MILLOY: The US Needs To Unleash Its Full Energy Potential

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Steve Milloy Contributor
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Editor’s note: We endeavor to bring you the top voices on current events representing a range of perspectives. Below is a column arguing that the U.S. should unleash its full fossil fuel potential to achieve energy independence. You can find a counterpoint here, where Steven Nesbit argues that the U.S. must fully embrace nuclear power to achieve energy security.

It should be plain to everyone by now that there is no “green energy” Nirvana on the horizon. Trillions of dollars have been thrown at “green energy” since the 1990s, and yet we burn more fossil fuels than ever before.

As disappointing as that reality may be for some, our society must move on, grow and thrive until possibly one day, some as yet unimagined technology displaces fossil fuels. For now, we will need more and more fossil fuels to feed a growing population with growing energy needs. So how do we make this happen?

We were on the right track during the Trump years. By clamping down on the overregulation-happy Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and prioritizing energy development at the Department of Interior, President Donald Trump was able to change America from an energy importer to an energy exporter. U.S. oil production increased 40% to 12.3 billion barrels of oil from 2016 to 2019. This was called “energy dominance.” Trump recognized that the only solution to meeting energy demand is “all of the above” – i.e., oil, gas, coal, nuclear, hydropower, wind, solar – whatever made the most real-world economic sense.

And we were so dominant and in charge of global oil prices that we forced Russia and Saudi Arabia into a production war that momentarily sent the price of oil into negative territory at the beginning of the COVID pandemic.

But those days are gone thanks to Joe Biden, who has been attacking the U.S. energy industry and trying to de-power America from his first day in office.

On Day 1, Biden killed the Keystone XL Pipeline, halted new oil and gas drilling on public lands and rejoined the Paris climate agreement, which cut against America’s fossil fuel use but not China’s.

His EPA reinstated Obama-era rules to make it pointlessly more expensive to produce oil and gas, issued rules to make gasoline cars pointlessly more expensive and has illegally given “green” California the authority to dictate what kind of cars all Americans can drive. Biden has empowered the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with the authority to block new oil and gas pipelines on the basis of climate and is continuing to halt new oil and gas drilling on federal lands in defiance of a federal court order.

These and many other anti-fossil fuel actions raised gasoline prices roughly one dollar per gallon since Biden took office. Then Russia invaded Ukraine, exasperating an ongoing global energy crisis (triggered by European climate policies). Gasoline prices have increased another 60 cents since the Ukraine invasion – and they’re not likely to stop rising any time soon.

And Biden plans on making things worse. His EPA is presently working on unnecessarily tightening air quality standards. These new standards will give the agency unprecedented control over energy development and use across the US. Despite having clean air, much of the country will be thrown out of compliance with the Clean Air Act thereby putting EPA in charge of state and local economies.

In addition to the unleashed and unhinged EPA, Democrat-appointed federal judges across the country and Biden appointees at important regulatory agencies like Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stand ready to block, deny and under fossil fuel projects on the grounds of climate, despite that simple math shows that US emissions are irrelevant in the context of global emissions.

Congress could fix this problem by taking action to prioritize energy development over mindless environmentalism, but so far it has refused to do so. For example, any development that involves public lands — where much coal, oil and gas are found — must undergo review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Rather than merely making sure energy projects are done as cleanly as possible, greens have turned NEPA into a nightmare process that only discourages development. Trump tried to streamline NEPA implementation, but Biden undid that. The only solution is for Congress to step in and reform NEPA itself. But Republicans are afraid and Democrats don’t want to.

There are similar problems in various states, especially blue ones like New York which has banned fracking and California which has been trying in various ways to rid itself of its fossil fuel industry for decades.

So how do we unleash our energy industry? There is no magic plan. We basically need new, energy-friendly governments at every level. And that is up to voters. If they can’t elect politicians with energy commonsense, then we are in deep trouble.

Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is the author of “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA.”