With a president like Joe Biden, who needs enemies? It’s a question worth asking as Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, recently announced his administration is rolling back strong Trump-era sanctions, including restrictions on its sale of oil.
For a nation sitting on 157 billion barrels of reserve oil ($11.7 trillion value in the current market), and the ability to export more than $2 million barrels of excess capacity per day worth $140 million, it is a substantial economic reward that could end up fueling terror in the region.
It’s estimated that Iran funneled more than $16 billion to militant terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas and others in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen in the years after President Obama restored its access to billions in cash in exchange for a nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA). Not surprisingly, the ayatollahs can do a lot with $100 billion freed up in overseas accounts, plus $1.3 billion in cash from a Judgement Fund held for victims of its terrorism and $400 million covertly delivered on a cargo plane.
In 2019, the Houthi rebels Iran supports attacked Saudi oil production facilities, shutting down 6 percent of global oil production. The attacks have continued, including one on a major Saudi oil port just a few months ago.
There is also evidence that Iran continues to develop its nuclear capabilities in violation of the JCPOA. According to a confidential report just released by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to United Nations members, its stockpile of low-enriched uranium is up to 1.73 tons as of last month, more than seven times the 447 pounds allowed under the agreement.
Low-Cost Energy for Everyone Except Americans
But once again, the United States is pursuing a strategy of negotiation by capitulation, a naive foreign policy move that will allow oil-driven riches to flow to a terror-centric nation that deserves none. Playing from a position of weakness against a more formidable Western adversary, Iran’s leaders have managed to negotiate terms with another crop of Democrats that will strengthen their nation and its leaders’ radical objectives.
Russia notched a victory recently as well. After years of sanctions by President Trump designed to stop completion of the Nord Stream II pipeline from the communist state to northern Europe, President Vladimir Putin received a unilateral gift from the new administration.
Joe Biden is apparently fine with a Europe that will be even more dependent on Russia for natural gas, the same Russia that cut off Ukraine and six other countries in the middle of the winter in 2009 until they paid up as he demanded. So those sanctions are now lifted. Russia is empowered. Americans got nothing.
If there was any doubt of the former KGB agent’s ability to outflank his aged American rival, consider that Biden’s green-light of the Nord Stream II came just weeks after the United States’ largest fuel line (the Colonial Pipeline) was shut down by a cyberattack allegedly from within Russia. The cue card-reading president merely responded that he expressed his feelings on the matter to Putin at their recent summit, and delivered a list of 16 off-limits targets. Putin will surely obey, right?
Oil For Thee, But Not for Me
For an administration that seems to miss no opportunity to free up the flow of oil and gas to help American adversaries, it is a strange paradox that it misses no chance to strangle the flow of fuel to American citizens. After taking the oath of office in January, the new president immediately killed the Keystone XL pipeline, eliminating 35 million gallons of crude oil capacity from Canada and 11,000 American jobs (more than $2 billion of payroll).
Simultaneously, President Biden signed an executive order to suspend new oil and gas drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Citing potential environmental issues, the 1.6 million-acre area that the U.S. Geological Survey had estimated capable of yielding between 4.3 billion and 11.8 billion of recoverable oil was closed to producers.
The suspension was extended more broadly to all federal lands, sources which have accounted for about 25 percent of U.S. oil production and 12 percent of natural gas, an act that a federal judge just blocked for “the omission of any rational explanation in cancelling the lease sales.” Biden promised during his campaign that he was “not banning fracking in Pennsylvania, or anywhere else.” But he did ban permits for new fracking on all federal lands. He simply lacked the legal power to do so on private lands.
Former Vice President Al Gore has even encouraged the president to stop the Byhalia Pipeline, a 49-mile connection from south Memphis to north Mississippi. Is there any source of oil that President Biden and his party don’t wish to close?
Even so, candidate Biden made no secret of his energy intentions last year, saying “I would transition from the oil industry,” and pledging to end fossil fuel use by 2035, along with the 5 million American jobs that depend on it. Rather than focus on solutions that reduce demand for oil, he has instead opted to use the heavy hand of government to restrict supply.
Others Laugh, and Drill Away
Surely, others are laughing furiously abroad, and feeling no compunction to reciprocate in such an act of national self-destruction. Russia, the world’s second-largest producer of oil and gas, is spending $110 billion on development of new reserves in eastern Siberia to tap 100 million tons of new crude annually, a 20 percent increase in national output.
The Chinese are busy exploiting a pair of newly discovered deposits containing 2 billion tons of shale oil and gas, one in the Tarim Basin and another in the Ordos Basin. No climate change protests will alter their production goals or their global ambitions.
The 13 OPEC nations recently voiced their glee at Biden’s plan to cut U.S. oil production. Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said “others can indulge their fantasies that alternative fuels can nullify the need for investment in petroleum supplies.” Asked about the International Energy Agency’s recommendation for such, he responded, “I believe it is a sequel to the La La Land movie … why should I take it seriously?” His plan? Pump more oil.
Ceding American Power
Alas, the United States stands as a great superpower among nations, the developer of key technologies that have allowed increased oil and gas production. Yet, as other nations employ those technologies to become more rich and powerful, we are voluntarily reducing our own drilling capacity, our growth, and our power.
The last world war pivoted on control of oil: the U.S. embargo of Japan’s oil imports, the allied bombing of German oil supplies, Adolf Hitler’s failure to capture oil from the east, and the large indigenous supplies held by the United States and the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin noted in the end that, “The war was decided by engines and octane.” Oil was key—and still is.
Today, Americans’ access to oil is under attack, not by Putin or Xi, but by our own president. It is one campaign promise he’s delivering on, cutting off the life blood that drives our nation.