During a 2020 presidential debate, then-candidate Joe Biden vowed that if elected, “I would transition from the oil industry.” Now in office, he has transitioned America’s economy away from the domestic U.S. oil industry while strengthening foreign oil industries. As a result, Biden played a part in emboldening Russian President Vladimir Putin’s murderous Ukraine invasion.
Biden isn’t alone in his dizzying doublespeak and unhelpful virtue signaling. Western Europeans (including the United Kingdom) also embrace this mantra: We won’t sully ourselves growing domestic oil and gas energy production, but we’ll run into the arms of despotic regimes like Russia, Iran and OPEC members like Venezuela, when our green schemes fail or energy prices spike.
Biden and Western economies are scrambling to reverse this through measures like Biden’s announcement, with the European Union, of a natural gas-exporting deal to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russia. But in many ways, the die had already been cast. This casting likely contributed to Putin’s heinous calculus while he planned his deadly, horrific Ukraine invasion. Putin knew he had significant leverage against the West and that America was helping Russia gain even more leverage by weakening U.S. oil and gas.
In just over a year, Biden buckled under pressure from domestic environmentalists to halt the Keystone XL pipeline, block new oil and gas leases and push through burdensome new, legally dubious Securities and Exchange Commission climate regulations. Biden also issued new greenhouse gas rules to expand how what is called the “social cost of carbon” is calculated. The measure has been opposed in court by 10 Republican-led states in a lawsuit that argues that the methodology the administration relied on was flawed and points to possible violations of federal law during the rule-making process.
Biden also nominated Sarah Bloom Raskin, who wanted to wage war against oil and gas, to serve as vice chair for supervision of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. She withdrew her nomination after it became clear that she was going to fail to get enough votes, particularly after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. — from a heavy fossil fuel-producing state — publicly made it clear he didn’t support her.
In addition, Biden’s White House is reportedly drafting an order to invoke the Defense Production Act to compel faster production of electric vehicles, according to The Intercept, which obtained a draft of the order in its ”pre-decisional” phase. This would arguably be a breach of constitutional authority, because this isn’t a true wartime emergency, rather a long-term pet project goal.
Mark Mazur, who left the Treasury Department in September, made a troubling admission last month: “We don’t want lower prices for fossil-fuel buyers. We prefer higher prices.” Mazur was speaking about possible gas-tax holidays and how the proposal “undercuts the administration’s climate change goals,” but his comments likely apply to many of Biden’s energy policies.
As U.S. families suffer record inflation hikes, including a 38 percent increase in gasoline prices last month compared to last year and a 23.8 percent hike in home gas bills, it’s unconscionable that anyone would think this is acceptable, let alone desirable.
Germany is a leading indicator of where the U.S. is heading under Biden. In recent years, Germany spent heavily on failed “green energy” initiatives that missed its climate goal because of their limited carbon-cutting results. Not to mention that in the first half of 2021, the country had the highest household electricity price in the E.U. Who suffers the most when that happens? Poor and middle-class families.
And until the invasion of Ukraine, Germany was fast becoming even more dependent on Russia’s fossil fuels. Before this invasion, Biden removed the Trump administration’s Nord Stream 2 sanctions, greenlighting Germany to embrace fossil fuel and this Russian pipeline for its energy needs. This came while Germany shuttered half of its clean-energy nuclear plants because of unproven fears after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster. But, as journalist Louis Anslow pointed out, Fukushima’s conditions — “an earthquake-triggered tsunami combined with coastal power plants” — were not risk factors for nuclear plants in Germany. By embracing Nord Stream 2, Germany also sought to bypass Ukrainian pipelines, further threatening the Ukrainian economy and leverage against Russia.
The Biden White House’s shocking naiveté is perfectly illustrated by Biden’s climate czar, former Secretary of State John Kerry, who wrung his hands before Putin’s invasion in part because it would generate “massive emissions“ and distract from the global fight against climate change. This was misplaced prioritization, especially considering that Russia’s economy relies heavily on oil and gas exports. What would make Kerry think that a deterrent for Putin’s invading Ukraine would be climate change? This is the same leader who has long dismissed global warming. And this is the same country that in December voted against a U.N. Security Council resolution to link climate change with international security.
Even as Biden undermines the U.S. oil and gas industry, he has asked foreign countries to produce more fossil fuels — a craven political move, since Democrats see the writing on the wall for November’s elections. Americans aren’t buying Biden’s claim that Putin is to blame for gas price hikes — inflation increases predominantly occurred before Ukraine’s invasion.
What is a better path forward for Biden? Cease and desist the assault on U.S. oil and gas companies, which are deeply invested in renewable energy — they don’t want to become extinct, and they are well-versed in energy supply chain and distribution matters. It makes no sense that the administration is fighting to put them out of business, especially since U.S. firms produce products under stricter environmental regulations than places like Venezuela, where Biden’s team is thawing relations with that brutal regime.
Another solution: follow France’s lead in rejecting irrational nuclear power fears. France is a nuclear energy leader, showing what’s possible: France’s electricity prices are nearly half Germany’s rates, even as Germany’s carbon emissions are nearly twice France’s.
Jeffrey Merrifield, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, noted in The Wall Street Journal at the time of the invasion that the U.S. company Westinghouse supplied fuel to six of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors and could displace Russian supplies in all 15 of them. Western nations’ growing their nuclear energy markets weakens Putin’s war chest. That’s why within days of the invasion, Russia took over the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants. To Biden’s credit, in August, the U.S. and Ukraine signed an agreement for U.S. companies to build five nuclear units with a value of $30 billion, according to the American Nuclear Society.
During November’s COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland, nuclear energy got mixed reviews, and while Biden did sign into law some infrastructure funding support for nuclear energy, he’s far from offering a clarion call for other nations to follow suit.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., has offered a commonsense bill that would impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and expedite the export of U.S. natural gas to NATO allies. Biden should embrace this effort and work alongside Congress instead of leading from behind, as he’s done so far on Ukraine.
Will Biden take needed steps to both preserve U.S. and European energy independence and lower gas prices? This requires bold, decisive actions that we haven’t seen to date.