Fighting climate change is at the center of President Joe Biden’s administration, because, Biden claims, “[Climate change is] the number one issue facing humanity.”
Biden’s solution, as outlined at the time and subsequently on multiple White House fact sheets, is to use a “whole of government approach,” achieving a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, and being net-zero emissions for the nation as a whole by 2050.
Although Biden’s goals are clearly stated, his energy and climate policies have been inconsistent.
Energy is the lifeblood of the economy. The actions taken by former President Donald Trump to achieve energy independence delivered low prices, created jobs and kept the economy humming, until the pandemic hit. Biden’s policies have done just the opposite with the result that his and the Democrats’ electoral prospects in the coming elections are falling almost as fast as the average American’s energy, food, and fuel prices are rising.
As one of his first acts in office, Biden canceled 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.
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. 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 reduce Russia’s geopolitical influence in Europe.
Biden’s approval of the Russian pipeline is directly at odds with his 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 people 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.
As high oil and gas prices have begun 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 with them to open up the spigots and release more oil into world markets to moderate prices. 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 likely zero at best.
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.” Getting oil from OPEC increases emissions relative to producing it in the United States, because OPEC’s is produced under laxer environmental rules and enforcement, and must be shipped thousands of miles.
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 course of action: releasing oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).
The SPR was 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 did. Biden’s SPR release did little or nothing to reverse high gas prices or prevent climate change, but it did leave the United States with fewer reserves to draw on should a true emergency such as a war or large-scale natural disaster disrupt supplies.
Biden’s policies have been a contradictory mishmash of domestic energy restrictions which harm Americans, and foreign energy promotion benefitting international competitors. The climate is unimpressed.
If there is one bright spot in Biden’s bipolar energy policies, it is that, should 2022 be anything like 2021, it is likely Biden is a one-term president and Democrats are a one-term party in power.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D.(email@example.com) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.