The besieged can only feel relief when the incoming barrages suddenly cease. The U.S. petroleum industry and every person who rides in a gas-powered vehicle know the feeling, now that President Biden has halted his fossil-fuel war just long enough to approve a massive oil-drilling project in Alaska.
Rather than signaling a new day for domestic energy production, though, the president is attempting to remedy his economically destructive energy policies as a fresh presidential election season dawns. Americans shouldn't be tempted to assume the pause is permanent.
The Department of the Interior on Monday announced approval of three oil drilling sites proposed by ConocoPhillips on Alaska’s North Slope. The Willow Project is forecast to produce about 180,000 barrels of oil a day over 30 years, create 300 long-term jobs and contribute $17 billion in federal revenue.
Unsurprisingly, the announcement included nary a discernible word of acknowledgment from Mr. Biden himself. While he hinted in his recent State of the Union address that the U.S. would "need oil and gas for a while,” greenlighting the project brazenly breaks his cross-my-heart campaign pledge to bury the oil and gas industry. Still, this is one time that Americans should praise the deceit of a lie-prone leader.
Up until the present, Mr. Biden has been oil’s worst enemy. Crude oil production, which peaked at 13 million barrels a day in November 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, fell below 10 million with his inauguration, and it took until last August to climb back to a still-inadequate 12 million barrels a day.
Producers have been forced to run the gauntlet formed by the president’s acid-tongued attacks on fossil fuels, his slow-walking of drilling permits, and his 2024 budget proposal to end tax breaks for oil companies. The crippling effects of his moves have been softened by Mr. Biden’s sell-off of the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but with 42% of the supply now gone, the extra cash Americans have been forced to pay at the pump has been more likely to grow than shrink.
At the same time, Mr. Biden has showered buyers of electric vehicles with up to $7,500 in tax breaks to help offset their average 2023 price of $64,000. With electricity costs up 13% nationally and 30% in some regions, EV recharges can be more expensive than gas fill-ups, CBS News reports. This price-control whack-a-mole is harder than it looks.
Yet despite the U.S. spending $941 billion on clean energy between 2004 and 2021, according to Statista, its various forms contributed only 22% of the nation’s electricity generation last year. The president's preference is pitiful — and costly.
With a recent Gallup Poll showing 63% of Americans holding a pessimistic view of the economy and an unfolding banking crisis intensifying the likelihood of recession, the president appears to be trading long-term oil for near-term votes. After all, affordable energy is the key to growth.
President Biden’s approval of Alaska’s Willow Project is a win for U.S. prosperity, but Americans shouldn’t be surprised if his fossil-fuel war pause proves a temporary gambit meant to improve Democrats’ prospects as the 2024 election campaign begins in earnest.