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Democrats Torpedo Legislation Aimed To Reclaim American Energy Independence

The enthusiastic forfeiture of American energy independence has removed a key economic lever to sanction Russia.

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House Democrats shot down legislation to reclaim energy independence on Tuesday hours before President Joe Biden offered a rallying cry for his administration’s climate agenda.

The “American Energy Independence from Russia Act” introduced by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., was rejected primarily along partisan lines 221 to 202. Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz was the sole member of the lower chamber to cross the aisle, joining Democrats in opposition with objections over new leases along his state’s coast.

“America, not Russia, is the world’s number one energy producer,” Rodgers said on the House floor advocating for her legislation. “We should act like it and lead. President Biden must restore American energy dominance and use energy resources to help Ukraine and Europe fight back.”

The bill’s partisan failure comes less than a week after Russia, a global energy producer supplying more than 10 percent of the world’s oil, launched its assault on Ukraine. Last year, the United States doubled its imports of Russian crude and took in more than 400,000 barrels on average daily in December, the last month for which data is available from the Energy Information Administration.

Oil and gas revenues, meanwhile, fund Moscow’s war machine as Russia’s largest exports, allowing President Vladimir Putin to weaponize his country’s monopoly on Western energy. Last year, Russia generated $119 billion from its energy resources, according to reporting by Reuters citing Russia’s Finance Ministry.

The United States is forecast by the Energy Department to remain a net importer of oil under Biden as the White House works to suppress domestic production in the name of climate change. Biden reiterated his commitment to phase out fossil fuels with unreliable forms of renewable energy in his prime-time address to Congress on Tuesday night despite driving energy costs to seven-year highs.

The enthusiastic forfeiture of American energy independence has removed a key economic lever to sanction Russia for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which has led to a humanitarian crisis as hundreds of thousands of displaced refugees have fled the violence.

Tuesday’s failed legislation sought to counter Russia’s energy influence and Ukrainian aggression by unleashing American production to lower oil prices and displace Russian imports. The bill reauthorized the Keystone XL Pipeline axed by Biden on his first day in office, which transported more than double the oil imported from Russia in December. The legislation also mandated the resumption of leases for oil and gas drilling on federal land. Biden quietly paused leases again last month through a legal maneuver, contesting rules governing the social cost of carbon calculations.

If it had passed, the Republican bill also would have required the administration to release a plan on energy security within 30 days and replace oil reserves withdrawn from the emergency stockpile. On Tuesday, Biden announced the U.S. would tap 30 million of its 590 million barrels of strategic petroleum reserves maintained for emergencies. The reserves are authorized to hold up to 714 million barrels.

In November, Biden ordered the release of 60 million barrels ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, which is about three days’ worth of daily oil consumption, according to the Energy Information Administration.