Whoever’s job it is to tell Joe Biden what he thinks about oil is dropping the ball.
Biden has been all over the map. With an eye toward the corner of the map marked “Pennsylvania” (and, perhaps, the part marked “Texas”) Biden spent weeks emphasizing that, unlike some other Democrats, he has not supported a categorical ban on hydraulic fracturing, the modern extraction technology upon which most of the U.S. oil and gas industries depend.
But there is rather less to that position than meets the eye: For one thing, as president, Biden would not have the authority to simply categorically ban fracking coast to coast. He would, however, have the power to restrict fracking on federal lands — something Biden has, in fact, sworn to do. He describes his policy thus: “No fracking on federal land.” Biden often is less than clear in his speech, but that is clear enough.
The federal government owns 60 percent of the land in Alaska and almost half the land in the western states, as compared with 2.4 percent of the land in Biden’s native Delaware. Banning fracking on federal land would take hundreds of millions of subsurface acres out of play. It may very well be that Biden does not actually understand the seriousness of what he is proposing, but Americans should.
Not to worry, Biden says, nobody in the oil business is going to lose his job over this. Also, if you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance.
You will not be shocked to learn that there is some reason to doubt Biden’s sincerity in this matter. The administration in which he served as vice president promised as a matter of policy to “bankrupt” — Barack Obama’s word — the coal industry, and was an avowed enemy of fossil fuels. Biden has half come out from time to time as a Green New Dealer and has chosen a prominent Green New Dealer, Kamala Harris, as his running mate, a matter of heightened relevance given the fact that Biden will be 78 years old on the day the next president is sworn in.
And then, at the last debate, he vowed to “transition away from oil” and from fossil fuels entirely, i.e., to enact the main agenda of the Green New Deal. He has offered up deadlines for getting this done, too: eliminating all greenhouse-gas emissions from the power-generating industry in 15 years and from the U.S. economy as a whole in 30. This is a recipe for chaos and economic decline, of course. If it comes to pass, perhaps someone will have the opportunity to say “I told you so!” to a sprightly 108-year-old Joe Biden.
The American energy renaissance has been a major driver of U.S. prosperity, a source of high-paying jobs for the white-collar and the blue-collar alike, and an economic blessing to communities remote from the metropolitan centers of technology and commerce.
American energy production has also had some underappreciated non-economic benefits. Perhaps you have noticed that something suspiciously resembling peace is breaking out in the Middle East, with suddenly tractable Arab emirates such as Bahrain and the UAE normalizing relations with the Jewish state with the consent and approval of regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Part of that is recognizing a common threat — Iran — but much of it is the realization throughout the Gulf that North American energy has changed the balance of power worldwide in favor of the United States and its allies, making a paper tiger out of OPEC threats to manipulate or weaponize the oil industry. This isn’t 1973, and we didn’t politick our way into that superior position — we drilled our way into it.
Oil and gas are going to be part of the U.S. energy mix for the foreseeable future, in part because the Biden agenda is based in large part on wishful thinking about new technologies that do not, at the moment, exist. There are more and less environmentally responsible ways to go about getting and using that petroleum, just as there are more and less economically effective ways to do so. Fracking has in fact been a significant contributor to reductions in U.S. greenhouse gases, giving electricity producers an opportunity and incentive to switch from relatively dirty coal to cheap, plentiful, and relatively clean natural gas.
But the Biden program and the Green New Deal — irrespective of how much those Venn diagrams overlap — aren’t about responsible and prudent stewardship of resources. They are a power grab for the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes of the world and a gigantic crony-capitalist corporate-welfare program for politically connected companies and industry groups, something the Obama-Biden administration’s serial green debacles (Solyndra, etc.) should have made obvious.
We would be happy to explain this to Joe Biden. Perhaps somebody on his staff could fill him in.