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Despite criticism, Biden hasn’t slowed energy production

Domestic oil production is expected to set a new record in 2023

From left, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., hold a news conference in the Capitol on gas prices on May 18, 2022.
From left, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., hold a news conference in the Capitol on gas prices on May 18, 2022. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Biden administration has faced near-constant criticism for policies that Republicans and the oil and gas industry argue raise fuel prices, but data show the administration has not turned off the spigot as drastically as its critics suggest.

Last week both the House Natural Resources and Energy and Commerce committees held hearings criticizing the administration’s energy policies, arguing the White House could do more to support fossil fuel production amid a focus on green energy that Republicans argue has left America less secure.

“We’ve seen the devastating impacts these policies have had on people in Europe where forced government ‘transition’ away from reliable energy sources resulted in more dependence on Russia,” said Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.

The Biden administration has been hammered over its policies, such as pausing new oil and gas leases on federal lands and delays in finalizing a new offshore leasing plan. After the disruption in the oil market spurred largely by the Russian invasion of Ukraine caused gasoline to reach $5 per gallon last June, the administration faced calls to increase domestic production.

However, President Joe Biden maintained that he was not holding back domestic energy production in the push for renewable energy. In its first two years the Biden administration approved nearly 6,500 applications for permits to drill, according to Bureau of Land Management data. This slightly outpaces the Trump administration, which approved just under 6,300 permits during its first two years.

New record

The Energy Information Administration estimates that this year domestic oil production will surpass its record high, set under the Trump administration, and continue to climb into 2024. Natural gas production, which reached a record high in 2021, is also expected to continue to grow this year.

And to the chagrin of many environmental groups, the climate, tax and health care law signed last August will guarantee certain levels of production moving forward. As part of the deal struck with Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., the law tied solar and wind development to federal leasing and required the administration to move forward with offshore leasing sales it had previously canceled.

However, even if Biden had failed to go as far as many environmental advocates say is necessary to meet climate targets, he has remained at odds with the oil and gas industry throughout much of his time in office. While the industry, through representatives including the American Petroleum Institute, has suggested that there needs to be an increase in the number of leases offered for sale by the federal government, Biden and congressional allies have repeatedly pointed to the number of unused leases these companies currently hold as evidence these are not necessary.

During his State of the Union speech Biden criticized oil supermajors for record profits and stock buyback programs. Amid high oil prices ExxonMobil earned nearly $56 billion in 2022 while Chevron earned $35 billion. Biden referred to these figures as “outrageous” and said they should have instead invested the money to help reduce prices.

“They invested too little of that profit to increase domestic production, and when I talked to a couple of them, they say, ‘We’re afraid you’re going to shut down all the oil wells and all the oil refineries anyway, so why should we invest in them?’” Biden said.

During an ad-libbed portion of the speech Biden added that “we’re going to need oil for at least another decade.” Biden did qualify this by saying we would likely need oil beyond that, but it still drew swift criticism from Republicans. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said Biden and his Democratic colleagues were “living in a green hallucination.”

API President Mike Sommers tweeted that Biden “has again criticized American businesses that employ millions of Americans, pay taxes and provide energy for the world.”

The EIA estimated last year that petroleum and natural gas will remain the most used sources of energy through 2050 even as renewables grow faster. If the forecast holds it may place the global goal of net-zero carbon emissions by the same year in jeopardy, while ensuring continued calls for domestic drilling.

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