Making Sense of Biden’s Energy Policy

Joe Biden’s critics agree that his energy policies have been disastrous. Whether closing off the Keystone XL pipeline, banning drilling on government land, hiking the costs of carbon-emitting fuels, or making the United States dependent on foreign oil from hostile countries, Biden’s energy decisions have been mind-bogglingly awful.

Biden played right into the hands of Vladimir Putin by embracing these policies while the Russian leader was planning an invasion of Ukraine. The United States went from being an energy-exporting nation under Donald Trump to one that now begs other countries for energy.

On the eve of Putin’s invasion, Europe was importing 25 percent of its oil and 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia. Germany obtusely closed down its atomic energy facilities under Angela Merkel and is now desperately dependent on Russian energy. By the beginning of this year, the Germans were getting 55 percent of their energy imports from Putin’s Russia. Like our botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, this growing dependence on Russian oil and gas sent a clear signal of Western weakness and vulnerability to an aggressive Russian government. 

 Biden and his party are still refusing to reopen energy resources, even in the face of rising fuel costs. While gas was surging to over $5 a gallon, Democrats scurried to blame this problem on Putin’s invasion, without acknowledging a disaster of their own making. The recent desperate self-defense from Biden’s press secretary, that opening up closed pipelines will only have “long-term effect” but won’t reverse rising gas prices, is balderdash. We certainly need long-term solutions to the energy mess that the Democrats have inflicted upon us. But opening pipelines and drilling for oil on government land will likely also satisfy shorter-term needs. Further, the oil that has reached us from Russia and other unfriendly countries is ecologically problematic compared to what is pumped and refined in North America. We are actually harming the natural environment by importing energy from countries that use dirtier and more primitive methods of extraction. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s recommendation that if Americans don’t like gas prices, we should buy environmentally safe electric cars (for about $50,000 a clip) is certainly not worker friendly. But then Buttigieg doesn’t have to worry about offending workers. The Democrats are not looking to please the Basket of Deplorables, because they think they can survive without them. In a recent interview, William Barr was asked whether he thought the “infighting between the progressives and mainstream Democrats will come to a head.” Barr answered: “I don’t think the tide is turning against progressives within the Democratic Party. Progressives will still be the center of gravity in the Democratic Party in 2024, and I believe the Democrats will field a nominee who leans progressive or, like Biden, can be controlled by them.” 

If by “progressives,” Barr means the dominant wing of the Democratic Party, which combines cultural radicalism with green energy politics, he is in fact stating the obvious. But equally relevant, the Democrats are not necessarily holding a bad hand if they can pull in more independents to help bring their numbers back up. Despite a catastrophic first year in office, Biden is somehow still polling around 40 percent in approval, according to Real Clear Politics, and the Democrats on a generic ballot are only trailing the Republicans by three to four points.  

Although these figures would give the GOP a critical edge if elections were held right now (the spread is six points in state legislative races in battleground states), the Democrats have survived embarrassing policy failures in the past, and survived as a competitive national party. Among those who view themselves as being socially progressive (which includes much of our professional and corporate class as well as our media and professoriate), the Democrats still enjoy a solid base. And although only 69 percent of blacks surveyed, according to the Wall Street Journal, approve of Biden’s job performance, that figure does not indicate black voters are about to desert the Democrats. 

Although I am certainly not suggesting that Biden’s energy policy has been anything but ruinous for this country and for the peace of the world, or has done anything significant to improve the environment, the administration is successfully catering to its base. Biden is doing exactly what his voters want, and he and his handlers have no intention of changing course. There is also the possibility of processing the millions of illegal aliens Democrats have shepherded into the country to full citizenship. (The Democrats are banking on their votes.)

Biden’s party is always thinking ahead, particularly when it cheats and/or acts destructively. Its avoidance of a self-evident solution to the energy problem is no more of a slip-up than the creation of an open southern border. In both cases the Democrats are trying to build their base. 

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About Paul Gottfried

Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.

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