In former President Donald Trump's final month in office, the United States achieved something it hadn't in more than a generation: In the final week of December, America didn't import a single drop of crude oil from Saudi Arabia for the first time in 35 years.
For many, it was a testament to Trump's America-first energy policy, which prioritized reliance on domestic production and drove global crude prices down below $50 a barrel for most of 2020 and U.S. gasoline prices to an average of about $2.30 in December.
The low prices throughout 2020 also crimped Russia's energy-dependent economy, leading to greater unrest in Moscow.
Now, a month into the Biden presidency, crude has jumped to $65 a barrel and U.S. gasoline to $2.72 per gallon due to a variety of geopolitical events. Economists and energy-state lawmakers alike fear it will continue to rise as the real impact of Democratic climate change regulation begins to be felt.
On his first day in office, Biden ordered the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada shut down, which unions said would cost 11,000 jobs. He also rejoined the Paris climate accord, froze new drilling on federal lands for 60 days, and nominated for secretary of the interior Congresswoman Deb Haaland, who has led efforts against oil and gas exploration in America, raising fears the drilling and fracking moratorium could become more permanent.
"Fracking is a danger to the air we breathe and water we drink," Haaland wrote in 2017, just before she was elected to Congress. "The auctioning off of our land for fracking and drilling serves only to drive profits to the few."
While energy prices depend on a variety of geopolitical factors — a drop in demand during the pandemic, for instance — there is growing consensus among economists that the Biden policies are likely to inhibit U.S. manufacturing growth and drive up energy prices in the long term while exciting environmentalists.
The Biden energy and climate plan "really exposed this schism between the blues and the greens in the Democratic Party," said Steve Moore, a Heritage Foundation economist who advised Trump. "The whole green agenda it turns out is anti-blue collar industrial workers."
Moore said one of the ironies is that the Biden agenda will aid Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran to the detriment of U.S. markets.
Oil- and gas-dependent economies like Russia thrive when crude is north of $70 per barrel, and they suffer when it falls below $50, experts said.
"There is no doubt in my mind that the irony of the Russia collusion nonsense was that there was no one who hurt Russia more than Trump and his America-first energy policies," Moore said. "Russia really is nothing more than a third world country, with oil and gas.
"Trump's pro-America energy policies were a disaster for Russia, and the truth is Biden is a godsend for Russia."
Former White House manufacturing policy chief Peter Navarro agreed.
"From both a foreign policy and energy policy perspective, you couldn't create a better American president for Russia than Joe Biden," Navarro said. "And it is ironic, given all the crap they threw at President Trump on Russia, Russia, Russia."
Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Monday he fears a long-term rebalancing of energy markets away from American sources to those of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
"In the name of climate change and in cradling the progressive, far left of our country, we are doing away with domestic production of oil," Steube said. "And then we're going to be forced as a country to purchase that from countries that are not our friends and allies. It makes absolutely no sense."
Steube said most Americans aren't getting enough information on how the Biden climate policy will aid Russia and other nations unfriendly to the U.S.
"The mainstream media is not going to talk about how the Biden administration is helping out Russia, by the things that they're doing as it relates to oil and gas," he said. "They're not going to talk about it."
Whether or not the news media addresses it, the energy industry already has. The American Petroleum Institute, the leading oil and gas trade group in the United States, recently completed a study showing that a longer-term ban on new federal energy leases could:
- Increase U.S. oil imports from foreign sources by 2 million barrels a day by 2030
- Decrease annual U.S. natural gas exports by 800 billion cubic feet by 2030
- Cut U.S. GDP by a cumulative $700 billion by 2030
- Cost nearly 1 million jobs by 2022
- Increase U.S. household energy costs by $19 billion by 2030
Navarro, who helped design Trump's policy of strategic energy dominance, said the true effect of Biden's climate policies will become more pronounced when the economy begins rebounding from the pandemic.
"When we get back to a robust economy, at the margins, we're going to have fewer jobs here in the oil patch, less competitive manufacturing and higher energy prices," he said.
While pro-Trump figures have been the most vocal about the impact of the Biden climate policies, the concerns are spread across academia and the ideological spectrum. Experts said the changes aren't likely to drive down U.S. energy usage, meaning higher prices and more foreign reliance in the long term, especially if the drilling ban becomes more permanent.
"This may not have the effect of reducing consumption," Stephen Barnes, director of the Blanco Public Policy Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, told The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge recently. "The global oil market may respond with higher prices and more sales for the Middle East and Russia.”rced to turn to foreign petroleum in order to keep running.