How to help Ukraine Part 2 – Knit a Jumper

You can do it. You can hit the Russians where it hurts—in their pockets. Russian oil and gas is still flowing westward. This is because a strict embargo would hurt Europeans as much, if not more, than the Russians. Europe has to keep producing and trading to become Ukraine’s arsenal for democracy.

So the East-West energy trade has been compartmentalised—for now, and the money being paid for Russian fossil fuels is being used to buy artillery shells that kill Ukrainians.

The continued energy trade smacks of political and economic common sense. But that does not mean that individuals—YOU—cannot use your own initiative to reduce Russia’s income from oil and gas sales.

Cut your energy consumption. Wear an extra sweater and maybe even a heavy woollen scarf indoors. Ask Aunt Agatha to quickly knit you a jumper in the bright sky blue and sunshine yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag. Then put it on and turn down the thermostat.

But there is more. Stop baths. Take showers. Even better, shower with a friend or reduce the number of your showers and increase your usage of deodorant. You can be certain that a million-plus Ukrainian refugees are not showering twice a day, and they won’t be seeing a bath tub for the foreseeable future.

Check the insulation around doors and windows. Use draft excluders and hang curtain doors. Don’t chat to people in the doorway. Be friendly. Invite them in for a cold cup of tea and offer to drape a blanket around their shoulders while you discuss the latest war bulletins.

Shut interior doors so that the heat is retained in the rooms you use.

Don’t heat the bedroom. Dust off the hot water bottles that Granny gave you and use them. Or buy a low voltage electric heating pad.

Drive your car as little as possible. Ride a bike whenever you can. It is fun and healthy and, believe it or not, quite often quicker as you zoom around congested city streets. If you don’t have a car, walk. It is always fun and you can smell the roses and rubberneck at the same time. If walking or cycling is not possible, then use public transport. If you have to use your car, drive slowly.

If you have been thinking about replacing your gas guzzler with an electric or hybrid car… well, now’s the time.

Use your fireplace and pull the comfy armchairs a bit closer to it. Gas fires are zapretny (Russian for verboten). Try home-grown kiln-fired logs which are climate change friendly.

Avoid air travel. Jets are just about the biggest consumers of fossil fuels. Cruise ships are right up there as well. A stay at home holiday is a holiday for Ukraine, democracy and our values.

The good thing about the above suggestions are that they provide Western individuals with a win/win scenario and Vladimir Putin and his cronies with a lose/lose disaster. Gas and oil prices have been soaring for several months as a result of the pandemic and political uncertainty in Eastern Europe. The price of natural gas has risen 180 percent in two years and since the 2020 US presidential elections oil has soared 75 percent.

Fossil fuels have become a luxury item for Western consumers. Reducing consumption helps your bank balance as well as Ukraine. Acting in a financially selfish manner becomes a selfless charitable action.

But back to the details of Russia’s lose/lose scenario. As a result of high prices, in 2021 Russia earned $100 billion from fossil fuel exports. Most of the exports went to NATO countries plus Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea. Those countries comprise a quarter of the world’s population—just over two billion. They are also the biggest spending bloc of countries.

If everyone in those countries spent $20 less per month on fossil fuel energy then Russian revenues could drop as much as twenty percent. That is $20 billion that is not being spent on Russian cruise missiles and tanks.

And here’s another win for the individual. Using less oil and gas will also—according to the basic laws of supply and demand—reduce your energy bills at the same time as well as putting even more pressure on Russia.

Climate change activists and deniers will point to other alternatives. The home-grown fossil fuel lobby will demand an increase in fracking and shale oil, American pipelines and more Norwegian North Sea Oil. The Green lobby will push for governments to build nuclear power stations, wind turbines and other green technology.

All of these are possibilities in the medium and long term. But Ukraine needs our help NOW. And all the above suggestions are something that every individual can start as soon as they finish this article. Start knitting.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War” and “America Made in Britain". To subscribe to his email alerts on world affairs click here.

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  • Thanks Tom.

    It is fair to say that whatever other sanctions we deploy, Russia’s strength remains so long as demand for oil and gas remains high. Unfortunately cutting our reliance is easier said than done, and the cost of living crisis and hike in domestic energy prices means most people are already doing what they can to be fuel efficient.

    However, weakening Putin as an incentive to cut energy use is a new angle, and one that might motivate those who think mitigating climate change is for hippies, and therefore didn’t previously appeal. It is also a reminder to those who are too focused on short-term costs to consider the need to invest in long-term energy security. The general thinking is that Putin won’t switch off the gas because he needs the money, but he could easily disrupt it for a day or so to make a point.

    It’s perhaps of note that some of the ‘anti-net Zero’ campaigning may be coming from those with connections to Putin. It’s hard to be sure, as the likes of Farage rely on whipping up anger about stuff, but it is definitely in Putin’s interests that the world stays reliant on fossil fuels.

  • The trouble is oil and gas aren’t the only things we need from Russia, hence why the concerns about computer chips and electric car batteries as Russia is a key supplier of products used in their manufacture.

  • David Garlick 7th Mar '22 - 10:41am

    As a Gas and electricity useing car driver etc. I have to agree that we should be prepared to ‘go without’ if that means that we don’t buy from Russia or Belarus. If that is what happens you will not hear me moaning. I hope that I will be cheering!

  • Jenny Barnes 9th Mar '22 - 9:02am

    The biggest personal impact would be not to fly for a few years. London Barcelona return for example is over 66 litres per passenger.

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