The political heat is starting to turn up against President Joe Biden over his approach to domestic oil and gas production, and the pressure isn’t just coming from his Republican political opponents.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, sent a letter on Tuesday lambasting the President for his misguided response to OPEC+’s announcement of production cuts.
The reckless steps OPEC+ has recently announced to cut production and fuel Vladimir Putin’s war machine have made it clearer than ever that the United States must step up and increase our energy production, both for our own domestic use and also to support our friends and allies. It is unconscionable for America, with our abundant natural resources that can be produced cleaner than anywhere else in the world, to continue relying or consider increasing reliance on authoritarian regimes to do for us what we can do for ourselves. I urge you to take all actions within your authority to increase all types of U.S. energy production and signal to the free world that they should do the same.
Senator Manchin offered particularly pointed criticism of recent reports suggesting the President may ease sanctions on the authoritarian Maduro regime in Venezuela in hopes that they might bolster oil production.
I am disheartened by reporting which suggests OPEC+’s actions may drive your administration to seek to unlock sanctioned oil production from Iran or Venezuela. These nations have no qualms about wrongfully detaining Americans, and these dictatorships are just as likely as Putin to use their energy production to hold global markets hostage. Furthermore, these are the last places we should turn to for energy if we are concerned about reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. Iran emits more than twice as much methane per barrel of oil produced than the U.S., and Venezuela emits a staggering six times as much.
Rather than turning to Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Venezuela to bring oil and gas supplies online to meet demand, we should support our producers in the Marcellus and Utica, the Permian, Alaska, our neighbors in Alberta, and in the many other producing regions that Americans and our allies can rely on. At the same time, we must continue to invest in and deploy clean energy technologies—including solar and wind, nuclear, hydrogen, carbon capture, and energy storage—because all of our energy resources can play a key role in energy security and decarbonization.
Manchin’s letter joins a chorus of increasingly public critiques levied against the U.S.’s recent posture towards oil and gas production.
Some critiques have come from people you might expect to say such things, such as key figures in the oil and gas industry.
According to the Washington Examiner:
Chevron Chairman and CEO Mike Wirth is pointing out a reality about energy and the green transition: Demand for fossil fuels keeps increasing, even among the greenest economies.
Wirth, in an interview published today, said Western governments have undervalued oil and gas and discouraged investment in the two in service of climate change mitigation targets. Many of these governments, including the United States and those across Europe, are now seeking out more of these fuels and endorsing the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure to reckon with an acute energy crisis.
The Biden administration and the EU are also introducing energy demand reductions measures, both as a means of reducing emissions and prices. Some of those measures are voluntary, some of them are by mandate, and still some others by regulatory fiat that put efficiency strictures on technologies.
Demand reduction measures have inherent limits, though, Wirth said.
“If people want to stop driving, stop flying . . . that’s a choice for society,” Wirth told the Financial Times. “I don’t think most people want to move backwards in terms of their quality of their life . . . our products enable that.”
Others have come from some more unexpected figures in the business world. For all the talk of “woke capital” and ESG investing strategies, at least one finance titan seems to be taking a hardline stance on fossil fuel realism.
According to CNBC:
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said Monday that the U.S. should forge ahead in pumping more oil and gas to help alleviate the global energy crisis, likening the situation to a national security risk of war-level proportions.
Speaking to CNBC, Dimon dubbed the crisis “pretty predictable” — occurring as it has from Europe’s historic overdependence on Russian energy — and urged Western allies to support the U.S. in taking a lead role in international energy security.
“In my view, America should have been pumping more oil and gas and it should have been supported,” Dimon told CNBC’s Julianna Tatelbaum at the JPM Techstars conference in London.
“America needs to play a real leadership role. America is the swing producer, not Saudi Arabia. We should have gotten that right starting in March,” he continued, referring to the onset of the energy crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
It remains to be seen how the President plans to respond. So far, his approach has been limited to lobbing vague threats of “consequences” for the OPEC+ production cut. Perhaps his time would be better served heeding his critics’ calls and focusing his attention inward toward domestic producers.
Domestic consumers, and those of our Western allies, depend more than ever on our boosted output.