On Wednesday, Republicans from the House Oversight Committee and the Western Caucus held a joint forum on the impacts of the Biden administration’s policies on energy prices in America. The resounding message: If the United States wants to address high energy prices and supply chain shortages, stop pushing policies that would decrease federal oil and natural gas production.
In 2021, the average price of U.S. gasoline increased by more than $1.00 per gallon over the course of the year. Today, oil prices hit a seven-year high and rising energy costs are the primary driver of inflation.
The speakers identified several of the administration’s actions that preceded the price spike, including the cancellation of the expanded Keystone XL pipeline and an illegal ban on federal oil and natural gas leasing. A year into the administration’s ban on federal land leasing, members and panelists made it clear that these actions depress domestic supply, hurting American energy security and consumers.
Leslie Beyer, CEO of the Energy Workforce & Technology Council, provided a clear picture of the choices available to leaders in Washington to combat rising energy prices:
“The U.S. has enough energy to be totally self-sufficient. Our energy production grew by nearly 6 percent in 2019, while energy consumption decreased by 1 percent, with production exceeding consumption on an annual basis for the first time since 1957. Total energy production declined by 5 percent in 2020 but was still about 3 percent greater than consumption. Meanwhile, the EIA expects worldwide energy demand to grow 47 percent over the next three decades, with demand for natural gas growing 31 percent from 2020-2050.
“So our choice is simple: we can continue to produce American energy to satisfy the growing domestic and global demand and ensure that Americans have access to affordable, reliable, and abundant energy for years to come, or we can continue to play politics with a key element of our economy.”
Katie Tubb, Senior Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation, echoed Beyer’s concern that the administration’s policies are in conflict with the fundamentals of the energy market.
“Energy consumption fell 7 percent in 2020, and that’s the largest annual decrease since at least 1949. But, to pin high energy prices on the pandemic is to make a huge oversight. Policy is severely inhibiting the ability of Americans to recover.”
Historic inflation framed the discussion and focused the panel’s attention on the real consequences of high energy costs. Thomas Pyle, President of the American Energy Alliance, described the disproportionate impacts of high energy costs on low-income consumers:
“These problems aren’t going away any time soon, and constituents are going to get hit. Especially the poorest among us, who pay the highest percentage of their monthly income to meet their energy needs – it’s 30 percent in the lowest income brackets. That means people will need to make choices between heat and medicine, or food, or a vacation.”
Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma, underscored how halting production of oil and gas on federal lands constricts supply and raises prices:
“When we don’t produce the 9 percent of U.S. gas and 8 percent of oil that comes from federal lands, then that just raises prices for your constituents and your district.”
When asked by Representative Comer (R-KY) what should be done about rising energy prices, Tubb urged Congress to assert its jurisdiction over activities taking place on federal lands:
“First, you need supply, so we have to talk about the federal lands issue. If the Biden administration is trying to totally overhaul the purpose of federal lands without the direction of Congress, that’s a problem that Congress ought to be engaged in.”
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