Biden Is in Climate Denial
Kimberly A. Strassel, The Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2022
Even the European left understands what the Ukraine invasion means for fossil fuels.
Republicans know it. The European left knows it. Joe Manchin knows it. Even some of the Beltway press knows it. Now let’s see how long it takes Joe Biden to recognize that the Ukraine war has reset energy politics and that his climate agenda risks dooming his party this fall.
He certainly hasn’t sussed it out yet. The Joe Biden who showed up Monday at his first in-person fundraiser as president sounded like a man in a time warp. “Let me begin by saying: [Climate change] is the existential threat to humanity,” he opened, proceeding to recite an environmental agenda identical to the one he campaigned on. Ukraine got one mention, and only then as further reason why Americans (among other things) need to “weatherize homes and businesses.”
His administration is similarly proceeding as if Vladimir Putin weren’t exploiting his energy dominance to kill Ukrainians. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently announced a new pipeline review policy that will stop most projects. The White House continues its near moratorium on new leases to drill on federal land and its block of Alaskan drilling. The president announced he’ll attempt to impose his Green New Deal via executive order. The House Progressive Caucus this week offered ideas, calling on him to “declare a national climate emergency,” and use it to ban “fossil fuel leases,” and force companies to build renewables under the Defense Production Act.
Across the pond, things look exactly opposite. The Europeans have embraced the climate religion with a fervor to rival Bernie Sanders. Yet Mr. Putin’s shocking violence in Ukraine—his willingness to wield energy as a weapon—sobered the Continent overnight. No one is giving up on renewables, but nobody is any longer pretending they are the basis of energy reliability or security. Fossil fuels will remain for decades a currency of global power, and Russia’s invasion highlights the stupidity of being broke.
Germany’s government is stockpiling coal and expediting terminals for liquefied natural gas. Europe is working to get more gas through pipelines from Norway and Azerbaijan. Poland plans new nuclear plants. The U.K. may restart onshore fracking and ramp up North Sea drilling. Norway plans to expand Arctic exploration.
Sen. Manchin gets the shift, and this week he deep-sixed Mr. Biden’s nominee to the Federal Reserve, the anti-fossil-fuel Sarah Bloom Raskin, saying that at this “historic moment” the U.S. needs policy leaders focused on the most pressing issues— “specifically rising inflation and energy costs.” Republicans are flooding the zone with ideas to accelerate fossil-fuel production, and even the pro-Biden media is beginning to fret about the president’s failure to see what’s happening.
While European leaders and Republicans are moving to address substantive geopolitical shifts, they also understand the politics. Gasoline and heating prices have been fleecing consumer wallets since Mr. Biden took office. He can try to lay off the more recent rise on “Putin’s price hike,” but polls consistently show voters blame high energy prices and inflation on the administration.
The inconvenient truth is that Mr. Biden’s climate agenda—no matter how much the liberal press wants to differ—has never been popular. It’s a concoction of the party’s progressive left and radical activist groups. A recent survey from Democratic pollster Impact Research of likely voters in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Arizona (three states with Senate races this year) found that 78% had a favorable view of natural gas, and only 22% want an energy policy that looks like the Green New Deal.
And voters aren’t buying Mr. Biden’s argument that the response to Russia should be to double down on his climate visions. In a HarrisX poll this week, nearly 70% of voters said “yes” to the question of whether, in light of Russia’s attack, the administration should “ease its focus on climate change and allow more oil and natural gas exploration.” They want energy and economic security, not electric-car charging stations.
The other risk to Democrats sticking their heads in the non-tar sands is that they make the situation worse substantively as well as politically. Desperate to remain on climate autopilot, Mr. Biden and other Democrats are now trying to blame higher prices on Big Oil and Big Gas and debating a windfall profits tax—a move that would depress production and further raise prices. Democratic governors are clamoring for a federal gasoline-tax holiday, but it’s a gimmick that would only temporarily mask true prices and may not count for much in any event.
Which gets to the heart of the problem. Democrats want to make the problem go away without addressing its roots. Russia’s invasion has forced energy security to the center of the political debate, where it is likely to stay through the midterms. Voters will cast ballots for candidates who prove they understand the problem and have a plan for fixing it. Democrats who continue to wallow in platitudes about an “existential” climate crisis may find themselves out of jobs.