For more than a year, it has looked like OPEC was on its last legs. Iran was shut out of oil markets because of U.S. sanctions. Iraq was a mess. Venezuela…is that even a country anymore? The U.S. was an oil and gas superpower.
And then Joe Biden was elected and did exactly what he said he would do: begin the steps to take the U.S. into the post-carbon world, just like Europe. Russian oligarchs and Arabian princes celebrated.
They know that even with Europe and the U.S. moving into wind and solar energy, all of their planes, transoceanic cargo ships, trucks, trains, and most cars – even electric vehicles — depend on fossil fuels.
On January 27, Biden’s pick for Energy Secretary, ex-Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, faced a mostly pleasant Senate hearing. The times she was not being praised or fielding questions on battery-powered cars were when senators from fossil fuel states took her to task over Biden’s decision to cancel phase four of the Keystone XL pipeline connecting the midwestern U.S. to Alberta, Canada, and over a 60-day moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal land.
In 2016, Granholm said, “We need to do everything possible to keep fossil fuel energy in the ground.” That’s a Greenpeace slogan.
“That makes no sense for America,” Sen. John Barasso (R-WY) told her. “The Biden administration seems to be making affordable energy more expensive.” Natural gas generated around 477 gigawatts of electricity in the U.S. in 2019. Coal was in second at 239 gigawatts, followed by wind and solar at 157 gigawatts. That will eventually replace coal, but it won’t replace natural gas anytime soon.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) asked Granholm if she cared about energy independence and asked for her commitment to get the U.S. “to use all available forms of energy.”
Granholm said we should “absolutely” be “energy secure,” but recognized being an oil and gas exporter gave us some leverage internationally. Like the Europeans, Granholm said she wants to power the country “in the cleanest way possible.”
She mentioned new technologies like carbon capture. These are pipe dreams in prototypes. You can drive a car on the moon before carbon capture is to scale.
Granholm prefers wind and solar, a supply chain that is dominated increasingly by Chinese companies. Now we will have OPEC and China as the Green OPEC.
Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow of The Atlantic Council and director of the program on energy, growth, and security at the International Tax and Investment Center, said the U.S. abandoned nuclear power back in the 1970s by killing fast-breeder reactors that take spent fuel and recycle it. Nuclear power was taken over by China, Russia, France, and, to a lesser extent, South Korea.
Biden’s energy policy is a serious warning to fossil fuels.
The coal industry thought they were too big to fail. The Greens couldn’t take them out until they convinced students the Earth had 12 years left. Coal was complacent. Now, they might as well be Three Mile Island.
The oil and gas industry needs to explain why they are important, not only to the baseload energy supply but also as a tool of foreign policy and economic strength.
On February 9, Manchin, the new head of the Senate Energy Committee, asked Biden to reconsider Keystone.
Natural gas helped lower our greenhouse gases to their lowest levels since the 1990s. Granholm says that’s a good thing. LNG, oil, and even coal exports make the U.S. influential suppliers of energy. “It is good to be influential suppliers,” Granholm told Barasso during her hearing.
America is the world’s largest hydrocarbon producer. Oil imports are down six-fold. Increased energy independence is a foreign policy win. With independence comes the liberty to take moral stances otherwise viewed as bad for business, something Democrats should remember if they intend to confront Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, and Venezuela. At a minimum, natural gas should expand, not contract.