Late author David Foster Wallace wrote: “The great thing about irony is that it splits things apart, gets up above them so we can see the flaws and hypocrisies and duplicates.”
On day one of his administration, President Joe Biden placed an indefinite moratorium on federal oil and gas leasing pending the conclusion of a review of the leasing program. According to news reports, the administration is seeking to use that review to “update the fees, rents, royalties, and bonding requirements related to development and production.” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has asserted that these increases are designed to ensure the communities in which these resources are produced are properly compensated.
The irony of that assertion is that if the ban is eventually lifted after the review is released, a wave of government rules and regulations will only make it more difficult to produce oil and natural gas in the United States. Oil and natural gas companies have options when it comes to development plans, and the federal government, either overtly and intentionally or by way of gross miscalculation, will make federal lands much less competitive for oil and gas activity and their attendant financial windfall.
The impact of a ban or a regulatory onslaught will be far-reaching. According to Interior data, in 2019, oil and natural gas production on federal lands generated $98 million in tax revenue for Utah, and in the top 10 Western Slope Colorado counties – where the majority of the state’s federal lands are located – $90 million. Other Western states would be impacted, too like Wyoming ($833 million) and New Mexico ($1.5 billion).
That revenue funds all types of vital public services like education, health care, public safety, transportation, outdoor recreation and infrastructure. If the ban on federal lands becomes permanent, then students, patients and local communities will suffer the consequences.
The deep vein of irony running through the administration’s treatment of American oil and natural gas production doesn’t end there, far from it. On Jan. 25, President Biden announced an executive order directing federal government procurement “to maximize the use of goods, products, and materials produced in, and services offered in, the United States. The United States Government should, whenever possible, procure goods, products, materials, and services from sources that will help American businesses compete in strategic industries and help America’s workers thrive.”
With this edict in mind, why, in the face of rising gasoline prices, did the Biden Administration on July 5 practically beg Russia and OPEC to produce more oil with the goal of stabilization? A recent story in Bloomberg proves illustrative.
“Even though the U.S. isn’t a party to the talks, it’s ‘closely monitoring the OPEC+ negotiations and their impact on the global economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic,’ a White House spokesperson said Monday. ‘Administration officials have been engaged with relevant capitals to urge a compromise solution that will allow proposed production increases to move forward.’”
The story goes on to note: “Biden wants Americans to have access to affordable and reliable energy, including at the pump, the White House officials said. As the U.S. economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s critical that energy supplies keep pace, which requires stable oil market conditions, they said.”
Why the administration seeks to stifle development of domestic oil and natural gas development which not only helps to keep costs down for consumers, but has the added benefit of fortifying the economy and providing robust jobs in Utah and Western Colorado remains a mystery. Even more perplexing is the stated desire for other countries to increase production, knowing no country on earth produces the resources we so obviously need cleaner, more responsibly, or with more environmental protections than the United States. The irony is clear.
But simply pointing out the irony is not our goal. As leaders in two key Western energy-producing states, we’re committed to producing the oil and natural gas our economy needs, supporting jobs and state budgets, and protecting the environment. But we cannot do that when the Biden administration creates policies contrary to its own stated goals.
We can produce the energy we need while protecting our environment and emboldening our economy. All without a trace of irony.
Rikki Hrenko Browning is the president of Utah Petroleum Association.
Chelsie Miera is the executive director of West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association.