- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 8, 2023

President Biden‘s targeting of Big Oil during his State of the Union address Tuesday has acted as fuel to the fire for the partisan debate already raging on Capitol Hill over high energy costs and gasoline prices.

His targeting of the industry’s “outrageous” profits and concession that fossil fuels will continue to be vital “for at least another decade” drew scorn from Republicans on Wednesday as the House Natural Resources Committee debated how to improve American production of energy and critical minerals.

“We’ve seen an attack on the production of American oil and gas, and on American mining, which translates into an attack on the economy of America,” Rep. Bruce Westerman, Arkansas Republican and panel chairman, said. “There may be a narrative out there that … Republicans only care about the bottom line, that we don’t care about the environment. I would say that’s contrary to the truth. Republicans care about the environment and the economy.”

Mr. Biden‘s climate change agenda seeks to curb the use of fossil fuel, yet he has delivered contradicting messages for foreign and domestic producers to supply more oil to lower prices at the pump.

“We’re begging Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to produce more. So much for ‘made in America,’” Rep. Tom McClintock, California Republican, said. “If you’re upset about record profits for oil companies, that’s what’s making those record profits possible. When something is scarce, it becomes expensive. When it’s plentiful, it’s cheap.”

During his speech, the president knocked Big Oil’s 2022 profit bonanza that topped $200 billion by calling on it to boost output and be slapped with a heavier stock buyback tax to disincentive rewarding shareholders. The remarks came just minutes after he described climate change as “an existential threat” that must be met with more clean energy.

“Last year, [Big Oil] made $200 billion in the midst of a global energy crisis. I think it’s outrageous. Why? They invested too little of that profit to increase domestic production,” Mr. Biden said. “When I talked to a couple of them, they said, ‘We’re afraid you’re going to shut down all the oil wells and all the oil refineries anyway, so why should we invest in them?’ I said, ‘We’re going to need oil for at least another decade.’”

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the oil and natural gas lobbying firm Western Energy Alliance, testified to the House committee that the country will still be reliant on fossil fuel well beyond Mr. Biden‘s timeframe as the economy becomes increasingly electrified.

“I had to laugh when the president said that we’ll have oil and natural gas for the next 10 years,” Ms. Sgamma said. “We pick up the pace when wind and solar cannot provide any energy. We back up wind and solar. We enable wind and solar. When those [electric vehicles] need to run, they’re running on coal and natural gas.”

Rep. Raul Grijalva, Arizona Democrat and ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, countered that “buzz words” from Republicans and the fossil fuel industry like “unleashing” American energy are nothing more than “catchy slogans, and they lure us into a ‘drill, baby drill’ frenzy.”

The public sparring came in the wake of a separate House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on 17 Republican energy bills as part of the GOP’s legislative agenda to increase oil by curtailing environmental regulations, prompting criticism from Democrats that they’re seeking to dismantle Mr. Biden‘s climate achievements.

“[These industries] want to hoard more of our public lands, despite the fact that the fossil fuel industry already has thousands of approved permits across 26 million acres that they aren’t even using,” Mr. Grijalva said. “They want Republicans to do their bidding to make it happen, which they seem all too willing to do.”

• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at rtouchberry@washingtontimes.com.

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