As if stepping into a time machine, Americans last month were rocked with growing inflation, rising consumer prices, stagnating unemployment numbers, and long lines at the gas pump reminiscent of the days of the Carter administration. If Blondie was on the radio, you’d think it was 1979 all over again.
Many Americans are old enough to remember the twin oil crises that catastrophically disrupted energy supplies throughout much of 1970s. For the younger generation, last month’s fuel shortage offered a stark glimpse at how dire things can get when the pump unexpectedly runs dry.
On May 7, 2021, a cybersecurity breach in the now-famous Colonial Pipeline crippled the American energy supply chain for several days – leading to fuel shortages up and down the East Coast and leaving many of us wondering: how could this happen again?
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To answer that question, we need only look back to President Biden’s first actions upon taking office.
In his first week as president, Joe Biden canceled the Keystone XL Pipeline, rejoined the disastrous Paris climate accords, and placed a ban on all new oil and gas leases on federal lands. Taken in sum, these actions drastically reduced our nation’s competitiveness on the global stage and severely limited our capacity to produce energy domestically.
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And while Russian cybercriminals were responsible for the Colonial hack, the resulting fuel crisis points to a larger failure on the part of the Biden administration to invest in domestic energy and safeguard it as critical infrastructure. The fuel shortages that struck the eastern seaboard last month reveal just how essential petroleum and natural gas – and the pipelines that transport them – are to the American economy.
Two years ago, the United States achieved energy independence for the first time since 1957. In 2019, we produced more energy than we consumed and became a net exporter of energy thanks to pro-growth policies that allowed American companies to utilize our vast natural resources to meet our country’s growing needs.
In less than five months, Joe Biden’s shortsighted, politically-motivated maneuvers have erased virtually all of this progress, and in turn have made us increasingly dependent on foreign energy.
Consequently, this renewed dependence poses an imminent national security threat.
Geopolitics isn’t always a zero-sum game, but energy policy often is – the more domestic energy America produces, the less reliant we are on foreign nations, like Russia and Saudi Arabia, that don’t share our interests.
Similarly, Biden’s obsession with fundamentally reshaping America’s power grid to include only renewable energy ignores the reality of our present situation.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that domestic energy production has grown substantially in the past decade, largely thanks to improvements in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Since 1990, the oil and gas industry has reduced methane missions by 23% while simultaneously increasing production by 71%. As of 2019, petroleum and natural gas make up nearly 70% of the energy we use annually.
The best path forward for American energy is also the simplest: Invest in critical infrastructure like pipelines and refineries, harden our grid against future cyberattacks, and create a regulatory environment that cultivates innovation without dismantling the energy framework on which our country relies.
By contrast, and despite billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies, renewable energy’s share of the consumption market has grown by only 4% in the past 60 years. Saying that America is nowhere near ready to completely shift from fossil fuels to renewables is not a categorical refusal of progress – it is simply the reality of where we are as a nation.
We recognize the future of America’s energy independence will require an all-of-the-above approach to energy that employs renewables such as wind, solar, hydro and nuclear power to complement fossil fuels. However, it is clear that the vast majority of Americans still count on oil and gas to fuel their cars, heat their homes, and power their lives.
And while the president himself has regularly flip-flopped on the subject of a fracking ban, his executive actions to hinder our energy dominance speak louder than words ever could.
The best path forward for American energy is also the simplest: Invest in critical infrastructure like pipelines and refineries, harden our grid against future cyberattacks, and create a regulatory environment that cultivates innovation without dismantling the energy framework on which our country relies. As members of the Congressional Western Caucus, a group dedicated to American energy independence and dominance, these are exactly the types of policies we are working to promote.
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For the Biden administration, there is yet another inconvenient truth to consider: Placing burdensome restrictions on homegrown energy supply does nothing to lessen its demand; rather, it simply changes where the energy is allowed to be sourced while increasing the price Americans will have to pay to power their lives. Such policies will not create a ‘greener’ America, but one that increasingly depends on foreign, adversarial nations for our energy needs.
By putting the cart before the horse, the Biden administration risks worsening this dependency at a time when we can least afford it.
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Dan Newhouse, a Republican, represents Washington’s 4th Congressional District and is chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus.