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As the Russia-Ukraine crisis continues to unfold, there had been mounting pressure for the Biden administration to ban energy imports from Russia and to rely on resources within the U.S. rather than turn to other authoritarian nations like Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia for oil, all while prices at the pump have reached record numbers and were increasing long before the invasion.
However, the Times declared Republicans “wrongly blame Biden” for the soaring gas prices.
“As gas prices hit a high this week, top Republican lawmakers took to the airwaves and the floors of Congress with misleading claims that pinned the blame on President Biden and his energy policies,” Times fact-check reporter Linda Qiu wrote Wednesday. “While Republican lawmakers supported the ban, they asserted that the pain at the pump long preceded the war in Ukraine. Gas price hikes, they said, were the result of Mr. Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, the temporary halt on new drilling leases on public lands and the surrendering of ‘energy independence’ — all incorrect assertions.”
Qiu quoted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who accused the Biden administration of wanting to “ramp up energy imports Venezuela and Iran” than “buy from Texas, Alaska and Pennsylvania,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who pointed to Biden canceling construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and halting new oil and gas leases, as well as former Vice President Mike Pence, who touted “energy independence” under the Trump administration and blamed the current administration’s actions for the surging gas prices.
“These claims are misleading,” Qiu wrote in bold text. “The primary reason for rising gas prices over the past year is the coronavirus pandemic and its disruptions to global supply and demand.” She then cited GasBuddy petroleum analyst Patrick De Haan, who said, “The pandemic brought us to our knees” and pointed to production of U.S. oil which fell in the final months of the Trump presidency. De Haan also told the Times that Biden’s actions on U.S. energy played a “very, very small role pushing gas prices up.”
Energy Intelligence oil market researcher Abhiram Rajendran knocked the Biden administration for the “pretty stark miscalculation” of U.S. supply to maintain affordable energy prices but similarly said Biden and all presidents have “very little impact on short-term supply.”
After writing global demand outpaced supply “mostly attributable” to OPEC’s decision to limit increases in production and that the Russia-Ukraine conflict “has only compounded the issues,” Qiu summarized, “These factors are largely out of Mr. Biden’s control, experts agreed, though they said he had not exactly sent positive signals to the oil and gas industry and its investors by vowing to reduce emissions and fossil fuel reliance.”
Qiu touted the Biden administration’s “urging” of American companies to ramp up energy production, citing comments in December from Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who told oil companies to “please take advantage of the leases that you have, hire workers, get your rig count up.” She later highlighted that the Biden administration approved “34 percent” more energy permits than the Trump administration in its first year, according to the Center of Biological Diversity.
The Times fact-checker also dismissed claims U.S. had “energy independence” under Trump, pointing to Energy Information Administration’s projection before he took office that the U.S. would become net energy exporter in the 2020s. She then pointed to the estimated 7.9 million barrels of crude oil imported into the U.S. per day.
On the subject of the Keystone XL pipeline, Qiu suggested even if Biden had reversed its decision, it would take several years for it to be operational and that supply chain issues and labor shortages would further delay production.