Victor Davis Hanson
Try to follow the Joe Biden energy plan of frantically trying to get his hands on more of something that his own party despises.
During the Democratic primaries, Biden ran on the premise that he would end all fossil fuels during his tenure. In 2019-2020 that bluster seemed easy demagoguery at a time of near-record low gas and diesel prices. The American people shrugged at such utopianism since they often were filling up their cars for less than $50.
Biden’s video clips from the primary campaign now seem surreal, as he tried to out-green Bernie Sanders in boasting about what has now become his own self-created energy disaster.
Biden monotonously promised at rallies, such as they were, that he would cancel pipelines, stop new federal leasing to oil and gas companies, persuade lenders to restrict loans to them, put the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve off limits, and embrace the green new deal. Those were certainly campaign boasts that he has followed up on.
His environmental czar John Kerry has just insulted Americans by lecturing them that there is no need to pump more gas and oil to reduce gas prices that are well over $6 a gallon in many of the Western states. The billionaire Kerry exudes Antoinette disdain for the muscular classes, a hubris that now characterizes the elite rich leadership of the Left in general.
Kerry and his progressive ilk make no effort to disguise that they feel the credentialed such as themselves, the wealthy, and the progressive enjoy the birthright to fly private, to be limousined, and to bounce between multiple energy-hungry mansions. Those compensations are all necessary, to allow them to focus on the divine task of directing and herding the unthinking and blinkered chumps, dregs, crazies and clingers to do what is for their own good—now most recently defined as paying more than $6 a gallon for gas.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also reassures the country that there is no reason to pump more oil and gas. Instead, she says, we just need to refine more. At her press conferences, she reads all her answers from prepared notes. But apparently Jean-Pierre’s twenty-something press preppers were oblivious that the United States, thanks to hard-left green opposition, has not built a major refinery since 1976, back when there were 110 million fewer Americans.
Jean-Pierre has no idea why she cannot now and will never in the future answer a question about fossil fuels honestly. She knows that Left for now got what it wanted. Since January 2021 it has all but destroyed the idea of American energy self-sufficiency.
Think of the mindset: the Left for decades deliberately restricts refinery capacity; then when the public demands it increase oil production that it has curtailed, it complains that increased pumping would do no good because—there is not enough refinery capacity. Yet Biden remains shocked that his long-sought victory to make fossil fuels unaffordable is despised by the American people, whose votes he now needs to stay in power.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg talks of abortion, racist freeway overpasses, mass transit—almost anything other than strapped commuters on clogged roads watching their livelihoods melt away by staggering fuel and energy costs.
Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm calls “hilarious” any suggestion she might think out of the box to find ways to encourage more energy production. Granholm is right only in that she could not say or do a thing that any CEO or foreign head of state would take seriously.
So, her administration is panicking that its prior arrogance has insulted, enraged, and alienated 60-70 percent of the country. But political reality to such ideologues does not mean that they will pump or refine more oil. We all know they prefer high gas prices and only object to politically damaging steep climbs before midterm or general elections—rather than, say, continuous dollar-a-gallon increases every six months to a year.
So how does Biden square his circle of continuing or accelerating policies that ensure high gas prices while trying desperately to lower fuel prices before elections?
The Biden people have three strategies.
One is denial and a resort to the blame game. Vladimir Putin supposedly caused the American gas crisis. Take away the Ukraine war, and gas would be what it was during the Trump Administration. But that is not even half-true given the fact that gas and diesel prices had already reached $4.60 a gallon in California, for example, before the Russo-Ukrainian war had begun.
No matter. The Biden finger-pointing strategy is a shotgun approach with many targets other than the president’s own deliberate efforts to raise fuel prices. Besides the “Putin price hike,” Biden blasts “greedy” oil companies that are price-gouging Americans.
Perhaps. But if so, why were they not doing that before Biden entered office? Did corporate CEOs love Donald Trump and hate Joe Biden?
Why do some other corporations, for example the Left’s beloved Apple, earn higher profit margins on their sales than do the large oil companies?
OK—if Putin and rapacious CEOs are not to blame for the Biden fuel disaster, then how about “refiners”?
These villains supposedly have all the oil they need, but they strangely refuse to speed up turning crude into gasoline. Again, the Left wants something now that, for political purposes, it had sought to destroy in the past for political purposes.
To learn why there are now supposedly too few refineries, just review clips from the 2020 Democratic primary debates in which a dozen candidates attacked one another for supposedly appeasing the oil companies that were producing too much fossil fuels.
