Joe Biden’s recent offer to help self-inflicted energy-starved Europe replace Russia as its main natural gas supplier as he works to put American producers out of business is cluelessly paradoxical.

The White House posted a joint March 25 statement by President Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen: “We’re going to have to make sure the families in Europe can get through this winter and the next,” it said in announcing a deal to “provide 15 billion cubic meters of gas this year, though not all from the U.S.”

The statement added: “At the same time, this crisis also presents an opportunity” that will “drive the investments we need to double-down on our clean energy goals and accelerate progress toward our net-zero emissions future.”

So, according to plan, this is somehow magically to be accomplished by maintaining a regulatory environment in which U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports will only be permitted to the extent that they reduce overall greenhouse emissions — for instance, by running on “clean energy.”

Read that clean energy to mean their preferred intermittent wind and solar panaceas.

And by regulatory environment, the Biden administration is referring to a very formidable army of die-hard climate crusaders who are dedicated to eliminating fossil energy in all forms.

As White House Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy clarified to attendees at a March American Council on Renewable Energy forum, U.S. climate policy is not a fight about coal anymore. It is a challenge about natural gas and infrastructure investments because we don’t want to invest in things that are time limited. Because we are time limited.”

Herein lies one of the big obstacles to Joe Biden’s European LNG export bailout offer: a shortage of pipeline capacity due to permitting delays which discourage industry investment.

The time required to obtain federal Energy Department permitting can take four to five years for a pipeline that can be constructed in six to nine months. Since it can require decades to recoup the costs, McCarthy’s comment about “time limits” will lend no investor confidence to future such ventures.

Although the Energy Department scrambled to finally approve two LNG export permits that it had been sitting on for more than two years, Secretary Jennifer Granholm again made it clear that this was a temporary circumstance premised upon the Ukraine invasion.

Speaking on March 9 in Houston, Granholm said: “We are on a war footing — an emergency — and we have to responsibly increase short-term [oil and gas] supply where we can right now to stabilize the market and to minimize harm to American families. … And that means you producing more right now, where and if you can …”

Adding to this investment discouragement, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently voted 3-1 on a proposed rule requiring public companies to disclose climate risks attributed to greenhouse gas emissions generated both by their operations (e.g., refining oil) and from their energy consumption.

Republican SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce, who voted against the proposal, warned that the rules would enrich “the climate-industrial complex” while hurting investors, the economy, and the SEC.

In November, the Labor Department also proposed a new rule which scraps and reverses a Trump administration proviso within the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requiring retirement plan fiduciaries to act “solely in the interest” of participants and based upon a “material effect on the return and risk of an investment.”

Many LNG projects are stalled due to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) pipeline constraints. Encouragingly, FERC recently voted 3-2 to revise a gas pipeline and export terminal approval policy which added greenhouse gas emissions to its permission analyses premised on climate impacts.

Meanwhile, Europe is finally waking up to the fact that its dependency on Russian natural gas and oil for about half of its energy in the wake of the current Ukraine experience presents greater threat risks than climate change.

Germany, a dominant EU economic power that now depends on Russia for over half of its natural gas and a quarter of its oil imports, has sabotaged itself to become even more dependent on that imported gas by already shutting down three nuclear plants in December, with three more to be mothballed this year.

Recognizing Russia’s opportunity to weaponize Germany’s vulnerable dependency, President Donald Trump sanctioned the Nord Stream 2 trans-Baltic gas pipeline development, a policy that President Joe Biden reversed upon taking office.

The Trump administration, which had presided over an America that was not only energy independent, but also a leading global exporter, had pressed Germany to build LNG import terminals to diversify its gas supply, as Poland, the Netherlands, and Lithuania have done.

All that has changed over slightly more than a year as the Biden White House and Democrat-controlled Congress have devolved U.S. energy prosperity to conditions of an energy pauper pathetically pleading with Russia, OPEC, Venezuela, and Iran for help to reduce painful fuel price and inflation consequences of their policies here at home ahead of 2022 midterm elections.

Recall that soon after taking office, Joe Biden revoked a permit essential for the Keystone XL pipeline to deliver oil from Canada, empowered his agencies to slow-walk others, and launched an effort to overturn an oil drilling program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.

Let’s also remember that U.S. gas prices began going up long before Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine recently provoked a bipartisan ban on Russian oil, gas, and coal imports, as did most all of America’s 40-year high of 7.9% inflation.

There should be an obvious message in all of this for Europe.

If it can’t continue to rely on Russia as a reliable energy supplier, then why would it imagine that it can count on America to make up any substantial difference so long as we have an administration headed by someone who campaigned on the pledge that “I guarantee you we’re going to end fossil fuels.”

Meanwhile as Joe, with one foot on the gas, the other on the brake — revving the engine and belching lots of smoke — America urgently awaits what may be described as a “MAGA tow truck,” driven by our 45th commander in chief; that vehicle that can’t possibly arrive soon enough.

Author

  • Larry Bell

    CFACT Advisor Larry Bell heads the graduate program in space architecture at the University of Houston. He founded and directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. He is also the author of "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax."