Putin mocks green push during speech in Russia’s most polluted region

Olga Tanas and Dina Khrennikova
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during the Global Manufacturing & Industrialisation Summit (GMIS) at the Yekaterinburg Expo international exhibition centre in Yekaterinburg, Russia, Tuesday, July 9, 2019.

Vladimir Putin, leader of the top global oil and gas exporter, wants the world to stop and think about the impact renewable energy is having on wildlife. Particularly worms.

“Everyone knows that indeed wind power generation is good, but does anyone remember about birds in this case? How many birds die?” Putin said in a keynote speech at a Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit. The wind turbines “shake so much that worms get out from the soil!” he said in the industrial city of Yekaterinburg, located in Sverdlovsk, Russia’s most polluted region.

“Will it be comfortable for people to live on the planet with a row of wind turbines and covered with several layers of sun batteries?” he said. Sverdlovsk is home to the world’s biggest titanium producer, and is also one of the largest source of copper and steel products.

Putin and the Russian government have in the past turned to environmental arguments to drive their own agenda. Back in 2006, the Natural Resources Ministry threatened to stop a Sakhalin LNG project in the nation’s Far East seeking to protect whales and salmon as Gazprom PJSC negotiated its entry to the venture. Once the company gained control, an agreement was reached.

More recently Putin said America is using “the most environmentally harmful” way to produce oil. “Black goo” was flowing instead of clean water from taps as some U.S. states use fracking, he said.

Soul Searching

Fossil-fuel producers are trying to find a place in a world that’s increasingly using cleaner energy. Saudi Arabia, home to some of the world’s largest crude reserves, aims to build a $200-billion battery-backed solar farm. Oil majors in the U.S. are facing pressure from activists and investors to address climate concerns or risk losing shareholders.

For Russia, a top-three crude producer and second-largest gas supplier, the green energy shift has so far been minimal. Oil and gas output remains a key industry, accounting for about 40% of state revenues. Companies are reluctant to develop renewable energy projects as they enjoy one of the lowest production costs in the world.

Focusing only on existing alternative energy sources and rejecting nuclear or hydrocarbon energy would be “an effective but not efficient solution” and lead to problems, Putin said.

With assistance from Yuliya Fedorinova.