By H. Sterling Burnett, Heartland Institute
As a candidate for the presidency, Joe Biden made fighting climate change by ending the use of fossil fuels the centerpiece of his campaign.
CNBC quoted Biden saying,
“[Climate change is] the number one issue facing humanity. And it’s the number one issue for me. Climate change is the existential threat to humanity. Unchecked, it is going to actually bake this planet. This is not hyperbole. It’s real.”
Biden’s solution, as outlined at the time and subsequently on multiple White House fact sheets, is to use a “whole of government approach”:
- to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economywide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030;
- to reach 100 percent “carbon” pollution-free electricity by 2035; and
- to reach net-zero emissions for the nation as a whole by 2050.
Biden’s energy and climate policies have been wildly inconsistent. Some of his actions aim at reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Others will result in greater emissions.
Biden’s efforts to fight climate change by hammering U.S. production of fossil fuels are a critical factor driving his sinking poll numbers and the dwindling chances the Democrats will keep either house of Congress in the midterm elections.
Biden’s and the Democrats’ fortunes are falling almost as fast as the average American’s energy, food, and fuel prices are rising. Energy is the lifeblood of the economy. Energy abundance and the low prices it brings create jobs and keep the economy humming. Biden has ignored this fact to the detriment of consumers, employers (and thus the supply of goods and services), and to his and his party’s electoral prospects.
President Donald Trump promoted an America-first policy that led to U.S. energy independence for the first time since the 1950s. Biden and the Democrats, by contrast, see America as a mostly cancerous actor on the world stage, part of an international order to which we should bow down and ask forgiveness. Biden’s energy policies put America last.
Beholden to radical environmental funders who were critical in getting him elected, Biden kept his word: as one of his first acts in office, he cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline partnership with Canada. This may have been the first time in history a president used his first day in office to kill thousands of American jobs and disrupt critical infrastructure. It also told our allies, especially Canada, the United States can’t be trusted to keep its word.
In the following days, Biden implemented a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal lands. A federal court soon declared Biden’s moratorium illegal, ordering the administration to resume lease sales as the law demanded. For months, the Biden administration thumbed its nose at the court’s ruling and refused to resume leasing, only doing so months later under threat of court sanctions.
This has proven to be a pattern with the Biden administration: unilaterally impose a damaging regulation, and when the courts strike it down, ignore the ruling and continue acting as if the regulation still had the force of law, only to back down later when direct consequences are approaching.
Despite rescinding federal approval of Keystone XL and supporting or leading efforts to block other pipelines, Biden waived sanctions the Trump administration had imposed on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline intended to deliver natural gas to Germany. This odd “pipelines for thee but not for me” action undermines U.S. interests, especially our efforts to expand U.S. liquefied natural gas exports to the region and reduce Russia’s geopolitical influence in Europe.
In addition, approval of the Russian pipeline is directly at odds with Biden’s domestic efforts to fight climate change. It makes no difference to the Earth whether natural gas comes from Russia or the United States, but it makes a huge difference to the peoples of those respective countries.
Since then, Biden has proposed methane emission restrictions that would make it harder and more expensive to develop, store, and transport oil and natural gas in the United States, and increasing the fees and royalty rate oil and gas producers must pay the federal government.
Federally restricted production and delivery of oil and gas, and uncertainty concerning further restrictions, have combined with rising demand for energy as people started going back to work after the lifting of most pandemic lockdowns to cause higher prices at the pump and everywhere else.
With energy being an input into every other good (in production, transport, storage, or all of the above), consumer prices in the United States have been rising at the fastest rate in decades, especially for food. If you like inflation, you’ve gotta love the Democrats’ energy policies. Otherwise, no.
In addition, energy policies here affect energy supplies globally, so our energy shortfalls and higher prices have contributed to the supply-chain problems.
As high oil and gas prices began to hammer average citizens’ pocketbooks—and, more importantly to Democrats, poll numbers—Biden went hat in hand to Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members, pleading to them to open up the spigots and release more oil into world markets to moderate prices. Here, too, Biden’s policy does nothing for the climate and plenty to wreck the United States. Oil from OPEC emits as much greenhouse gas as U.S.-produced oil does (and has to be transported across oceans, emitting more such gases).
In less than four years, Trump broke OPEC’s stranglehold over U.S. energy markets. In less than a year, Biden has made us once again beholden to hostile foreign powers for a growing portion of our energy needs. And the effect on the climate is zero at best.
Domestic producers rightly criticized Biden’s OPEC outreach as an unnecessary and embarrassing show of weakness. Oil and gas executives asked why the administration would support OPEC producing more oil rather than expanding production here, producing jobs in the United States and enhancing our energy and economic security in the process. In response to domestic producers’ objections and continued high oil and gas prices, Biden blamed the victim for the harmful results of his actions:
“President Biden is the kind of man who deliberately would steer his car into a ditch, crawl from the wreckage, and then probe the ditch for criminal conduct,” writes Fox News. “Such nonsense mirrors Biden’s recent instructions to the Federal Trade Commission to indulge his fanciful conspiracy theory: the U.S. petroleum industry’s plots and plans have fueled vertiginous rises in energy prices. Citing ‘mounting evidence of anti-consumer behavior by oil-and-gas companies,’ Biden told the FTC to ‘bring all of the Commission’s tools to bear if you uncover any wrongdoing.’”
This is classic misdirection.
As noted by Forbes, there are multiple ironies in Biden’s begging OPEC for oil, not the least of which is the “Biden Administration asked OPEC to pump more oil, undermining its COP26 messaging of reducing fossil fuel consumption.” As noted earlier, getting oil from OPEC increases emissions relative to producing it in the United States. The additional oil Biden requested from OPEC is produced under laxer environmental rules and enforcement and must be shipped from thousands of miles away. If you know anything about alarmists’ claims about climate change, you know shipping is a significant source of the emissions they say they are worried about.
After OPEC predictably refused Biden’s request to shore up Democrats’ election prospects by putting more oil on the market to moderate prices at the pump, Biden decided on a desperate and dangerous course of action: releasing oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).
The SPR is an emergency stockpile of petroleum maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy, established in 1975 after oil supplies were interrupted during the 1973-1974 oil embargo, to mitigate future supply disruptions in cases of international crisis or war. The SPR was not instituted as a plaything for presidents to use to manipulate energy markets or elections, but that’s what Biden is doing. Under this decision, the United States will have fewer reserves to draw on should a true emergency such as a war or large-scale natural disaster disrupt supplies. Also, releasing oil from the SPR is no more climate-friendly than allowing increased domestic production would be.
Despite Biden’s claim climate change is the worst threat facing human life and, as a result, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is his top priority, Biden’s policies are a contradictory mishmash of restrictions on emissions that benefit Americans and encouragement of those that profit other countries. The only consistent theme running through Biden’s wild mood-swing energy initiatives is that they reduce American sovereignty and energy security while encouraging the ambitions and economic prospects of foreign autocrats who happen to be the top competitors for U.S. economic and geopolitical influence.
If there is one bright spot in Biden’s bipolar energy policies, it is that the American public has shown severe disapproval of the high costs and economic harm they are causing. Should 2022 be anything like 2021, this likely means Biden is a one-term President and Democrats are a one-term party in power.
One can then hope whoever follows Biden in office will once again put America’s interests and the American people’s well-being first. This means restoring Trump’s policies that made U.S. energy independence a reality, provided low energy prices that primed job creation and a growing economy, and all the while, by the way, reduced U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.