Actions speak louder than words. President Biden is saying he’s doing everything in his power to dissuade Russian President Vladimir Putin from pushing further into Ukraine, but his actions on energy policy and lack of energy independence are telling Putin he’s free to do as he wants.
On the eve of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission knee-capped American natural gas producers in world markets and strengthened Putin by catering to “woke” climate demands. Three Democrat commissioners voted for a new policy that would require new natural gas pipelines and export terminals to advance poorly defined (or impossible to define) environmental justice and climate goals. As the Wall Street Journal notes, the new FERC analysis can include upstream production and downstream consumption, which are difficult to measure, and will not take into account the net positive effects of burning cleaner burn gas over dirtier fossil fuels.
As Europe has shown, pursuing domestic climate targets and pandering to progressive climate activists is a dangerous and pointless shell game if the emissions are simply shifted to other producers (i.e. Russia). Putin has no incentive to back down when the West is pursuing an energy kill list in its own countries that benefits Russia.
Joe Manchin (D-WV) offered a blistering critique of FERC’s move. He said, the “reckless decision by FERC’s Democratic Commissioners puts the security of our nation at risk. The commission went too far by prioritizing a political agenda over their main mission — ensuring our nation’s energy reliability and security. The only thing they accomplished today was constructing additional roadblocks that further delay building out the energy infrastructure our country desperately needs. Energy independence is our greatest geopolitical and economic tool and we cannot lose sight of that as instability rises around the globe.”
Putin also understands this logic and is more than happy to let the West, and the Biden Administration, frame its self-pity and self-harm as self-righteous virtue-signaling.
In his statement defending the new policy, FERC Chairman Rich Glick said, “I believe today’s long overdue policy statements are essential to ensuring the Commission’s natural gas siting decisions are reflective of all stakeholder concerns and interests. We have witnessed the impact on pipeline projects when federal agencies, including the Commission, fail to fulfill their statutory responsibilities assessing the potential effects of a project on the environment, landowners and communities.”
It’s doubtful that Putin, who feels like his annexation of Ukraine is long overdue, is going to pause to conduct an environmental impact study of his actions.
President Biden responded to Putin’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Ukraine with limited economic sanctions and more actions have been promised. Germany finally took the long overdue step of cancelling the Nord Stream 2 pipeline after Putin moved into Ukraine and telegraphed his imperial ambitions in his bizarre and rambling speech. Yet, Putin may be paying far more attention to the fact that Biden has already imposed severe economic sanctions on the wrong country, the United States. Biden has already killed the Keystone Pipeline and is now letting Sen. Manchin fight a battle with FERC that he should be leading. If Biden wants to get Putin’s attention, he should immediately reverse both ill-timed and ill-conceived decisions and strengthen the US’s global energy position and energy independence.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, telegraphed Putin’s approach to energy policy in a snarky tweet:
“German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has issued an order to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Well. Welcome to the brave new world where Europeans are very soon going to pay €2.000 for 1.000 cubic meters of natural gas.”
If Biden wants to deter and frustrate Putin he needs to do everything in his power to immediately increase the supply of cleaner burning American gas. This is a step Russia fears, which they proved by financing environmentalists’ anti-fracking campaigns.
Biden needs to drop his energy kill list and tell his “woke” supporters that Putin’s irredentism – his dreams of lost imperial (Russian and Soviet) glory – is a vastly greater threat to the climate, current stability and future innovation (which is the key to combatting climate change) than increased American natural gas production.