The Roman philosopher, Cicero, told a story of how King Dionysius answered a courtier, Damocles, who thought that ruling a realm was easy. In response to this, Dionysius switched positions with Damocles. But Dionysius ordered that a sword be suspended above Damocles’ head, held in place by a single strand of hair from a horse’s tail. It was then that Damocles realized the dangers that came with ruling a kingdom and happily remained a courtier. The moral of the story is that danger “hangs by a thread” and a miscalculation could result in catastrophe.
The bellicose rhetoric of Vladimir Putin and his horrific invasion of Ukraine has put both Europe and the world in a dangerous position. A misstep of appeasement, or alternatively, going too far, could plunge the region into a catastrophic expanding war. The historic case of 1938 stands in the way, where weakness from “the West” emboldened Adolf Hitler. The cost of capitulation and appeasement was a costly world war. The lesson of this experiment with appeasement is best summed up by Winston S. Churchill, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
Putin wants “neutral (puppet) states” as a buffer around his country and has gone so far as to call for a return to a 1994 status quo. The “status quo” was Europe before NATO expansion into Eastern and Northern Europe. This demand harkens back to a Soviet era when Moscow dominated and controlled the countries along its border. Yet, these nations rightly want self-determination and not to be a puppet state like Belarus, where the shots are called in Moscow. To safeguard their future, these nations usurpingly are eager for both NATO and EU membership. NATO provides a security umbrella while the EU offers a path to economic prosperity.
In the meantime, the war rages with Ukrainian armed forces putting up an impressive defense of their nation from Russian aggression. Putin is only able to fund his war in Ukraine via oil and gas revenues which have gone from about $70 billion annually in 2017 to around $120 billion last year. This is driven by increased energy costs and diminished production in the United States.
Although the war in Ukraine is largely a federal issue, there is much that can be done here in Pennsylvania. In the short term, our state must divest from all Russian financial interests and instead seek to invest in companies here in the Commonwealth. The idea that state revenue is used to invest in foreign adversaries such as Russia defies reason. And while we are at, we should seek to divest from the Chinese Communist Party as well.
The next step is to immediately withdraw membership from the Regional Green Gas Initiative (RGGI), a New England version of the Paris Climate Accords that will cost our state $461 million this year, according to the governor’s own budget. This misguided plan will hurt the hard-working people of our state with higher energy costs, and with little demonstrable benefit to the environment.
For the long term, it is high time to unleash the potential of Pennsylvania’s energy sector. We are blessed with abundant resources in the form of natural gas, coal, and oil. Production is suppressed by numerous state and federal regulations that must be rolled back now to increase domestic production. Pennsylvania is number two in natural gas production in the US and third in coal. But overregulation and taxation are driving our energy sector to neighboring states with more friendly business climates. If the potential of our state’s energy sector is unleashed, we can bring prosperity back to our state, help the United States become energy independent, and become a net exporter of energy to our allies in Europe. This will indirectly limit Putin’s expansionist wars by reducing his leverage over Europe (via Russian oil and gas exports) in addition to bringing down energy costs here in the commonwealth.
Years of neglect and absent leadership in Pennsylvania has contributed to making our state one of the most regulated and heavily taxed in the nation. The drain on young people leaving the state is a direct result of tax and spend policies that make it too daunting to live and prosper in our commonwealth. A good place to start relieving some of the tax burden is to pass Senate Bill 813, a Gas Tax Holiday for Pennsylvanians. As gas prices continue to skyrocket, reducing our absurdly high gas tax will provide at least some immediate savings for consumers at the pump.
Another measure is legislation that I will be introducing in the next week to roll back the regulations limiting the growth of our energy sector. The “PA Energy Independence Act” will stabilize energy costs for Pennsylvanians, protect against economic and international volatility in the long term, and utilize Pennsylvania’s unique natural resources to finally cement the commonwealth as a premier energy powerhouse.
More can and should be done to stabilize our state’s economy to help our people weather the international storms and uncertainty. Acting on commonsense legislation is where we can start to get the government off our backs and out of our wallets.