The Obama Administration faces a dilemma in trying to defuse the crisis in Ukraine, because that country sits on the doorstep of a nuclear-armed rival that enjoys local superiority in every measure of military power. One way of making Ukraine more secure without injecting U.S. military forces would be to undermine Moscow’s most potent source of economic leverage on Kiev — dependence on Russian natural gas. Ukraine’s energy complex requires across-the-board reforms to reduce waste and increase transparency, but what it needs most urgently is alternatives to the 63% of its natural gas consumption that comes from the east. The most practical near-term substitutes are gas from shale (Ukraine has recoverable reserves equal to over 500 years of present consumption), conversion of gas-burning plants to clean coal, and faster adoption of renewables like wind and hydropower. Clean coal deserves a close look, because Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest producers of coal and gas-to-coal conversion can be accomplished relatively quickly and inexpensively. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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