Opinion: It’s time to increase US domestic energy production
The bloody images of war in Ukraine are transforming our understanding of the post-Cold War order and reminding us of an important lesson: Energy policy and national security are inextricably linked. As we observe the crisis in Europe, the Biden administration would be wise to move away from damaging climate policies and toward energy independence.
Despite the president’s contention that “green” energy is the solution to higher gas prices, we know renewables alone are not a viable alternative to fossil fuels because of their intermittent power generation and our current lack of battery storage capacity.
It’s now widely acknowledged that a “green” energy transition requires partnering renewables like solar and wind with a reliable baseload energy source such as natural gas or nuclear. Carbon-free nuclear energy would be an optimal alternative, but until that option is more scalable we have no choice but to turn to fossil fuels.
With the average price for regular gas at more than $4 a gallon and the Biden administration’s move to ban Russian oil imports driving prices higher, now is the time for the administration to rethink its climate and energy policy.
The administration is reluctant to increase domestic production for fear of further disappointing its climate-focused constituents. They’ve already failed to pass meaningful climate measures through Build Back Better and an about-face on domestic oil and gas production would be a bridge too far.
But the reality is, limiting domestic production while importing foreign fossil fuels does nothing to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions — fossil fuels are still being produced and consumed. This approach is climate theater that now comes at a strategic cost.
Instead of boosting domestic production, President JoeBiden is just trying to put a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.
The administration along with its counterparts in the United Arab Emirates have agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil from strategic reserves to alleviate the upward pressure on oil prices. This, however, is no long-term fix. Prior to the pandemic slump, the United States alone was consuming more than 19 million barrels of oil per day; 60 million barrels will provide limited relief.
The administration, in its negotiations over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is also considering lifting sanctions on Iran so we could begin importing oil again from the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. Likewise with the authoritarian regime in Venezuela.
But this would be a colossal mistake. Why would we want to trade one dangerous dependency on a hostile foreign actor for another?
A better solution would be to ditch the arcane Jones Act, a World War I-era regulation that makes it costly and cumbersome to ship American crude from the Gulf of Mexico to our coastal ports. And because there are no pipelines connecting our coasts to American crude in the Permian Basin, our largest oil field, we must import from overseas. Eliminating this regulation should be a no-brainer.
The administration could also drop its hostile posture toward fossil fuels. Technically domestic production is up, but that increase represents the recovery from the pandemic slump, not an increase in overall production.
Prior to the pandemic, the United States was producing almost 13 million barrels a day. The pandemic dramatically reduced demand, resulting in a precipitous drop in supply. Today, we’re producing about 11.7 million barrels per day, still below our pre-pandemic peak and not enough to meet surging demand.
Moves in the early days of the administration like blocking the Keystone XL pipeline or pausing federal oil and gas leasing sent flashing red signals to the fossil fuel industry that the tide was turning.
The leasing pause has since been blocked in court, and while the administration is appealing that decision, it has actually approved more lease sales per month than the Trump administration did in its first three years. Still, more could be done to increase domestic production.
Instead, the administration could drop its efforts to pause federal oil and gas leases, it could publicly acknowledge that energy independence is vital to our national interest, and it could pledge to get out of the way of industry, from fracking to pipeline construction.
We need to learn the right lesson from this conflict: energy independence is key for national security. And transitioning to a “green” economy before we have adequate technology to do so in a sustainable way sets us up for failure.
If Biden wants to lower gas prices and keep hostile foreign actors at bay, increasing domestic fossil fuel production is the best path forward.
Kat Dwyer is co-host of the Whiskey Bench podcast. She wrote this for InsideSources.com. She is employed by the Property and Environment Research Center of Bozeman, Montana, and her writing has been featured in National Review, the Washington Examiner, The National Interest, The Hill, and other outlets.