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Democrats snub invitation to participate in hearing on the impact of Biden’s energy policies

“We firmly believe that fossil fuels drive immense benefits for our company, consumers, the American economy, and ultimately, the world. We do not apologize for it,” Ron Gusek, president of Liberty Energy, told the committee.

Published: April 23, 2024 11:00pm

A House Oversight and Accountability subcommittee field hearing in Texas Tuesday examined President Joe Biden’s anti-fossil fuel policies and the impact they have on America’s energy industry and on those employed by it.

The goal of the hearing, according to Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Texas, chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs, was to have a serious discussion about energy from a panel of oil and gas industry leaders.

Fallon said that all 15 members of the subcommittee were invited to attend the hearing, but not a single Democrat accepted the invitation.

“It's unfortunate and sad, but also very telling that there's not a Democrat that accepted this invitation. Because I think, unfortunately, there's many people in the course of the political discourse that don't want to have a serious conversation or energy,” Fallon said.

No apologies

The witnesses included Ron Gusek, president of Liberty Energy. In 2021, Liberty Energy made headlines when it criticized outdoor apparel retailer The North Face for refusing to sell apparel with the logo of Innovex Downhole Solutions, an oil firm.

Liberty Energy launched a campaign that pointed out North Face's clothes actually consist of polyester and other synthetic materials, virtually all of which are derived from petroleum. The campaign included videos and billboards thanking North Face for being such a great customer of the oil and gas industry.

The company also puts out an environment, social and governance (ESG) statement called “Bettering Human Lives,” which asserts that the energy Liberty produces is integral to human flourishing.

“We firmly believe that fossil fuels drive immense benefits for our company, consumers, the American economy, and ultimately, the world. We do not apologize for it,” Gusek told the committee.

Fossil fuels, Gusek said, more than doubled human life expectancy in the past 100 years when the globe has exponentially increased its use of them, while lifting billions out of poverty. He called this the “hockey stick in human well being.” This is a reference to Dr. Michael Mann’s controversial “hockey stick graph” that Mann says shows a rapid increase in temperatures in the last 30 years, after a period of temperature declines.

“But a willful ignorance of this reality is driving politically motivated attacks on our industry that will impoverish American consumers and ultimately the world,” Gusek said.

He said that over the past several years, “climate idealists in their allies in the Biden administration have nuanced a whole government attack on energy production.” He explained that the method employed is a series of interlocking rulemaking that’s spread across time and agencies, which thwart legal challenges and maximize the chances of their success.

“Their hope is there are so many regulations and that each individually is small enough that they will fly under the radar,” Gusek said.

Gusek listed some of the state and federal regulations to illustrate what he calls interlocking rulemaking: the Security and Exchange Commission’s climate disclosure rule, California’s climate disclosure rule, the Department of Labor’s Employee Retirement Income Security Act ESG rule, Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council greenhouse gas and sustainability government procurement rules, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s methane rule and power plant rule.

He also said that the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are regularly weaponized to prevent pipeline construction.

“The Biden administration has put out hundreds of regulations filling tens of thousands of pages of the Federal Register. That amounts to death for the energy industry by a thousand cuts,” Gusek said.

Tim Tarpley, president of the Energy Workforce and Technology Council, talked about other areas in which the Biden administration has attacked the industry. This includes a five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program that offers the lowest amount of leases in the history of the program, and the pause on liquified natural gas export permits.

Lag time

While Democrats passed on the invitation to the Economic Growth subcommittee field hearing, Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove, D-Calif., was present at a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing last week on the impact of the Biden administration’s energy policies on the offshore oil industry.

Kamlager-Dove said that it was the eighth hearing the subcommittee has called on offshore oil and gas development. She argued that the amount of attention was disproportionate to any problem the industry faces, as America is producing more oil and gas than any nation in history.

“You would be forgiven for thinking the oil and gas industry is in some kind of crisis in immediate need of government assistance and intervention. But let’s be clear, nothing could be further from the truth,” Kamloger-Dove said.

The industry experts who testified at the hearing said that looking at record-high production levels ignores the increase in energy demand that’s expected to occur over the next decades and the lag time between a regulatory action and impacts on the industry.

Nikki Martin, president and CEO of EnerGeo Alliance, said that energy demand across the globe is expected to rise by 34% by 2050. To meet this demand, the world will need to discover about 17.5 billion barrels of oil per year, in addition to the resources already discovered. Last year, Martin said, only 5 billion were discovered globally.

Martin explained that the uncertainty of the regulatory process is undermining investment in searching out these discoveries.

Andy McConn, director of commercial intelligence at Enverus, testified that the company’s forecasts estimate that, with the current slate of approved projects, the Gulf region can keep oil production near flat for only about two years, and exploration drilling, which is needed to replenish discoveries and maintain growth, has been declining at an annual rate of 14% since 2014.

This is especially concerning, McConn said, because the onshore shale regions that are supplying the bulk of America’s oil and gas production hold only about 10 years of economically attractive drilling inventory.

“We believe the global oil market is structurally under supplied for the long term,” McConn said.

The lag time between the finalizing of rules in the impacts on the industry was also discussed at the Economic Growth subcommittee hearing. Tarpley said that offshore projects are planned out eight to 10 years.

“The financial decisions that were made to get those projects going were made a long time ago,” Tarpley said, and it’s much shorter for onshore projects.

Whole picture and politicization

Fallon said that when it comes to energy “we’re not seeing the whole picture.” He told the story of when energy expert Alex Epstein was invited to testify at an Oversight Committee hearing in May. Epstein had offered to give his book "Fossil Future" to members of the committee, Fallon said, but none of the Democratic members would even accept a copy.

During the hearing, Cori Bush, D-Mo., accused Epstein of espousing “white supremacists views” because he argued in a college essay some 20 years ago that Western cultures that embrace liberty and individuality were superior to those that reject those values.

Fallon compared the anti-fossil fuel movement, which he said vilifies the oil and gas industry, to that of the “defund the police” movement that followed the death of George Floyd in 2020, which vilified law enforcement.

“The left was turning the good guys into the bad guys and calling the bad guys the good guys. I think we’re in danger of doing that here with energy,” Fallon said.

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