After blocking such sanctions last year using a national security waiver, the Biden administration announced Wednesday it would allow sanctions on the company in charge of building Russia’s Nord Stream 2, a natural gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany’s Baltic coast. While the sanctions are one of many possible responses to counter a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the reversal invites the question of why the Biden administration empowered President Vladimir Putin with increased power over global energy supplies in the first place.
In 2019, under former President Donald Trump, the United States became energy independent for the first time in 62 years, meaning we produced more energy than we consumed and exported more than we imported. The Trump administration achieved this in part by streamlining regulations that hindered U.S. pipelines and natural gas development on federal lands.
When President Joe Biden took office, he reversed this progress. In an attempt to appease climate activists, his administration placed moratoriums on oil and gas leases on federal lands and made it harder and more expensive to produce natural gas.
In May 2021, the Biden administration officially reversed Trump-era sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, allowing the project to move forward despite bipartisan opposition in Congress and warnings from former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that doing so would undermine American national security. During the same period, the Biden administration obstructed pipeline development at home and in some cases killed these projects altogether. Pipelines are OK so long as they’re not in our own backyard, so the logic goes.
Now, America is no longer energy independent, and instead of the United States exporting natural gas to Europe, these nations look to Russia. Not only does Russia have an obvious track record of manipulating energy costs for its political benefits, it is also much less environmentally conscious, and therefore ends up releasing more emissions than the United States does when producing the same natural gas.
For an administration expressing alarm about climate change, this is not a good look. Of course, it also handed Russia — an aggressive, corrupt, authoritarian human rights disaster — massive geopolitical power that we’re watching Putin leverage today.
In Germany, for example, well more than half of the country’s natural-gas imports come from Russia. “This partly reflects Germany’s high dependence on gas in its energy mix, after the country phased out nuclear energy and is now exiting coal-generated power under a plan to shift entirely to renewable sources by 2045,” reports the Wall Street Journal.
This is what happens when Western leaders put Greta Thunberg in charge of energy policy: Countries substitute nuclear power — one of the cleanest, most reliable forms of energy — with renewable energy sources that are not yet ready for primetime, opening the door for thug dictators to take over sovereign countries. Expect oil prices, which already are surging to prices not seen in seven years, to get worse.
Biden to Blame
None of this is to excuse Putin’s flagrant violation of international law, or to place blame for what’s happening in Ukraine on Biden. But like Biden’s deadly and disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, the extent of this crisis was entirely avoidable.
The Biden administration chose to flush precious geopolitical leverage down the drain by making the United States and European allies once again dependent on hostile regimes instead of empowering our energy sector. It furthered policies that actively discouraged American oil production, then went to the Organization of the Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC) begging for help.
After decades of being dragged into wars in the Middle East over these very resources, we should have known better. But alas, Biden was there making that happen, too.
What’s that saying? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
The Biden administration’s refusal to harness America’s own natural resources, while increasing our reliance on these same resources from adversarial nations, is a hypocrisy that’s too dangerous to ignore. Energy independence is not just a “climate issue.” First and foremost, it’s a national security issue, essential to preventing catastrophes like we see unfolding before us today.