Contrary to President Biden’s recent claims that his administration is pulling out all the stops to alleviate America’s inflation woes, since its early days it has fostered a policy environment that is hostile to domestic energy production, fueling price hikes at the gas pump long before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to memos obtained by National Review.
On the day Biden took office, his Department of the Interior issued a memo suspending the authority of local Bureau of Land Management offices to approve leases, drilling permits, and mining operations plans that would support America’s oil supply, Republican senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska explained on the House floor last week. Sixty days into Biden’s term, a second memo was sent out by political appointee Laura Daniel Davis extending the suspension of local authorities indefinitely and making the fate of all future leasing and drilling permits contingent on her personally rubber-stamping them.
On Feb. 15, as the conflict in Ukraine took a turn for the worst and Western nations retaliated against Russia with economic penalties, amid already record-high gas prices, Biden told the public, “We’re prepared to deploy all the tools and authority at our disposal to provide relief at the gas pump.”
He assured Americans, “It’s simply not true that my administration or policies are holding back domestic energy production. That’s simply not true.”
But the memos, obtained by National Review, appear to show that the Biden administration intentionally handicapped the domestic oil industry from day one as part of its mission to transition the U.S. to a green economy. Now that gas prices and inflation are reaching record heights, Biden has pinned a large chunk of responsibility on Russian president Vladimir Putin, whose attack on Ukraine has created tumult in energy markets, given that much of the West, particularly Europe, is dependent on Russia for oil.
Chad Padgett, former career senior executive for Bureau of Land Management in Alaska and state director for Sullivan’s Alaska Senate office, implied that such statements from the White House are a cop-out, since the Biden administration laid the initial groundwork for energy crunches by restricting domestic energy production.
The first memo from January 2021 suspended a range of activities that would help promote U.S. energy independence, barring the Interior Department from issuing “any onshore or offshore fossil fuel authorization, including but not limited to a lease, amendment to a lease, affirmative extension of a lease, contract, or other agreement, or permit to drill.”
The second order “took all decision making authority previously delegated to the state director down to field manager level and made it basically so we couldn’t do our jobs. We had to be approved from a political level to be authorized for the simplest of permits,” Padgett noted.
This action was harmful from both an environmental and production perspective, he said. It made cleaning up legacy or “orphan” wells, which had been used and abandoned historically, also subject to Davis’s approval. And on the production side, “we had to sit back and wait until we got the blessing of Davis to move forward,” he said.
While Biden has tried to put the onus on oil producers to fix the current energy deficit, they’re the victims of Biden’s policies, Padgett said. Both the memos and other actions had the effect of “destabilizing the industry” and energy production on federal land, he added. During recent press briefings, White House press secretary Jen Psaki has echoed the claim that the U.S. economy is patiently waiting for U.S. energy companies to get into gear, which Padgett refuted.
“Just to be very clear, federal policies are not limiting the supplies of oil and gas,” Psaki said at at a recent press briefing. “The suggestion that we are not allowing companies to drill is inaccurate. The suggestion that that is what is hindering or preventing gas prices to come down is inaccurate.”
She told Fox News that the U.S. is already producing oil “at record numbers,” adding that “there are 9,000 approved drilling permits that are not being used.”
“So, the suggestion that we are not allowing companies to drill is inaccurate,” she said. “I would suggest you ask the oil companies why they’re not using those if there’s a desire to drill more.”
But there are a number of bureaucratic hoops that must be jumped through before those existing 9,000 leases can be drilled, Padgett said. Most wells don’t go online right away and there are certain wells that were previously drilled but are now designated “drilled but uncompleted” (DUCS). As gas prices have spiked over the last year, the number of DUCS has decreased by over 40 percent, meaning there are more existing wells progressing toward operation, he said, proving that there has been a drive to increase supply where possible, in spite of the challenging landscape the Biden administration created.
Read more at National Review.