The global energy crisis proves that after COP26, a new American policy is expected
with the president Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden’s approval near record high amid economic frustration: Barr poll says Trump ‘lost his grip’ in upcoming Capitol police memoir to reinstall fence for speech on government State of the Union MOREWith approval ratings slipping to a dismal 38%, his administration is desperate for victories and success. The US government’s deployment to COP26 — six ministers and a massive entourage — was meant to bolster support for Biden, especially among the Democratic base. Instead, in the midst of a global energy crisis, the president found himself asking OPEC+ to boost oil production – just days after re-engaging the United States in climate leadership. The Biden administration must now reconcile the Democrats’ green agenda with the harsh reality ahead.
At the start of the pandemic, oil production naturally declined. However, now that demand has increased, supply is lagging behind, causing gasoline and natural gas prices to spike. Despite pleas from Europe and the United States, OPEC and its partners have rejected Biden’s call for an increase in production, retorting instead that if the United States thinks the world economy has need more oil then they would have to pump it themselves.
The OPEC+ alliance, made up of OPEC members led by Saudi Arabia and non-members led by Russia, opted for a gradual production increase of 400,000 barrels per day for the month of December. OPEC+ is reluctant to increase supply and therefore lower prices, as its government coffers were hit hard last year.
The supply squeeze pushed Brent crude to a three-year high of $86.70 last month. This restriction has exacerbated an already global energy crisis, which is mainly due to increased demand and supply chain problems. We have seen electricity rationing in most Chinese provinces and a highly polluting switch from gas to coal across Europe. Biden has demonstrated he has limited power over OPEC. As U.S. oil production falls to its lowest level in two years, the Biden administration’s ability to fend off the cartel’s pricing power is being tested.
Faced with energy shortages, pragmatism must triumph over ideology.
By calling for more hydrocarbon production, Biden sent a message to environmental activists that the energy transition requires realism, dictated by what is, not what is desirable.
If the United States continues to cede its influence and refuses to increase production when necessary, we put ourselves and our allies at great risk. Declining oil and gas production in the United States puts our European allies, who rely heavily on large-scale oil and gas pipelines from Russia, at increasing risk amid growing tensions over the migration crisis in the Polish-Belarusian border. European lawmakers have previously suggested that Russia deliberately cut gas flows to the EU, during an ongoing energy crisis, to ensure certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
The Biden administration must recognize the need for reliable and affordable energy baseload to keep America running. Unfortunately, renewables are simply unable to provide this at the moment. Intermittency and storage issues remain unresolved and are at least two decades away from viable solutions. These aspirations, while they must be pursued, cannot preclude the need to provide the United States and Europe with affordable and reliable energy today. Over-reliance on countries like Russia, Iran and Venezuela for oil and gas would work against US interests and those of its allies.
The infrastructure to face the moment exists, but it is threatened by an ideology that ignores science, data and reality. Under the Obama administration, cheap natural gas quickly replaced coal, leading the United States to have one of the lowest emissions in the world. The hydraulic fracturing revolution has made the United States the world’s largest producer of natural gas and oil and one of the leading exporters. Although natural gas is not emission-free, the transition to renewable energy cannot happen overnight.
Soaring heating bills threaten to cripple American families this winter. Existing natural gas infrastructure should not be abandoned, but rather used to maintain our energy supply while reducing emissions and investing in renewable energy. Nor should the thousands of workers who work in the gas industry risk a fate similar to that of West Virginia coal miners. The continued use of natural gas today will provide us with the economic growth and stability needed to support the energy transition underway.
Biden should also take this opportunity to resurrect another reliable and massive energy source: nuclear power. Since Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterWestern sanctions don’t hurt Putin – they make him stronger Bob Beckel dies at 73 The lure of ‘strong and evil’ MORE, the failure of both parties to revive nuclear energy is myopic. Nuclear power plants produce minimal emissions and generate far more electricity on less land than any other clean energy source. A typical 1,000 megawatt facility needs just over a square mile to operate, while wind farms, for example, require 360 times as much space to produce the same amount of electricity. Workers at nuclear facilities also earn, on average, higher wages than those at renewables like wind and solar.
Despite this, nuclear power’s share of electricity generation in the United States could drop from 19% in 2020 to just 11% by 2050, given current trends. The recently passed infrastructure bill provides nearly $2.5 billion for nuclear reactors and includes $6 billion to subsidize currently operating plants facing economic difficulties. It’s a good start, but it’s not enough. For a president who is committed to leading a pro-science administration, overcoming nuclear regulatory hurdles, long construction timelines and fierce competition from other countries should be paramount.
COP26 had two major achievements: commitments to stop deforestation and reduce methane emissions. However, today, the needed climate leadership can be very different from the green dreams that many expect. Following the climate summit, the Biden administration is expected to pull a page from the book of previous administrations. Climate policy must be pragmatic, aiming to move our economy towards greater decarbonization on a sector-by-sector and technology-by-technology basis, while bolstering the current baseload through natural gas and nuclear.
If the recent elections in Virginia can tell us anything, it’s that political parties aren’t always accurate when it comes to gauging popular opinion. Real leaders should prioritize what all Americans want: access to abundant, affordable, and reliable energy and a vibrant economy. Only this will ensure that America can lead on the climate – and the world – for years to come.