What grade has President Biden earned for his energy policy?
For the sake of simplifying the analysis, let’s grant him two major points right upfront: let’s assume that he’s correct in tying carbon emissions from fossil fuels to climate change, and let’s also concede the related point that one long-term goal of sound national energy policy for the United States is to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels. There are good evidence-based arguments not to concede those points, but let’s set them aside in this analysis.
When Joe Biden assumed the Presidency on January 20th 2021, the US was basically energy-independent. There are several ways to define and measure that, so let’s look at one of the simpler measures, and let’s use the US Government’s own statistics. You can find them at the US Energy Information Administration, on the Internet at eia.gov. There’s a chart that shows 71 years of measurements of US Petroleum Consumption, Production, Imports, Exports and, the most comprehensive measure, Net Imports. There’s no better, more widely accepted source of energy data than that site, and it showed that in 2020, the last year of the Trump Administration, the Net Imports number became Net Exports for the first time since 1950, when it was nearly zero.
Another very revealing line on that chart is US Production: it soared from 2016 to 2020. Then in 2021, the Net Imports number crossed back into the positive, and the US Production number headed downwards for the first time since 2008. So when former President Trump boasted “We were energy independent one year ago,” and that “We were exporting energy for the first time ever in the history of our country,” a claim that was widely reported in the media as false, it was actually true if he meant petroleum rather than total energy, and the context of his remarks suggests that he was indeed referring to petroleum independence and petroleum exports.
As the Heritage Foundation concisely stated in its energy report three weeks ago, “It was no secret on the campaign trail that Joe Biden wanted to end America’s use of conventional energy such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Biden’s first executive orders in office deployed a sweeping regulatory agenda throughout the executive branch to that end. This radical agenda has been the consistent message and persistent policy choice of the administration.” Not just reduce our use of fossil fuels, but end it. His exact words at one campaign stop were “I guarantee you. I guarantee you. We’re going to end fossil fuel.”
This policy goal was in effect well before Russia invaded Ukraine, so his excuse that the cause of the increase in gasoline prices is the “Putin Price Hike” is not honest. The energy ramifications of the Russian invasion exacerbated the price increase, no question about it, but the price ramifications of the Biden anti-fossil fuel policies had already increased the price of gasoline roughly 50%. The so-called Putin Price Hike is therefore in large part disinformation.
As the US economy recovered from the pandemic, demand for all fossil fuels, but especially petroleum, naturally increased. Rather than allowing US Production to increase to meet the increased demand, Biden chose to clamp down on domestic production and instead go hat in hand to Saudi Arabia to beg them to increase their production. He must consider the brutal and potentially adversarial Saudis more of an ally than US petroleum companies. From a foreign policy standpoint, that’s offensive. From an environmental standpoint, it is either exactly the same if not worse. So there is no sound defense of it. So what’s Biden’s grade: how can it be anything but F?
On the natural gas front, the US was a net importer of liquefied natural gas from 1950 until about 2017 or 2018, the first two years of the Trump administration, when we became a net exporter. We could be an even greater exporter if the pipelines from the vast Marcellus shale deposits would link the gas fields to an LNG shipping port. Europe would eventually become reliant on natural gas form the US rather than from Russia. There would be no difference at all in the environmental impact, and there would be very positive economic and diplomatic advantages to the US. Biden’s antipathy towards investing in US liquefied natural gas infrastructure earns him another F.
In summary, the Biden energy policies, claiming to place the highest value on reducing the environmental impact of fossil fuels, will have no positive movement towards that goal, while damaging both our economy and favoring foreign adversaries over allies. Perhaps the right grade is worse than F. Maybe F minus?