Biden-Harris Oil Agenda

AP Howell, Contributing Writer

For the better part of his first term, President Biden has been relatively consistent with his oil and natural gas policies. As it goes, in Jan. 2021, the President signed a sweeping executive order to address several major points affecting the ongoing climate crisis. Amongst other initiatives, Executive Order 14008 put a temporary pause on the approval of new oil and natural gas licenses until a full review of the permitting process could be carried out by the Department of the Interior (DOI). 

The results of the assessment showed outdated approaches and practices that hurt federal taxpayers and state budgets. The 2021 report highlighted solutions such as raising royalty and bonding rates for onshore drilling, limiting the number of onshore drilling permits that the Bureau of Land Management can approve in a year, and improving the royalty rating terms for offshore drilling to take into account extenuating financial circumstances as well as the costs of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Though the report offers much more in terms of issues and solutions, the point stands that the Biden-Harris Administration kicked off their term with a giant step toward addressing American dependence on finite fossil fuel resources.

In 2022, amidst record high gas prices, the Biden White House released a statement of a notice of sale of 15 million barrels of crude oil from the United States’ Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The move did bring prices down at the pump, but according to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are now just over 300 million barrels of crude oil left in those reserves as of March 8, while 2021 saw a final inventory of just under 600 million barrels. The 2021 inventory was ​​equivalent to about 1,200 days of supply, which means we are currently sitting with roughly 600 days of supply at our current inventory levels.

This is both promising and quite scary. While it is a promising sign of America’s weaning off of fossil fuels, it is also a scarily dramatic move to make in the span of just one year in a nation that has been dependent on oil and natural gas for decades. Beyond that, it will almost certainly prove immensely difficult to convince 330 million people that renewable energy is now America’s only option.

Now, in 2023, the President is moving forward with two big plans to increase the U.S.’ petroleum reserves while simultaneously protecting as much of the natural flora and fauna in the Arctic regions of northern Alaska as possible. In March of this year, the Biden-Harris Administration, in partnership with ConocoPhillips, approved the more-than quarter-million dollar Willow project. The project, though drastically reduced in scale by DOI, is meant to stake America’s claim to Arctic oil found off the coast of the nation’s northernmost state. The second plan almost wholly counters the project in that it designates a little less than three million acres of the Arctic Ocean as “off limits for future oil and gas leasing,” according to DOI. 

Overall, while the Willow project seems to be the end of all hope for moving this country off of fossil fuels, it could very well prove to be the best course of action toward this goal, especially given the limits that DOI set from the very beginning which reduced the scale of the project by a dramatic 40 percent. The Administration’s background plan to protect as much of the area as possible from drilling is as good of an indicator as any that greater progress is on the horizon.

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