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Republican Senators Urge Biden Administration to Ramp Up Oil and Gas Production

March 23, 2022 by Reece Nations
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

WASHINGTON — Republican senators took the podium during a press conference on Wednesday to call on the Biden administration to increase domestic oil and gas production to stifle rising gas prices.

The conference featured remarks from Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Tim Scott, R-S.C., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and John Boozman, R-Ark., who each commented on administration policies and their impact on oil and gas development.

The Republicans maintain that President Joe Biden’s steps to suspend new leases and permits for oil producers on federal land and water and cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline amount to an “attack” on the U.S. oil and gas industry.

Additionally, the GOP senators characterized a Democratic proposal to institute a windfall profits tax on oil as a tax on production and not a tax on price gouging.

“The problem here is the administration, and what we’re here to focus on today is that the administration has a war on our own American energy independence,” Crapo said. “And that’s what needs to be addressed in America to try to deal with the rising cost of fuel and the rising cost of many other products that are fuel dependent.”

Similarly, the senators blamed record high rates of inflation on the administration’s social spending policies tied to the American Rescue Plan Act and the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

These bills contained provisions for a broad set of public investments, some for temporary COVID-19 pandemic relief, and others for public transit, broadband internet deployment, major road and bridge projects, and environmental remediation, among others.

While some of the increase in gas prices could be reasonably attributed to sanctions imposed against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Crapo said skyrocketing gas prices have been more than a year in the making.

Crapo presented a pair of charts to demonstrate his point, showcasing a 48% increase in gas prices from the time Biden took office to just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The war in Ukraine, with regard to oil and gas, has had an impact on oil prices,” Crapo said. “It’s not the reason that the majority of the increase in oil prices has occurred. Why did they occur? Because in the last 14 months the Democrats, including the president, have been attacking the American oil and gas industry and stopping our own production.”

Crapo would go on to contend that these actions have cost the country its energy independence and hurt consumers.

However, domestic natural gas production increased in 2021 while drilling on federal lands and waters accounted for 22% of domestic oil production and roughly 13% of natural gas production, according to the Energy Information Administration.

At the end of last year, there were 9,173 approved and available permits to drill on federal and Indian land issued under both the Trump and Biden administrations, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

“In the U.S., 90% of onshore oil production takes place on land that isn’t owned by the federal government,” Biden said in remarks delivered earlier this month announcing a ban on Russian imports of oil, coal and liquid natural gas. “And of the remaining 10% that occurs on federal land, the oil and gas industry has millions of acres leased.”

Biden continued, “They have 9,000 permits to drill now. They could be drilling right now, yesterday, last week, last year. They have 9,000 to drill onshore that are already approved.”

Further, a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal property was blocked by a U.S. district court judge in June 2021 after 13 states sued the Biden administration.

The pause on oil and gas leases was reinstated late last month after another federal judge blocked the way as officials were calculating the real-world costs of climate change, leading to an indefinite delay in planned oil and gas lease sales on public lands in six states in the western U.S.

In the EIA’s short-term energy outlook published in February, crude oil production was expected to rise by 630,000 barrels per day in 2023. Overall, the EIA expects crude oil production in the U.S. to reach 12.6 million barrels per day by next year, largely driven by new production in Texas’ Permian Basin.

When COVID-19 restrictions led to a drop in domestic oil demand in 2020, the U.S. began exporting more petroleum than it had in the past.

After economic activity and demand subsequently rebounded, net crude oil imports subsequently rose by 19% in 2021, although the country continued to export more petroleum than it imported.

The EIA said in the report that it expects net crude oil imports to fall next year as domestic crude oil production increases. Currently, the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of liquid natural gas and the country exports more oil and gas than it consumes, as previously reported in The Well News.

When asked previously if the president planned to undo his executive order that stopped the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki contended that the pipeline is merely a vehicle to transport gas that otherwise would continue to flow into the country through other means.

Biden also authorized 30 million barrels of oil to be released from the strategic petroleum reserve according to the Department of Energy.

Earlier this month, 21 national and state-based conservation and advocacy groups sent a letter to Biden praising his administration’s efforts to resist leasing more public lands for oil and gas drilling.

In the letter, the advocates blame the oil and gas industry for price gouging under the cover of inflation and the pandemic for the rising gas prices as domestic production remains high.

“While oil executives hoard unused drilling permits and post record profits, their lobbyists and allies in Congress are scrambling to point the finger at everyone else for the pain high energy prices are causing American families,” the conservation advocates wrote.

“Industry lobbyists are even leveraging fear and anxiety about Russia invading Ukraine to try to take even more money out of Americans’ pockets, and dole it out to oil executives and their wealthy investors,” they continued. “The last thing that our communities need is for politicians in Washington to help oil lobbyists exploit this crisis and hastily get their hands on even more of our world-class public lands for pennies on the dollar, at the expense of people across the country.” 

Reece can be reached at reece@thewellnews.com


Corrections

This article previously had the wrong state affiliation for a U.S. senator representing Alaska, Dan Sullivan.

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