Russian shutdown of gas pipeline starkly shows the danger of centralized energy-

We have been arguing against centralized energy as environmentally damaging and inherently insecure. With this development, I don’t think I need to say more.

Russia stops all gas supply to Europe via Ukraine. By Lynn Berry and Maria Danilova. AP

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

8 Responses to European natural gas crisis shows danger of centralized energy

  1. kt says:

    Yes, the more centralized and in the hands of a few big bad actors (Energy Producers) our energy supply is, the more we are all vulnerable to all kinds if disruption, price gouging, and cruel stunts like this. Not to mention Bush buddies Enron … including Enron shenanigans ultimately bringing down Gray Davis and leading to the Ah-nold. Who now is all about Industrial Solar Plants in desert tortoise habitat, too.

  2. Salle says:


  3. Robert Hoskins says:

    I highly recommend the Dune novels of Frank Herbert, which, among other things, provides the best account, fictional or otherwise, of the dangers of “hydraulic despotism,” the highly centralized control of vital resources.


  4. jdubya says:

    With all due respect, there is a big difference between this level of political gamesmanship versus the advantage of having a local solar farm for energy needs. This dispute would be in effect regardless of the resource (gas, wheat, water, etc) because the political idiots of the Ukraine and Russia despise each other. Now if there is a plausible argument to be made how Wyoming can shut down gas flow to Idaho ’cause Idaho wolves keep crossing the state lines and killing Wyoming beef, well then let me have it. But in the Ukraine situation, gas itself is largely irrelevant except for the fact it is the point of leverage.

  5. kt says:

    JDubya: Don’t have time to find the best article now: But check out the wikipedia entry on Enron Scandal. This was manipulation of Big Energy, Ponzi speculation a la Bernie Madoff by very close friends of Bush, and was used – one way or the other, planned or unplanned – to get a Republican Gov in California.

    Basically the California energy crisis was manufactured, it led to the Recall of Gray Davis. Arnold Schwarzenegger (sp) Mister Green Humvee and now Mr, Big Solar Plant far away from city in worthless Desert —- swooped in.

    The point is that the more reliant society is on giant energy plants, firms and scoundrels operating behind a veil of complexity – the more vulnerable we all are to all kinds of things from energy shortages to political tinkering that comes out in favor of very powerful people.

    And Robert H: I have thought about Dune a lot these last couple of years – especially thinking about when the Water Wars follow the Oil Wars: Like when we all be wearing one of those suits (what were they called) to reclaim/be able to drink our urine? Here is my wager: Humans will be using some kind of self-recycle system for water – but beef cows, the most wasteful water abuser imaginable, will still be being raised.

  6. outsider says:

    god I hope so, if I’m having to drink my own urine, I dam sure want to be able to eat a steak 😉

  7. Robert Hoskins says:


    They were called “stillsuits” because they operated under the principle of distillation of the body’s fluids to provide more or less pure, if flat-tasting, H2O to the wearer. (The distilled fluid was NOT urine). It was the same with the deathstills, the devices that rendered dead bodies for their moisture to go into the tribal water reserves. Herbert presented the concept as one of supreme ingenuity in resource use and conservation in the face of severe ecological scarcity on the desert planet Dune. In a sense, that way of thinking conservatively, as well as the tolerance for a harsh life and the willingness to die to protect that liberty, was the basis of Fremen liberty.

    Regarding Ukraine and Russia, having been an Army officer for much of my life I’m a little more familiar with the history of the conflict than most, and I think the purpose behind Ralph’s posting a story on the conflict as most relevant to us. I don’t see the Russians and Ukrainians as being idiots over the issue of natural gas, as jdubya claims. What’s happening there is deadly serious and if things go wrong, we’ll forget about Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The current Russian oligarchy has not abandoned the long-standing Russian goal–a goal that dates back at least to Peter the Great–of political and economic suzerainty over eastern Europe and central Asia, primarily for security reasons, based upon the extraordinary Muscovite paranoia over the devastating Mongol invasions during the medieval period, but also for economic reasons. Economic power translates into political and military power translates into a way to assuage the Russian paranoia over security. It also keeps the oligarchy firmly in power.

    Having lost control over much of Eurasia temporarily after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia’s overriding goal has been to restore that suzerainty using whatever means necessary. The brutal suppression of rebellion in Chechnya is but one example. We have to see Russian actions over Ukraine in that light.

    When I was stationed in West Germany in the 80s, even then all the US military bases in country were served by Soviet natural gas, provided by West German suppliers. The entire country was heated with Soviet gas. The irony of this fact didn’t escape any of us. Under non-nuclear conditions, it would have been quite easy for the USSR to cut gas supplies to West Germany during the winter, wait for the resulting chaos, and then invade. Since US, if not NATO/BRD, policy was to respond to a Soviet invasion by withdrawing across the Rhine and turning Germany into an atomic moonscape, perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered.

    What’s going on between Russia and the Ukraine reflects the Russian intention to establish firm control over its traditional “sphere of influence” through its control over the natural gas supply upon which western and eastern Europe depends. It’s a perfect example of hydraulic despotism in action. While progressives might wax indignant over this seemingly obsolete geostrategic concept, it’s an indignancy based in ignorance and naivete. The Russians certainly treat it with the utmost seriousness, and for that reason alone, so should we.


  8. jdubya says:

    “I don’t see the Russians and Ukrainians as being idiots over the issue of natural gas, as jdubya claims. What’s happening there is deadly serious and if things go wrong, we’ll forget about Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    Robert, you are making my point for me. This is NOT an issue about gas, it is an issue about power and control. Gas is the convenient leverage to use today, but tomorrow it could be something else. My use of the word “idiots” you may take exception with (obviously I could never be a diplomat) but Putin and his ilk are, in my view, idiots because they want to see the reconstitution of the old soviet union (over and done, in my opinion), and Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko (and Goergian president of Mikheil Saakashvili ) are idiots because they are allowing our state department to goad them into provocative actions.


January 2009


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey