funds his warmongering. Doing so will further destabilize his economy and protect the citizens of Ukraine.

We can start doing this as everyday consumers by seeking electric options for stoves, cars or other appliances. Congress should help Americans afford these changes by providing tax credits  for innovators in electric vehicle and green energy industries and for Americans that buy their products. Doing so will spur innovation in the industry, further reducing the cost to consumers. We should also ensure that our semiconductors, solar panels, wind turbines and other technology needed for a green future are manufactured and assembled in America. This will ensure that our energy industry is safe from price or supply shocks caused by an international crisis like the invasion of Ukraine.

In many ways, our next steps as a country can define world history for generations to come. Will we continue our reliance on oil and its tacit support of Putin’s economy? Or will we intensify our shift to green energies and make our country more self-sufficient and secure? The global spotlight is on us once again to lead. We hope our country will honor the lives of its veterans and the soldiers fighting in Ukraine and transition towards green energy.

Alec Timmerman has been a math teacher in St. Paul Public Schools for the past 21 years. He previously served in the U.S. Army for 11 years as a communications officer and platoon leader, earning the Bronze Star for effective leadership. He currently lives in St. Paul, Minn.

Bob Krzewinski served in the U.S. Navy from 1973 to 1979 and is currently the Chairman of Veterans For Peace, Chapter 93. He currently lives in Ypsilanti.

Kevin Shilling served 24 years in the Army as a paratrooper and infantryman and retired as a First Sergeant. He currently lives in Greenfield, Iowa.