As prices at the gas pump remain high ahead of the November elections, President Joe Biden claimed this week that his "going green" administration has neither halted nor hindered domestic oil production. So, should we buy into this claim?
CLAIM: While acknowledging that costs are "not falling fast enough," Biden declared in Wednesday's remarks at the White House, "Let's debunk some myths here: My administration has not stopped or slowed U.S. oil production."
It's "quite the opposite," Biden asserted. He cited 12 million barrels of oil being produced domestically per day and said by the end of the year, U.S. production will be up by about 1 million barrels per day compared to when he took office.
"Families are hurting. You've heard me say it before, but I get it..." Biden said. "It squeezes family budgets when the price of gas goes up, and other expenses get cut. That's why I've been doing everything in my power to reduce gas prices."
He then urged that "we need to responsibly increase American oil production without delay or deferring our transition to clean energy." Biden also blamed "the actions of" and "choices made by other countries" for price volatility, faulting yet again Russian President Vladimir "Putin's invasion of Ukraine" as the main cause of these price hikes here at home.
BIDEN: "We need to responsibly increase American oil production without delaying or deferring our transition to clean energy...my administration has not stopped or slowed US oil production." pic.twitter.com/E9k8KteXjf— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) October 19, 2022
FACTS: During his speech in the West Wing, Biden also announced the release of 15 million barrels of petroleum from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), which fulfills his March directive that authorized the largest-ever drainage (a 180-million-barrel drawdown) of the emergency petroleum stockpile maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Biden announces further release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. pic.twitter.com/T43P0Esxlk— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) October 19, 2022
Republican leaders protested that the SPR is there for "real emergencies, not political ones," and questioned the timing of Biden's announcement, suggesting that it's a strategic maneuver that's politically motivated by the upcoming midterms. Tapping the SPR does little to moderate spiking gas prices (we're not talking huge savings) but can have catastrophic consequences if not enough remains to protect America in a crisis, such as a pipeline disruption or an oil embargo.
BIDEN: Releasing more oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is "not politically motivated at all!" pic.twitter.com/7idfP5NCSM— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) October 19, 2022
At the end of the day, the SPR is an insurance policy for the U.S. economy. And now the SPR is at its lowest since late 1984. We never saw less than 450 million barrels—until now, according to Forbes. The reserve stood at 405.1 million barrels as of Oct. 14, as Bloomberg reports. Better add replenishing the depleted SPR to Biden's growing to-do list.
The release is a move Biden claims will keep gas prices low, but his GOP critics say that draining the SPR is just "a temporary escape hatch," a Hail Mary "ploy." Overall, the release is a small amount compared to how much is consumed daily. Meanwhile, domestic oil production is still below its pre-pandemic levels. In the months leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. crude oil production reached a peak of 12.8 million barrels per day (BPD). According to an Oct. 11 analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. crude oil production averaged 11.1 million BPD in the first half of 2022, still short of 2020 production numbers—a shortfall that led to the increase of prices over the past year.
U.S. crude oil production averaged 11.1 million barrels per day in the first half of 2022, up from an annual average of 10.8 million barrels per day in 2021.https://t.co/KSlWmkMMlD https://t.co/OpgSZwRbpK— EIA (@EIAgov) October 11, 2022
So why hasn't production bounced back? The Biden administration is pointing fingers at the oil industry, alleging its heavy hitters have stockpiled 9,000 unused permits. But oil companies are not just simply sitting on these permits as the Biden administration portrays it. Securing a permit is just one link in the chain that leads to oil production and issues arise like labor constraints that add obstacles along the way. According to an explanatory webpage on "Operations and Production" created by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is responsible for administering federal lands, filing an application for a permit to drill (APD) is just the beginning of an arduous undertaking in governmental affairs.
For instance, the agency cannot approve an APD until the operator meets the requirements of certain laws and regulations, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Upon receiving an APD, the BLM tends to conduct an on-site inspection. Afterward, the BLM conducts a NEPA analysis, and then approves, approves with modifications, denies, or defers action on the application.
Here the Wall Street Journal's editorial board further explains the bureaucratic process:
First, companies have to obtain additional permits for rights of way to access leases and build pipelines to transport fuel. This has become harder under the Biden Administration. Second, companies must build up a sufficient inventory of permits before they can contract rigs because of the regulatory difficulties of operating on federal land.
It takes 140 days or so for the feds to approve a drilling permit versus two for the state of Texas. The Administration has halted onshore lease sales. Producers are developing leases more slowly since they don’t know when more will be available. Offshore leases were snapped up at a November auction because companies expect it might be the last one.
On the other side, the oil industry casts blame on the Biden administration's hostile anti-energy policies.
In the early days of the Biden presidency, the commander-in-chief signed an executive order establishing a moratorium that directed the Department of the Interior's secretary to pause new federal oil and gas leasing and launch a comprehensive review of existing permits for fossil fuel developments. Legal battles ensued in federal district court following Biden's Jan. 27, 2021, executive order on "Tackling the Climate Crisis" and litigation has persisted for months. Biden's administration went on to delay decisions on new oil and gas leases and permits after a Louisiana judge, who sided with the GOP-led plaintiff states, blocked officials mid-February from using higher cost estimates of climate change.
Let's not forget either that Biden shut down the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in the White House after some lobbying from climate activists. The completed pipeline would've carried 700,000 barrels of oil across the U.S. each day.
RATING: Biden's claim that his administration "has not stopped or slowed U.S. oil production" is FALSE. Biden's freeze on new drilling leases, as part of his administration's climate agenda, has hurt U.S. oil production and energy independence efforts. The forced transition to green energy is an assault on U.S. fossil fuels that leaves America dependent on oil-rich foreign adversaries. Climate change activists intend to make the oil industry extinct and the Biden White House is helping the left-wing cause by overloading oil companies with excessive regulations and blood-red tape.