A change in tone is not a change in tactics — and President Joe Biden’s recent approval of the Willow project, which will allow ConocoPhillips to drill for oil and gas on lands in Alaska leased from the federal government, isn’t a deviation from his openly declared goal. During his campaign, Biden said, “I guarantee you we’re going to end fossil fuels.” And even as the administration announced that Willow would move forward, it’s continuing to prevent or limit drilling in 16 million acres of Alaskan land.
Let’s start with the $8 billion Willow project. Though President Biden acknowledged during his State of the Union address that “we’re going to need oil for a decade, and beyond that,” his commitment to a Net Zero future is unabated. As the New York Times pointed out, “The distance between Mr. Biden’s campaign pledge and his blessing on that plan, known as the Willow project, is explained by a global energy crisis, intense pressure from Alaska lawmakers (including the state’s lone Democratic House member), a looming election year and a complicated legal landscape that government lawyers said left few choices for Mr. Biden.”
We should also add that gas prices remain painfully high, with the national average at $3.47 a gallon for unleaded gas, with many Californians paying more than $5 per gallon.
No, the approval of Willow wasn’t a concession to the reality of our need for fossil fuels in virtually every aspect of our lives. Instead, it was an acknowledgement of just how bad the federal government’s case against the Willow project was. ConocoPhillips acquired the leases in 1999 and began the permitting process in 2018. The company points out that the project has been in the works “through five presidential administrations,” and has “undergone multiple years of rigorous regulatory review and environmental analysis.”
And as the NYT explained, the administration’s attorneys knew that “refusing a permit would trigger a lawsuit that could cost the government as much as $5 billion.”
Next, approving the Willow project allows President Biden to pretend he’s addressing rising energy costs. In reality, that development will take years, and will likely be bogged down in litigation by environmental groups.
While the Biden administration pats itself on the back for Willow, it has also announced that it will ban drilling in 3 million acres in the Beaufort Sea, and limit drilling on 13 million more acres in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
The thing is, President Biden is right — we will continue to need fossil fuels far, far into the future. And if we can’t extract American petroleum, using our cleaner and more environmentally responsible methods, then we’ll simply have to buy oil and gas on the world markets—from nations that aren’t as responsible or accountable. We’ll be forced to buy from countries such as Iran and Venezuela, thereby funding the terrorists and the terrorist regimes that wish us ill.
Already, the administration is appeasing the dictators who lead those nations, in hopes of increasing our oil supplies. A prisoner swap with Iran appears to be in the works (which would include un-freezing some Iranian assets), and the Biden administration last year “scaled down” sanctions on Venezuela in order to buy that nation’s crude oil.
If President Biden is serious about restoring American energy independence, he would stop attacking the oil and gas industry with anti-energy regulations, such as the methane rule, that continue to keep prices high without any meaningful benefit to the global environment.
A change of tone isn’t enough — it’s time for the Biden administration to have a change of heart on American energy independence.
The Honorable Robert Henneke is Executive Director and General Counsel of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.