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Protecting our energy security is the vital lesson from the Ukraine war

Crude oil pipeline. (U.S. Department of Energy/Released)
March 22, 2022

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A clear-cut lesson for the United States emerges from Russia’s tragic invasion of war-torn Ukraine: Our own energy security links inextricably to our national security and economic well-being.

We must demand that President Biden and some in Congress grasp that unambiguous message and remove the ill-conceived barriers this administration has erected to hampering our domestic energy industry.

What has made that conclusion obvious is the indisputable fact that energy is the foundation of Russia’s power and influence. And that a hesitancy has existed by some of our allies in Europe and elsewhere to take truly bold actions against Vladimir Putin because they depend on Russian oil and gas.

That is the very definition of insecurity, and yet, members of the Biden Administration and some in Congress seem to think that we should follow this failed energy strategy by willfully letting our own domestic oil and gas production slide into decline before we have ready replacements that help augment the energy we need every day that we own and control.

After becoming the world’s largest oil and gas producer in 2019, we now have a presidential administration with a stated goal of reducing our domestic production, and the cheek to blame it all on the catchy but false catchprase “Putin price hike.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have sent prices into record territory, but let no one be fooled that “the Biden Buck” hadn’t already landed, well before Ukraine was on anyone’s radar. The national average gas price had climbed to $3.48 by the end of October 2021, up more than a dollar from the price on President Biden’s inauguration day.

Further, while the Biden administration and Congress have taken actions to thwart the war in Ukraine, they aren’t acting quickly enough to bolster our own energy security – which is probably the main weapon we have against Putin. Instead of opening up our own production, fast-tracked permitting and done a few simple things to show our energy strength, they have fiddled by reluctantly permitting a few liquefied natural gas exports for our allies, released a few barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and begged Venezuela to send us more of the dirtiest oil on the planet.

Indeed, it’s no secret that President Biden is responsible for conducting an all-out assault on our homegrown production of traditional fuels. He and his administration, backed by a radical activist fringe and many in Congress, have done this in the name of decarbonizing our energy sector by 2035.

The president unilaterally canceled the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office and froze oil and gas leases for federal lands, which halted future oil and gas projects. The Congressionally required five-year planning process for future leasing in the Gulf is also not even started, and there appears to be no hurry to do so even though the last plan expires in July. That is uncharted territory.

In addition, the administration is not lifting a finger to untangle court cases that have stopped existing and future offshore federal lease sales in their tracks, and is adamant that nothing will change these positions.

Not the highest inflation since 1982, nor record gas prices.

However, there is time for a turnaround because it is a truism in politics that voters punish a bad economy and high gas prices. Here are some steps President Biden could take right now to turn around our situation:

  • Expedite a new five-year offshore lease plan and announce immediate offshore lease sales to help send a strong signal to global energy markets.
  • Immediately fast-track held-up federal oil and gas permitting, and move on the more than 4,000 applications stuck in bureaucratic limbo.
  • Reconsider the onerous and meaningless financial barriers that have been placed on oil & gas development by the federal government that have served to kill investment and increased costs.
  • Work with the domestic oil and gas industry to get our production back to its December 2019 peak. We are perfectly capable of lifting our production by 1.5 million barrels a day to reach that target.
  • Rescind the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline and fast-track other similar energy infrastructure projects across the country.

There are other actions, of course, that will help secure our energy independence and national and economic protection. President Biden could actively encourage, not discourage, our financial institutions to support our energy independence by investing in America’s traditional energy sources. And he could use his bully pulpit to communicate our need for energy security to keep America inoculated against energy price manipulations from other nations.

Just as energy is the foundation of Russia’s power and influence, securing our own energy production will grant us further power, influence and protection. It will defend our energy, economic and national security. We must make this happen now.

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David Holt is president of Consumer Energy Alliance, a U.S. consumer energy and environment advocate supporting affordable, reliable energy for working families, seniors and businesses across the country.