Lower prices at the pump provided much-needed relief to American families and businesses. That glimmer of hope, however, was quickly extinguished following the decision by Saudi Arabia and its OPEC+ allies to cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day. Truth be told, prices are still well above average in every region of the country.
When it comes to access to affordable and reliable energy, the stakes have never been higher. But this administration still doesn’t fully understand the global energy chess game. Rather than considering policy solutions that will help the American people and the world by addressing the mission-critical global supply-side imbalance, some in Washington are instead focused on legislation to punish the Saudis.
The more productive solution is less rhetoric, less regulation and more actionable decision-making that will help the United States prepare for the long term. Still, it will also help support and reinforce our allies’ own energy security as they remain significantly dependent on energy imports.
Globally, an energy crisis is afoot.
As part of a broader standoff with the European Union, Russia stopped delivering natural gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. It then sabotaged its pipeline and the newly finished Nord Stream 2 pipeline with explosives. While Moscow has denied responsibility for the damage to either line, the truth is that it enables Russia to sidestep economic breach of contract claims for failing to deliver supplies to Europe, which is convenient since Russia is fully leveraging the cold weather to punish Europe for its support. To Russia, everything, even energy, is a weapon, something US policymakers have warned about for years.
Faced with choked-off Russian gas supplies, the European Union is weighing an emergency intervention requiring members to ration gas use this winter and impose new taxes on energy companies. Heavy industries such as steel, glass and fertilizer facilities are being idled. The challenge is that Europe relies on natural gas for about a quarter of its energy needs. Still, since Russia has limited gas supplies to Europe, natural gas prices temporarily spiked to more than 10 times the past decade’s average. In addition, oil prices are already up more than 15% this year.
In response to Russia’s weaponization of energy, some surprisingly argue that now is the time to accelerate a switch toward renewable energy. As well-intentioned as it may be, that kind of rhetoric won’t help families heat their homes this winter.
The truth is that, at least for the near term, we need more energy, not less, to help relieve our struggling allies.
America has done it before, and we can do it again. In 2019, our energy production was so robust that we became a net energy exporter, but sadly we are now a net importer of oil while our natural gas prices have tripled as domestic production has declined.
We can help supply our allies and end the weaponization of energy by authoritarian regimes.
Yet a few things are standing in the way.
We don’t have sufficient infrastructure to satisfy international markets fully. Permitting procedures have delayed (and executive orders have sometimes stopped altogether) the construction of pipelines needed to move natural gas supplies to export facilities. Liquefied natural gas export terminals along our coastline can also be trapped in this labyrinth of overly burdensome red tape.
To be a stronger ally, we must champion American energy infrastructure, not limit it. We can do this, in part, by giving teeth to the permitting reform pledges that congressional leaders inserted into the Inflation Reduction Act as important energy infrastructure projects had already been caught up in delayed reviews under the Natural Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory hurdles. Such projects will continue to be stymied if we don’t make much-needed permitting reforms.
The good news is that we can make these critical reforms and help address the global energy crisis by being friendly to the environment and without sacrificing progress on climate change. We can arm the US and our allies with a low-carbon fossil fuel alternative by unlocking more natural gas. Additionally, constructing pipelines to deliver these supplies to markets at home and abroad is unquestionably more environmentally friendly than trucking it around on our nation’s highways and waterways, where accidents would be catastrophic.
A reformed permitting process would also help build more renewable energy projects, such as offshore wind projects, which are often stalled due to permitting approval requirements from a wide range of government agencies. It is not a choice between one form of energy over another. Our energy mix will change over time, with renewables and decarbonization picking up steam. But for now, we must be clear-eyed in realizing that it takes an “all of the above” approach to meet our needs in the most environmentally responsible manner while also ensuring American energy is available, reliable and affordable. These goals require a more realistic approach to our current energy situation.
Now more than ever, the global energy market needs US energy, produced under the world’s tightest environmental laws and regulations. We can help, but only if we pass much-needed regulatory reform to clear unnecessary hurdles to production and the necessary infrastructure to deliver it.
With the next congressional class gearing up, the time is now for America’s leaders to act.