ROSWELL, N.M. — Residents and oil producers in southeast New Mexico watched the turmoil on the East Coast over the Colonial Pipeline closure with a mix of amusement and anxiety as Americans panicked at the sudden loss of fuel.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia were in a declared state of emergency by Monday. Fourteen of those reported gas outages just days after the nation’s largest pipeline east of the Mississippi River shut down over a ransomware attack last week.
The brief cessation of the pipeline’s four primary lines running 5,500 miles from Linden N.J, to the Gulf Coast in Houston, which transport 45 percent of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, sparked an energy crisis just less than four months into the Biden presidency. Long lines, high prices, and empty gas stations up and down the eastern seaboard provoked flashbacks to the last time an administration embraced green energy as a replacement, rather than a supplement, when still dependent on foreign powers for its needs.
To be clear, there are significant differences between this week’s episode of disarray and the repeated crises of the 1970s Jimmy Carter administration. For one, the nation remains energy independent even as it braces to lose this status under President Joe Biden. The fuel shortages were also produced by a foreign attack in cyberspace as opposed to overseas rivals wielding supply leverage to extract international concessions. Loss of the first, however, will lead to the second.
Yet the Biden administration appears oblivious or indifferent to the consequences of its own agenda down the barrel.
“Pipe is the way to go,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told reporters after she outlined the challenges presented by transporting gas via truck and rail in the pipeline’s absence. Less than four months ago, Biden killed the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline running from Alberta to Texas on his first day in office, killing upwards of 25,000 jobs with it in an ominous sign for industry workers in New Mexico.
With his order to strike the Keystone Pipeline, Biden also signed a 60-day moratorium on new oil and gas leases on public federal lands, triggering a review process to lock up future drilling in a Department of Interior now run by a radical environmental activist.
New Mexico, which shares the world’s thickest oil reserves at the Permian Basin with Texas, will be hardest hit by a ban on new leasing. A third of New Mexican land is owned by the U.S. government. Revenues from oil and gas production on federal land make up 40 percent of the state budget, with its schools, already ranked among the lowest in the country, relying on that money the most.
The Interior-run Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced last month it would not hold oil and gas lease sales in the second quarter of 2021 for New Mexico while it conducts its review. This has already sent operators searching, many going to Texas where less than 2 percent of the land is federally owned, if not foreign countries.
Producers require long-term planning and assurance their operations will remain in place before they pledge billions in new capital to drill in a particular area. That means new leases must always be on the horizon.
State Rep. Larry Scott, who sits on the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee and has worked in oil and gas for decades, told The Federalist producers have already begun to adapt in the face of headwinds on two fronts: radical leftists who have taken over the government in Santa Fe with a blind animosity to the state’s lucrative southeast operations, and Democrats in Washington.
“I think that the major oil companies have read the tea leaves,” Scott said, highlighting many operators have already gone to Texas, in large part pushed out by Santa Fe regulators who see revenues from its rich Permian Basin oil fields as “nothing but mailbox money.”
Policies from the Biden administration promise to accelerate the pace at which operators flee, threatening to bankrupt the state while the White House’s unrealistic embrace of alternative energy puts the U.S. on track for energy dependence as it forfeits a prime national security advantage in the name of climate change. Job skills in oil and gas are not easily transferrable and pay far more than those in solar and wind. Oil and gas are also much more reliable and less expensive energy sources.
In Hobbs, located at the heart of the Permian Basin on the side of New Mexico, Mayor Sam Cobb, a registered Democrat, shared concerns about Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. Haaland is an original co-sponsor of the socialist Green New Deal and just five years ago was a far-left environmental activist before she took the helm of the nation’s agency to oversee one-quarter of U.S. oil and gas production.
“She’s made it very clear,” Cobb told The Federalist, “she’s anti-oil and gas” without offering any substantive solution to offset revenue or meet energy demands.
When campaigning for a U.S. House seat from New Mexico in 2018, Haaland suggested revenues could be replaced by legalizing sales of cannabis. Legalized this year, the drug is only expected to generate $50 million in tax revenue, according to state Democrats. Drilling on federal lands, according to Reuters, brought in $707 million last year.
With a population of nearly 40,000, Hobbs today looks similar to a modern wealthy major metropolitan suburb surrounded by the high New Mexican desert as trucks run in and out of the city to operate its lucrative oil fields funding the city and the state. Asked what his city might look like in eight years if the Biden administration advanced its antagonistic agenda on drilling, the mayor painted a prophecy come true in ghost-town rust belt states across the Midwest.
The money will leave, the businesses will leave, and the people will leave with it.
“It will be hard for us to recover,” Cobbs said, for the city and the state.
Residents living on or near the Permian Basin know it too, from those in the industry to the hotel receptionists, resentful that the state’s politics have become dominated by leftists who enjoy the luxury of disconnect from Albuquerque and Santa Fe. With a mix of ignorance and self-righteous superiority, they swung the state for Biden by 10 points in November and lecture about “clean” energy.
The effects of shutting down operations in New Mexico will also possess national consequences as a future supply chain disruption may not yield an immediate solution through domestic production. Unlike a pipeline, oil and gas wells require a complex infrastructure of personnel and equipment. They are unable to return to work at the flip of a switch.
Californians and Texans have already traumatically experienced the results of what happens when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine in areas that rely on wind and solar. In California, blackouts became routine. In Texas, blackouts became catastrophic.
This week, the sudden pipeline closure reinforced the fundamental dynamic fossil fuels play in American daily life. Forfeiture of energy independence threatens to undermine the nation’s security, and in shutting down gas lines Biden engineers his own energy crisis.