The second Biden strategy is to talk green, but to find ways other than pumping more oil to reduce gas prices before the midterms. Biden has announced that Vladimir Putin is a thug, a killer, and should be removed. But his hostility never stopped him earlier from beseeching Putin to pump more oil that he is now currently selling for nearly two-thirds below market prices to China and India.
Biden has in the recent past blasted the Saudi royal family for its illiberality. Yet now he is begging another former favorite target Mohammed bin Salman to help his administration by driving down the price of American gasoline down before the midterms.
Biden perhaps feels more comfortable similarly supplicating the nightmarish and failed nations of Venezuela and Iran. He is perfectly willing through such appeasement to lose any deterrent leverage over such odious regimes for the short-term gain of avoiding a November electoral disaster.
Yet do Biden and his EPA experts believe that Iran or Russia are better stewards of Mother Earth than are U.S. oil companies subject to the Environmental Protection Agency? In our shared global village do they really believe that a fungible barrel of oil is pumped and refined under greener protocols in Iran or Russia than in Texas or North Dakota?
But this second strategy of having others produce oil that we will not is also doomed for failure. Follow the Biden logic, incoherent as it is:
I, Joe Biden, hate Russia and Saudi Arabia. Some in my government tell me I am supposed to despise Iran and Venezuela. But I want all four nations as a favor to me personally to increase their dirty fossil fuel production that I certainly don’t wish to stoop to do here in my own country—all in order to keep my presidency temporarily viable, by appeasing the gas-guzzling mindless middle class while bowing to my hallowed green base.
That smug incoherence is welcome schadenfreude to all our enemies.
The third Biden strategy has now turned to the strategic petroleum reserve.
When oil was cheap, Trump—to much criticism—tried to top the reserve off with cheap petroleum.
And for the most part, he did.
Now Biden is draining the reserve in order to lower prices for a crisis that he created in large part by reducing U.S. production and eliminating any chances to expand it over his tenure.
Again, consider the twisted logic: the administration does not wish to increase the supply of hated petroleum, but needs more of it. So apparently if nearly 700 million barrels of oil have already been pumped out of the earth and back into four vast underground caverns near the Gulf, then repumping the black goo back out is not the same sin as pumping fresh goo from underground.
The idea of the strategic petroleum reserve grew out of the Arab boycotts of the United States in the early ’70s and the anti-Western power of the OPEC cartel. The reserve was an effort to ensure that foreign entities during crises could not blackmail or leverage the United States for political concessions. It was also designed to offer a temporary buffer in times of natural or manmade crises such as war or devastating earthquakes, fires, or storms.
But Biden’s policies have ensured that bad foreign actors will and can hold the United States over the proverbial oil barrel and receive concessions in the bargain. And our current oil shortage did not arise from a foreign war or tsunami, but from a deliberate policy to curtail oil production to force a more rapid transition to battery-powered transportation and mass transit.
So, Biden is tapping a public reserve to aid his own private political survival, not as a result of a collective assault on U.S. energy independence. In other words, he is putting America at risk to drain a reserve intended for purposes other than his own reelection efforts.
All these unhinged and desperate measures will fail.
So, what will end the Biden-created oil crisis? Only one consideration, and it is a medicine worse than the disease: the Biden-created recession or depression.
That is, Biden’s hyperinflation and ensuing stagflation are already beginning to result in reduced spending, as his printed money runs out and spiraling prices are beginning to exceed even the 2021-22 infusion of new trillions of dollars. No wonder we are currently in an era of negative economic growth.
But given Biden’s discouragement of productive industries, subsidies for labor nonparticipation, quantitative easing, historic low-interest rates, and a growing global recession we are likely to see continued negative economic growth, higher unemployment, and closed businesses.
In other words, 1970s-style stagflation will radically curb consumer demand as the targeted middle class has less to spend, and, of course, drives less. Eventually stagflation will lead to severe recession and ultimately to crashes in current prices.
The Left’s reaction to that national tragedy will be interesting since it seemed to love the COVID lockdown, and not just because the devastating quarantine sparked radical changes in voting laws and an aggrandizement of government power, as well as the end of Donald Trump.
The shelter-in-place mandates bridled the middle class and slowed the economy—and thus gave us desirable reduced carbon emissions.
For the left-wing green ideologue, a recession in the age of oil is as welcome as $7 a gallon gas. Or perhaps economic stagnation of the middle class is more fortuitous, a “never let a crisis go to waste,” since it will mean a general reduction in fossil-fuel energy use well beyond transportation as millions of Americans become inert.
In sum, under the Biden energy logic, we must destroy the American economy in order to save it.