WASHINGTON — As gas prices peaked this week, top Republican lawmakers took to the airwaves and the floors of Congress with misleading claims that blamed President Biden and his energy policies.
Mr Biden warned that his ban on imports of Russian oil, gas and coal, announced Tuesday in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, would push gas prices further. High costs are expected to last as long as the confrontation.
While Republican lawmakers supported the ban, they argued that the pain at the pump long predated the war in Ukraine. Gas price hikes, they said, were the result of Mr Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, the temporary cessation of new drilling leases on public lands and the abandonment of “energy independence” — all false claims.
Here’s a fact check of their claims.
what was said
“This government wants to increase energy imports from Iran and Venezuela. That is respectively the world’s largest state sponsor of terror and a violent dictator of South America. They would rather buy from these people than from Texas, Alaska and Pennsylvania.”
— Senator Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and Minority Leader, in a speech on Tuesday
“Democrats want to blame Russia for rising prices. But the truth is, their out-of-touch policy is why we’re here in the first place. Remember what happened on day 1 with the one-party rule? The president canceled the Keystone pipeline and then halted new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters.”
– Representative Kevin McCarthy, California Republican and Minority Leader, in a speech on Tuesday
“In the four years of the Trump-Pence administration, we have achieved energy independence for the first time in 70 years. We were a net exporter of energy. But from the very beginning, with the Keystone pipeline breaking down, the delisting of federal lands for exploration, the sidelining of oil and natural gas leases — again, before Ukraine ever happened, we saw soaring gasoline prices.”
— Former Vice President Mike Pence in an interview on Fox Business on Tuesday
These claims are misleading. The main reason for rising gas prices over the past year has been the coronavirus pandemic and the disruptions in global supply and demand.
“Covid has changed the game, not President Biden,” said Patrick De Haan, chief of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, which tracks gasoline prices. “U.S. oil production has declined in the last eight months of President Trump’s term in office. Is that his fault? New.”
“The pandemic has brought us to our knees,” added Mr De Haan.
In the early months of 2020, as the virus spread, oil demand dried up and prices plummeted, with the benchmark crude oil price in the United States falling to negative $37.63 in April. In response, producers in the United States and around the world began to cut production.
As pandemic restrictions eased globally and economies recovered, demand outstripped supply. That was “mainly due” to the decision by OPEC Plus, an alliance of oil-producing countries that control about half of the world’s supply, to limit production increases, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Domestic production also remains below prepandemic levels, as capital spending fell and investors remained reluctant to provide financing to the oil industry.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has only exacerbated the problems.
“If you throw another war on top of this, it might be the worst escalation you can have,” said Abhiram Rajendran, chief of oil market research at Energy Intelligence, an energy information company. “You’re literally pouring gasoline on general inflationary pressures.”
These factors are largely beyond Mr Biden’s control, experts agreed, though they said he hadn’t exactly sent positive signals to the oil and gas industry and its investors by promising to cut emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. Reduce.
Mr De Haan said the Biden administration was “clearly less friendly” to the sector, which may have indirectly influenced investor attitudes. But overall, he said, that attitude has played a “very, very small part in driving up gas prices”.
Mr Rajendran said the Biden administration had emphasized climate change issues while paying lip service to energy security.
“There has been a pretty stark miscalculation of the amount of supply we would need to keep energy prices at an affordable level,” he said. “It was taken for granted. There was too much attention for the energy transition.”
But presidents, Mr Rajendran said, “have very little influence on short-term supply.”
“The most important relationship to watch is between companies and investors,” he said.
It is true that the Biden administration is in talks with Venezuela and Iran about their oil supplies. But the administration is also urging US companies to ramp up production — much to climate activists’ dismay and contrary to suggestions from Republican lawmakers that the White House plans to cuff domestic producers.
Speaking to the National Petroleum Council in December, Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm told oil companies, “Please take advantage of the leases you have, hire workers, be aware of your rigging. “
Understand rising gas prices in the US
The idea that the United States gained “energy independence” under Mr. Trump and changed course under Mr. Biden is also misleading.
Even before Mr. Trump took office, the United States was expected to become a net exporter of energy by the 2020s “as favorable geological and technological developments result in the production of oil and natural gas at a lower cost,” according to the Energy Information Administration. . †
The country became a net exporter of petroleum in 2020, for the first time since at least 1949. That remained the case in 2021. It became a net exporter of natural gas in 2018 and continues to be a net exporter of natural gas in 2018, with exports reaching record levels in 2021 .
The term “energy independence” may also suggest that the United States was not dependent on imports at all. That is also not true. In 2020, the United States still imported 7.9 million barrels of crude oil and other petroleum products per day.
In addition, the specific policies cited by Republican lawmakers as evidence of Biden’s alleged “war on American energy” have had little impact on rising gas prices.
The Keystone XL pipeline, which would have expanded an existing system for transporting oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, has been a political and environmental battleground since its conception in 2008. The Obama administration denied the company behind it, TransCanada, a construction permit in 2015. The Trump administration approved the permit in 2017, but the project stalled due to lawsuits. By the time Mr. Biden withdrew his permit on his first day in office, only 8 percent of it had been built.
Even if Biden had given the green light to the project and TransCanada, now known as TC Energy, had won its lawsuits, the pipeline is unlikely to have been operational today, as the company estimated it would be up and running in March 2020. have been taken by 2023. And “even if it were completed overnight, there will be no capacity to put oil in this pipeline,” said Mr. De Haan, pointing to supply chain problems and labor shortages that are causing U.S. and Canadian oil and gas producers continue to hit .
Without the Keystone XL pipeline, crude oil imports from Canada have nevertheless increased 70 percent since 2008, transported through other pipelines and by rail. The Trump administration itself told PolitiFact in 2017 that the pipeline’s impact on prices at the pump would be “minimal”.
The claims about oil and gas leases are even more false.
Although Mr Biden temporarily halted new drilling leases on federal grounds in January 2021, a federal judge blocked that move in June of last year. In its first year, the Biden administration approved 34 percent more of these permits than the Trump administration did in its first year, according to federal data collected by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group.
“None of these permits are relevant to production at this time,” said Mr Rajendran. “These permits are for production three or four years later. If they had approved ten times as many permits, we would have had the same production problems.”