When U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was asked a direct question about skyrocketing gas prices, her response was as telling as it was disappointing. Instead of offering middle-class Americans an explanation or an apology or a sliver of hope, she let out a hearty laugh.
“Oh my…that is hilarious! As you know, oil is a global market. It is controlled by a cartel, that cartel is called OPEC, and they made a decision yesterday that they were not going to increase [production] beyond what they were already planning.”
How did America fall so far, so fast on the topic of energy? How, in less than a calendar year, did we go from energy independence to begging foreign cartels like OPEC for more supply? We went from net-exporting our oil to hoping that someone will help fill gaps in our energy supply.
If Secretary Granholm and President Biden want to find those responsible for putting us at the mercy of a cartel, they need to look in the mirror.
Of course, it didn’t have to be this way. The greatest country in the world shouldn’t have to rely on the “generosity” of countries who – for the most part – hate everything we stand for.
Elections and policies have consequences. If the Biden Administration hadn’t waged an all-out war on America’s traditional energy workers, their jobs, current projects and numerous prospective ones, we wouldn’t have Secretary Granholm faking surprise that OPEC and others weren’t jumping to America’s aid.
My home state of Alaska can and should lead the way. Oil and gas exploration drives over a quarter of my state’s private-sector employment figures, and its extraction has helped create an $83 billion Permanent Fund that funds the majority of state government via a percent-of-market-value calculation and distribution.
On day one of Biden’s presidency, not only did he cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, but he also fulfilled a campaign promise by halting further progress toward developing the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
The Coastal Plain had been set aside by Congress in 1980 as an area of national strategic energy importance; a dedicated development area within ANWR that was estimated to hold between four and eleven billion barrels of oil. A decades-long fight ensued – driven by environmentalists and eco-incentivized indigenous groups – to stop exploration and necessary permitting from occurring. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 opened ANWR to development, and the first lease sale was held just days before President Biden took office.
While the president shut down future development, it was Interior Secretary Deb Haaland who put a nail in the coffin of near-term progress by calling for a review of the permitting and environmental studies that led to the first lease sale. Effectively ruling existing leases null and void, she and the radical environmental lobby have overturned by executive fiat the work done by Congress. The tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of barrels of oil that ANWR represents sit in limbo, instead of progress being made to bring them online and help with long-term energy security.
Biden’s efforts to artificially accelerate a transition from traditional energy to less-reliable and more expensive renewable energy has brought additional pain for Alaska’s energy community. After initially backing the Willow exploration project, which could bring 100,000 barrels-per-day, 300 permanent jobs and $10 billion in royalty payments to federal, state and local governments, they refused to challenge a U.S. District Court ruling by a judge with a well-known eco-bent. Now, Willow sits in legal purgatory; even over the objections of Alaska’s congressional delegation.
Haaland’s Interior Department also put the clamps on the expansion of development opportunities in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, ruling in September that environmental groups’ assertions of shoddy permitting and review practices were more important than the years-long scientific studies and robust regulatory reviews held under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The cumulative effect of these decisions has led to uncertainty among prospective and current exploration companies. This past week, an Arctic lease sale was a historic flop, as producers failed to bid on most state-held properties, despite their locations near well-known reserves. It was the poorest showing for the lease sale since the program started in 1999. The Pikka project on state lands, a potential 160,000 barrels-per-day find that could sustain hundreds of jobs, faces funding questions amid the war on fossil fuels that the administration continues to wage.
Alaska is not unique in the way its workers, projects and prospects have been undermined these past ten months. If you remember Joe Biden on the campaign trail, he gave the American people mixed messages time and time again on his stance on fracking, and that he was still “Middle-Class Joe” who understood the importance of energy jobs. That was obviously a lie.
Given all that has happened since, it isn’t a surprise that America’s energy security and energy independence has evaporated. Having Secretary Granholm fake shock that American journalists and citizens are looking for answers is unacceptable. Having no answer other than a forced smile, a guffaw and blame where it isn’t deserved is deplorable.
Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director of Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. Follow him on Twitter @PTFAlaska or contact him at Rick@PowerTheFuture.com.