As Russia continues to wage a deadly and destructive war against Ukraine, we are experiencing profound global disruptions, including soaring gas prices in an economy already under stress. This invasion is a dangerous reminder that energy independence is an issue of national security and will require America to wean itself off of fossil fuels ­— such as oil, coal and natural gas ­— produced and sold by hostile foreign regimes led by the likes of Vladimir Putin.

After Canada, Russia is the largest foreign supplier of fossil fuels to the United States. As of May 2021, U.S. imports of crude and refined petroleum surged to 844,000 barrels per day. America’s addiction to imported fossil fuels is antithetical to our values of independence, freedom and self-reliance. In today’s geopolitical crisis, Putin’s war with Ukraine has taken Russia’s exports off the global market, tightening global supplies and sending gas prices higher than ever. At the same time, oil companies are taking advantage of the situation, price gouging Americans at the pump and reaping record-breaking profits.

Above all, the war has prompted a massive humanitarian crisis. Russia’s belligerence has resulted in mounting military and civilian casualties, large-scale displacement and creation of refugee situations, and threats to health care facilities. This violence adds new urgency to U.S. plans for clean energy independence. We can build a future that no longer relies on the fossil fuel-driven economy that gave rise to Putin’s dangerous leadership. President Joe Biden’s ban on the continued importation of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal, following Putin’s unprovoked invasion, was an essential sign of America upholding our values to promote global unity. But the only way to prevent future crises and massive price spikes at home is to transition to clean energy alternatives.

We can limit Putin’s power and diminish geopolitical tensions by shifting our economy off of fossil fuels. It’s time we learn from our country’s history of being pulled into deadly conflicts over dirty fossil fuels, resulting in unnecessary casualties. Enough is enough.

Energy independence is only possible if we can break free from oil and natural gas while ramping up investments in cleaner, greener, renewable energy. Expanding solar and wind infrastructure ramps up our domestic energy supply and boosts the production of cheaper, cleaner energy that isn’t affected by major price spikes and foreign conflicts.

Domestic clean energy production is also critical for creating jobs and expanding our economy. Studies show that investments in renewable energy generate roughly three times more direct and indirect jobs than a comparable investment in fossil fuels. Nevada, which enjoys over 300 days of sunshine per year, has topped the list for the best solar economy in the country.

Other countries recognize the benefits of clean energy and have already moved to grow its capacity. China, Europe and South Korea outpace the United States in developing and manufacturing new clean energy technologies. China, which has long been at the forefront of global energy supply and demand for clean energy, has invested in a clean energy economy and accounts for a 40% growth in renewable energy capacity from 2015 to 2020. Centering our assets on a clean energy future is an opportunity for America to regain its place as the world leader in energy. Global powers will leave us at a serious economic disadvantage if we don’t compete.

The climate crisis makes the move away from fossil fuels even more urgent. The Department of Defense and other federal officials have acknowledged climate change as a threat to our nation’s security, warning that climate-driven natural disasters will intensify global instability. Extreme weather events threaten food and water supply, force mass migration of threatened populations, and destroy communities, resulting in hunger, poverty and conflict. Shifting to clean power minimizes harmful pollution that exacerbates the climate crisis and threatens public health.

An economy contingent on the availability of foreign fossil fuel development is unpredictable and forces us to be beholden to hostile foreign leaders and expensive price spikes. We need our nation’s leaders and decision makers to recognize that the transition to clean energy is not just a possibility, it’s necessary for energy independence, promoting democratic values, stabilizing our economy, remaining a global energy leader, and protecting our national and climate security.

Johnathan Lytle, an Iraq War veteran, is Southern Nevada policy and advocacy manager for the Nevada Conservation League and Education Fund, which advocates for environmental protection.

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