One week after taking the oath of office, President Joe Biden kick-started his push to change how energy is produced and consumed in America. The White House marketed this as both “Climate Day” and “Jobs Day,” an obvious attempt to sell the idea that Democrat climate policies don’t just mean a better environment, they mean better jobs and opportunities for all Americans.
The centerpiece of the day included the president signing an executive order entitled “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” It was his way of following through on promises made during the campaign.
The climate order and Biden’s related actions are heavy on new government prohibitions, and create new and duplicative government offices, working groups, and reports. The specifics on how Biden will deliver millions of new high-paying green jobs remains to be seen.
While his new climate effort is far unpredictable, many of the president’s other promises will be left unfulfilled if Biden implements his new energy agenda. Candidate Biden promised the American people three specific things that he would do if elected:
- “Ensure the future is made in America”
- Implement a “recovery plan for working families”
- Promote “American leadership abroad”
These are laudable goals that every American should want to see fulfilled. Unfortunately, with his order to halt the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and the 60-day day moratorium on new oil and gas permits on federal land, President Biden is going to leave these promises unfulfilled and will leave millions of Americans behind as a result.
Ensuring the Future Is Made in…China
The United States is currently the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the world. Our vast resources allow us to access reliable, affordable energy. If accessing these resources doesn’t “ensure the future is made in America,” then what will?
President Biden seems to view this energy abundance as a hindrance or a problem that needs to be solved. Beyond the most recent prohibitions, his strategy will undoubtedly be to use the Environmental Protection Agency and other executive mechanisms to regulate the industry into extinction.
So, with America producing less oil and natural gas under President Biden, where will the energy come from to supply the world’s second-largest energy-consuming country? We know the answer to this question because our country experienced it from the 1970s to the early 2000s.
We can let history be our guide. The Middle East will sell us more of its oil and Russia will look to export Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to our shores. Meanwhile, China will continue to provide many of the raw materials that go into the production of solar and other renewable energy sources.
This is a strategy that will ensure the future is made in the Middle East, Russia, and China. The first product we must ensure is “made in America” is energy. Without energy, the foundation of our economic and national security will erode.
A Recovery Plan for Connected Cronies
Our nation is in the midst of a fragile COVID-19 economic recovery. There are millions of families in every corner of the country that depend on a healthy American energy industry for their livelihood and well-being. Many of these jobs are in oil and natural gas extraction or pipeline and energy infrastructure construction and maintenance. Surely these working families deserve to experience the economic recovery that Biden promised while he was still a candidate for president.
Indeed, entire states and regions depend on the oil and natural gas sector. A prime example is New Mexico. The “Land of Enchantment” has experienced an economic revival because of oil and natural gas production technologies and the ability to access these resources on public lands. The federal government owns more than 30 percent of land in New Mexico, so access to energy on these lands is vital.
In fiscal year 2020, the oil and natural gas industry contributed $2.8 billion, or 33 percent, to New Mexico’s budget. That figure includes a contribution of almost $1.4 billion for education in the state and $640 million for health and human services. Additionally, the industry supports more than 134,000 jobs within the state. The fossil fuel industry is, without question, the foundation of New Mexico’s economic health.
If President Biden and his pick for interior secretary, New Mexico Rep. Debra Haaland, end drilling on public lands — where half of New Mexico’s production occurs — and enact stifling environmental regulations on private land projects, what happens to New Mexico? Does any other industry even have the ability to step in and fill the state’s coffers? Where will thousands of out-of-work residents find a new job? How will the public health and education systems be able to serve residents if they lose billions in funding?
No answers are forthcoming from Democrats.
Promoting American Failures Abroad
Finally, time and again candidate Biden spoke of “restoring American leadership abroad.” Energy is an important tool that our nation can use to strengthen ties with international allies. American energy is helping countries in eastern Europe reduce their dependency on Russian supply.
Key countries in the Asia Pacific region are importing less oil from the Middle East thanks to American LNG exports. India is using American coal to provide electricity to its vast and largely rural population. American energy production is making these partnerships possible, which strengthens diplomacy and our footing on the world stage.
As part of his recent climate order, President Biden included a provision that directs the federal government to stop financing international fossil fuel projects. Regardless of one’s opinion of the United States funding overseas projects, this is a particularly interesting policy change.
While renewable projects might be the most economical and beneficial option in some areas, fossil fuel projects such as LNG might make more sense in others. If the United States assists an international ally and helps them transition to using American LNG, it can mean lower emissions and in turn, help American natural gas workers. Instead, the president’s climate order ignores this fact and mandates only “green” projects. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach.
Energy Doesn’t Need to Be a Zero-Sum Game
In a previous article, I outlined the pay gap between workers in the oil and gas industry versus renewables. Indeed, oil and gas workers make more than double that of wind and solar workers.
Nevertheless, renewables like wind and solar do have an important place in America’s energy mix. It is necessary to ensure our country has diverse sources to power our homes, vehicles, and businesses. Additionally, zero-emission nuclear energy also plays a vital role in ensuring we have sufficient baseload power.
None of this should come at the expense of the workers in the fossil fuel industry. While America is the number one producer of oil and gas in the world, we are also the number two producer of both wind and solar energy in the world. Both the private sector and taxpayers continue to fund research and development in battery and grid storage technologies to expand the use of renewables.
Energy policy doesn’t need to be a zero-sum game. However, the current administration seems to hold a different perspective. It will leave energy workers in places like Texas, New Mexico, Ohio, and Pennsylvania worse off, not better.
If we want a future that is “made in America,” includes a “recovery plan for working families,” and “restores American leadership abroad,” we need to look no further than our ability to produce American energy.
Mike Pasko is a former Bush 43 and Trump Administration appointee. Most recently, he served at the U.S. Department of Energy as Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental & External Affairs, as well as a Senior Advisor in the Office of Policy.