Brent Been

The Biden administration has recommended reforms in oil and gas leasing. The idea is to limit public land area for energy development as a new White House report has said the Bureau of Land Management should focus only on areas that have moderate to high potential for oil and gas resources.

The White House is also recommending oil and gas companies pay a higher cost for drilling on public land. The federal royalty rate of 12.5 percent that oil and gas companies pay hasn't been hiked in 100 years, and that rate is lower than what states and private landowners charge. And because attorneys generals in Republican-led states were successful in federal courts, lease sales are being conducted. In the Gulf recently, all the major American energy giants transacted a $192 million deal to drill for crude beyond 2030, the target date for the Biden administration's goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent.

This is a middle-ground approach that includes raising rates and limiting land and water for energy production. The $1.85 Build Back Better bill includes provisions that ban drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and areas along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, but allows the energy giants to continue to lease land for drilling. More lease sales are expected to occur in some of the Western states.

And while President Joe Biden's climate policies could impact pump prices down the road, nothing he has done in the past 11 months has caused the surge in gasoline prices. Demand for oil cratered in 2020 due to pandemic restrictions, and domestic oil production declined. The reopening of the economy with restrictions lifted has resulted in demand outpacing supply. There are variables that affect the price you pay for gas, including how much crude oil Iran produces and if OPEC countries stick with their agreements on oil production. Earlier this fall, OPEC and its allies agreed to increase production to 400,000 barrels a day through the end of 2021.

The market forces and the cost of crude itself, along with the cost of refining, marketing, and distributing, have the largest impact on the price of gasoline. Yet, there are many who choose to cling to a belief that somehow the Biden administration, or the blueprint of the Green New Deal, are to blame for rising pump prices. Biden tapped into the strategic petroleum reserve and OPEC is increasing production. The price of gasoline is already coming down, but those who oppose the current administration will not credit the president for his immediate action regarding pump prices.

It is easy to affix blame on pump prices to a particular administration. For example, neither the halting of an expansion of the Keystone Pipeline, nor any provisions regarding climate change in the Build Back Better agenda, are responsible for the recent spike in gasoline prices. The MAGA crowd who chant "Let’s go, Brandon" will not be able to provide any accurate reasons for the pump prices.

For voters of that ilk, it is easier to assign blame to the leader currently occupying the Oval Office while those same voters turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to what actually results in the rise in consumer gasoline prices. These are the same voters who believed Sean Hannity when he said the U.S. didn't import a single barrel of oil from Saudi Arabia during pre-pandemic times.

Ultimately, what people should blame Biden for is having a well-crafted policy that will have real-world impact for America’s energy future.

Brent Been is a Tahlequah educator with an emphasis on civics and history.

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