REPORTED BY: TRISTAN JUSTICE | MARCH 07, 2022
President Joe Biden’s Press Secretary Jen Psaki tried to evade White House responsibility for soaring gas prices Monday, casting blame solely on overseas turmoil in Ukraine. Gas prices hit a national average of $4.06 a gallon, according to AAA, this week reaching a new high not seen since 2008 when prices reached their all-time peak at $4.11.
“The increase,” Psaki said, “is a direct result of the invasion of Ukraine,” adding “there was an anticipation” of rising prices.
In anticipation, however, the White House has only exacerbated a self-inflicted crisis by doubling down on the administration’s war on domestic energy production in the name of climate change and environmental justice. As the impending invasion of Ukraine foreshadowed turbulence in global energy markets, President Biden’s Department of Justice reinstated the administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal lands through a legal filing in Louisiana.
Despite Psaki’s blame on Russian aggression for the spike in energy costs, gas prices began to soar upon Biden’s first days in office after the president’s inaugural orders shut down the Keystone XL pipeline and unilaterally suspended new oil and gas leases on public land.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), American gas prices eclipsed an average of $3 per gallon by May as President Biden unleashed a cascade of taxes and regulation on the industry while moving to lock down lucrative reserves. In other words, gas prices have been rising since Biden took office, not since Russia launched its invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
Biden’s suspension of new drilling on federal lands, while temporarily overturned by a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana mid-summer, killed incentives in the capital- and labor-intensive industry for operations to keep up with demand, suppressing production. Producers require long-term planning and assurance their operations will remain in place before they pledge billions in new capital to drill in a particular area. That means new leases must always be on the horizon.
Cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline alone axed some 830,000 barrels of Canadian crude flowing to Gulf refineries while the U.S. simultaneously doubled imports of Russian oil. Last year, the U.S. welcomed an average of more than 600,000 barrels of Russian crude and related petroleum products daily, financing the Kremlin war machine. As the world’s third-largest oil producer providing more than 10 percent of global supply, Russia raked in $119 billion in resource revenues.
Biden is reluctant to sanction President Vladimir Putin’s energy sector, with the White House claiming the solution to rising prices is to pivot in favor of cleaner energy sources that are often unreliable and more expensive. Russian gas operations, meanwhile, produce 30 percent more methane than American operators. Iran, where the administration is hoping to lift sanctions and welcome its oil, hosts operations with 85 percent more intense methane emissions than their U.S. counterparts.
Biden could have brought down energy prices at any point in his presidency but instead has continued to escalate the administration’s animosity towards domestic production and the American worker. An enhanced regulatory regime combined with Wall Street pressure to restrict investment in the capital-intense industry has limited diplomatic options to counter Russian aggression by limiting domestic capacity to supplement supply shocks.
In Alaska for example, Democrats have sought to lock down decades worth of oil and gas reserves stored under a fraction of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) with reinstated environmental protections poised to become permanent.
Instead of unleashing American energy potential to reclaim the independence once briefly achieved under the Trump administration, Biden officials are now pleading with authoritarian adversaries in Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to ramp up production abroad.