Gasoline prices at the pump have always fluctuated within a regular epicycle of global oil prices, but the Biden administration’s every policy choice from its first day in office has contributed significantly to this week’s news that gas prices exceed $4 a gallon in all 50 states. President Joe Biden and the Democrats seem determined to repeat every policy mistake of the 1970s, and it might not end until Biden attempts to impose price controls and rationing.
Start with Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline on Inauguration Day. This act was more shocking than merely the loss of unionized jobs and an insult to our largest trading partner; it is the first time to my knowledge that any president has canceled a private-sector project that was already under construction.
It is one thing to block a permit; the government does that all the time. It is another thing to revoke a permit already granted absent some malfeasance, and there was none by Keystone alleged.
The Obama State Department concluded years ago that the pipeline would have no impact on climate change, but such is Biden’s slavishness to environmental fundamentalism that he felt compelled to cancel Keystone, which would have transported nearly 1 million barrels of Canadian oil a day and expanded the capacity and resiliency of our petroleum-refining sector. The heavy pressure on America’s oil refineries right now because of market distortions is one of the chief causes of high pump prices.
Nothing so surely signaled Biden’s hostility to hydrocarbon energy — which provides about 80% of our total energy needs — as this egregious act. And Keystone isn’t the only pipeline Democrats have targeted. They want to shut down several existing pipelines, such as Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, under a small stretch of Lake Michigan, that transports more than 500,000 barrels of Canadian oil and petroleum products a day to the United States.
The message to the industry is clear: Don’t even think about proposing new pipelines in America.
But the Biden administration didn’t stop there. It attempted to cancel oil and gas drilling permits the Trump administration had processed, and just last week it canceled long-scheduled offshore-drilling auctions, killing new offshore exploration and production for the next several years. (Needless to say, Biden’s plans for offshore-wind-power leases are breezing through the administration’s review process very quickly.)
It is trying to impose new regulations on hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas production, even though cheap natural gas from fracking has been the largest factor in reducing US greenhouse-gas emissions over the last 15 years because gas became cheaper than coal. No matter: Environmental fundamentalism hates fracking, so Biden wants to strangle it.
Biden and his green zealots are seeking to have the Securities and Exchange Commission impose climate-change “reporting” requirements on American industry, which is a pure act of intimidation. The Federal Reserve is adding “climate change” to its list of priorities, though it is the Fed’s incompetence that has generated the soaring inflation of the moment.
Beyond these formal measures, the Biden administration has been cheerleading the “environment, sustainability and governance” movement that is trying to starve capital investment in oil and gas production.
This makes a farce out of Team Biden’s newfound interest in increasing oil and gas output. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, to whom Donald Trump’s famous epithet “low-energy” applies better and more literally than to any other target, is begging the oil and gas industry to ignore the administration’s repeated assaults and carry on as if Trump were still in office: “We are on war footing,” she told industry leaders a few weeks ago. “That means [crude oil] releases from the strategic reserves all around the world. And that means you producing more right now if and when you can. I hope your investors are saying this to you as well. In this moment of crisis, we need more supply.” (Emphasis added.)
Democrats on Capitol Hill are dusting off Jimmy Carter’s playbook and calling for an “excess-profits tax” on energy companies as well as price controls on gasoline and diesel. Plans for rationing will come as night follows day. These are the same people who just a few years ago said we couldn’t “drill our way out” of our domestic oil supply shortage only to see the nation do exactly that under President Trump. President Biden, who was in office during the 1970s energy crisis, obviously learned nothing from the experience of the last 40 years.
Steven F. Hayward is a resident scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley and author of a new biography, “M. Stanton Evans: Conservative Wit, Apostle of Freedom.”