- - Monday, April 4, 2022

The war on Ukraine has sent economic shockwaves across the world. In response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, President Biden has frozen oil imports from Russia. Yet after releasing himself from the bear’s hug, Mr. Biden is now being forced into the arms of the OPEC+, oil-producing nations of Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The average American is having to face sky-rocketing fuel prices on the backdrop of record inflation, and they have Mr. Biden to thank for both.

Mr. Biden’s eye-watering amount of investment into the Green Revolution may have won him support in the hard left of the Democratic party. However, sole dependence on renewable energy is still far from being a feasible way to power America.

Mr. Biden has left America in a bind. If he really wants to decouple himself from the dictators he claims to oppose, then aiming for energy independence is his only option. If he fails to tap into America’s domestic oil reserves, Mr. Biden may well be the architect of America’s decline from relevance on the world stage.

On his first day in office, Mr. Biden wasted no time in destabilizing America’s energy portfolio. By pausing the Keystone Pipeline, he destroyed 11,000 American jobs and critically harmed America’s energy infrastructure. Similarly, Mr. Biden has withdrawn American support for the Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline.

This pipeline could have fundamentally strengthened the bargaining position of our allies in Europe. Germany is notoriously dependent on Russian energy supplies, making its resistance to the Ukrainian invasion even more precarious. The hypocrisy is terrible; the same U.S. failed to object to the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline only months earlier.

In reducing the reliance on one autocratic dictator, Mr. Biden is increasing dependence on all the others. With America’s ban on oil imports from Russia, combined with Mr. Biden’s refusal to continue relying on domestic energy sources, he has no choice but to run to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela to plead for more oil.

Ultimately, the America that Mr. Biden wants is one that can stand up for freedom and maintain its energy independence. That simply cannot happen when we trade reliance on one despot for another.

Of course, the Democratic rally cry is that we can use renewable energy to achieve the goal of energy independence. Everybody wants to protect our natural environment, but this shouldn’t be paid for solely by the American people. Under Mr. Biden’s watch, energy prices have increased 30% over the past year, the largest energy price increase since 2005.

Mr. Biden’s blunder should come as no surprise. His infrastructure bill, which aims to have solar plants alone making up 50% of America’s electricity by 2050, has a fatal flaw. For Mr. Biden’s political moonshot to work, we won’t only need record levels of investment in solar and wind farms themselves, we will need to upgrade the entire grid.

Unlike hydrocarbons, renewables do not supply a constant supply of energy; the wind has to blow, and the sun has to shine. For energy to travel from where it is generated to where it is consumed, the entire power cabling grid will need to be upgraded in order to carry the sheer volume of energy.

This comes with a host of problems. Thicker, more electrified cable lines are a huge forest fire risk; various Californian forest fires have been caused by power lines. This will become a far more common occurrence with power lines three times the size. Equally, these power lines will have to cross vast swathes of private land. NIMBYism (not in my backyard) could see huge, unpredictable delays to their construction or even approval process.

A future based entirely on renewable energy simply won’t decrease our dependence on our enemies, as many like to think. Renewable energy storage and creation rely heavily on batteries, and batteries require cobalt.

China understood this years ago. Congo has the largest cobalt reserves in the world, and as of last year, 15 of the 19 cobalt mines in the Congo are either financed or owned by Chinese companies.

Energy independence from renewable energy is not energy independence at all. The American power grid simply isn’t prepared for the renewable future. Even if it was, we’d then be forced to purchase our cobalt from China. We have to ask if this is the renewable future we really want.

The solution is obvious. The U.S. has more untapped oil reserves than both Russia and Saudi Arabia. Instead of begging dictators for energy or leaving the average American out in the cold, Mr. Biden should do the responsible thing by approving leases to drill for more domestic oil.

This will not only boost America’s energy independence. It will also give us a far stronger hand at the negotiating table when faced with our geopolitical rivals in the future.

Boosting America’s power, especially in the face of tyranny, goes hand in hand with true energy independence. As long as Mr. Biden continues to self-sabotage America’s energy production, we will remain subject to the whims of OPEC, and it’s the American people who will continue to pay the price.

• Ron Bauer is the co-founder and CEO of Trio Petroleum Corp, a California-focused oil and gas exploration and development company. He is also the managing partner and founder of Theseus Capital, a venture capital firm.

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