No one ever accused Joe Biden of making much sense. Even more coherent presidents than our septuagenarian-in-chief have been known to issue contradictory policies, the product of feuding factions within an administration.
Even so, the news out of the White House last week that the Biden administration wants the members of the Organization of the Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC) to produce more oil is baffling. Combine that with that same administration’s continuing efforts to restrict domestic production, and it is downright enraging. Biden is perfectly happy for there to be more oil produced in the world, as long as the jobs and profits don’t belong to Americans.
Biden took office amid a historic rise in American oil production. The fracking revolution brought millions of barrels to market, lowering prices of gasoline and other petroleum products. Production slowed in 2020 as lockdowns crushed demand, but the sector was on course to resume its meteoric rise as virus-related restrictions eased. Plentiful energy, made in America.
Naturally, that could not last. Environmental extremists within the Democratic coalition demanded their pound of tofu from Biden, and they got it. On his first day in office, Biden issued an executive order that, among other things, revoked the permit allowing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
A few months later, TransCanada (the pipeline’s owner) abandoned the product. The order also unilaterally suspended oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR,) reducing global oil supplies.
As Helen Raleigh wrote here shortly after the pipeline cancellation, “the Keystone project plans to build a 1,200-mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska, where it would join existing pipelines so 830,000 daily barrels of oil from Canada can easily reach refineries and ports on the Gulf Coast. From there, they could be exported conveniently to the rest of the world market.”
The project would have directed more oil from Canada’s oil sands south to our refineries and markets. It would have done so more efficiently and more safely than transporting oil by rail, the current alternative. And the construction process would have created thousands of construction jobs. As a piece of international infrastructure, it had much to recommend it.
But the greens must have their due. Keystone was arguably a net positive for the environment, but it also became a culture war fight and a totem of the Resistance. It had to go. If higher gas prices followed, if Americans’ wallets were squeezed a little more, it was a price Biden was willing for someone else to pay.
If making oil production and consumption more difficult was a clear goal of the administration, we could at least understand it even as we disagreed with it. But Biden has also shown himself perfectly willing to flash a pearly white grin at pipeline construction, so long as it benefits some other country.
In May, Biden waived sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. Nord Stream’s CEO, a former Stasi officer and current Putin ally, had previously been held by the State Department to have been engaged in sanctionable activity. But Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken washed those concerns away, along with worries the pipeline would help Russia to isolate Ukraine economically.
The OPEC announcement this week is more of the same. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan begins the statement by acknowledging that “Higher gasoline costs, if left unchecked, risk harming the ongoing global recovery. The price of crude oil has been higher than it was at the end of 2019, before the onset of the pandemic.”
That is true! But it is mighty strange to hear it from the same folks who six months ago took steps to ensure exactly this result. Between the ANWR leases being revoked and the Keystone Project being canceled, Biden’s mission seemed to be to make sure no American drilled new oil or transported it efficiently. But in the Nord Stream action, he signals that he loves the idea of Russia producing and exporting natural gas.
In the OPEC statement, he yells “drill, baby, drill” to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, and the other members of the oil cartel. Foreign profits, foreign jobs, foreign infrastructure — all of these find favor with the current occupant of the White House. But American jobs? American profit? American infrastructure? No chance, not if it makes the Sierra Club sad.
This nonsensical hypocrisy on the environment is nothing new. Democrats talk big on radical green policies when they’re up for election. It is more for the donations from rich greens than for actual votes — most Americans rate the environment pretty low on their list of concerns. But talk is all it is. Whether in allowing cheap imports from high pollution countries or, as here, encouraging increased gas and oil production from foreign dictatorships, they don’t want the world to have less pollution, they just want to be seen as not responsible for it.
It doesn’t work that way. The effort is classic Biden-style moderation: mashing together two bad policies and calling it compromise. He can tell the greens he’s reducing oil and gas production — while encouraging other countries to take up the slack. He can tell workers he’s making gas cheaper — but only if the jobs drilling and refining it go to non-Americans.
No one should be satisfied with this hodge-podge. If anyone at the White House is actually in charge of energy policy, now is the time to straighten this out. The result, one hopes, will be a policy that uses American workers to make American life better.