U.S. oil and gas industry critical of Biden administration’s plan to ease Venezuela sanctions

Advocates for domestic oil and gas are asking why President Joe Biden will facilitate foreign production while his policies at home drive up costs for U.S. producers. Critics say "Joe Biden will always prefer Tehran over Texas and Caracas over Carlsbad."

Published: October 17, 2023 11:00pm

The Biden administration is in talks with the Venezuelan government, and if an agreement can be reached, the U.S. would ease Trump-era sanctions on the condition the socialist country hold freer elections next year, The Washington Post reports.

For American oil and gas producers, the news is a bitter pill to swallow. President Joe Biden campaigned on a promise to “end fossil fuels,” and since taking office, his administration and the Democrats have taken many actions against the domestic industry.

Tim Stewart, president of the U.S. Oil and Gas Association, told Just The News that it’s ironic that these actions are taken in the name of combating climate change, but Venezuelan oil and gas operations are some of the most polluting in the world.

“Here in the U.S., the Biden administration has aggressively gone after the US producers for methane emissions in an effort to drive up our costs while doing everything it can to bring more Venezuelan production online from an oil and gas industry that is a Marxist, state-owned enterprise,” Stewart said.

Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., criticized the president’s energy policies issuing a statement that said Biden was "putting America last". In the statement, Barrasso said Biden killed the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office. A week later, he blocked new federal oil and gas leasing, and during his term, he sold off 40% of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, taking it to its lowest level in 40 years.

“Meanwhile, he eased sanctions on Iran, which funds terrorism across the Middle East. Now with Israel under attack, Biden is desperate for anything to mask the consequences of his reckless policies. His latest gimmick is to ease sanctions on Nicolas Maduro’s brutal regime in Venezuela. America should never beg for oil from socialist dictators or terrorists. For the sake of our energy workers and our allies, Joe Biden must work with us to unleash American energy,” Barrasso said.

Daniel Turner, executive director of Power The Future, said in a statement that the news of the deal between Venezuela and the U.S. comes less than three weeks after Biden’s Interior announced it would hold the fewest offshore oil and gas lease sales in the history of the United States.

“The pathetic pattern of Joe Biden’s energy policy continues: attack American energy production while begging foreign powers to produce more oil,” Turner said. “Joe Biden has never met a foreign barrel of oil he doesn’t like. By now, it should be abundantly clear that Joe Biden will always prefer Tehran over Texas and Caracas over Carlsbad.”

According to the Post, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s 2018 election victory has been widely viewed as fraudulent. Citing unnamed sources, the Post reported, as part of the agreement to ease sanctions, Maduro would agree to lift a ban on opposition candidates. The unnamed sources also told the Post that the deal did not include plans to unfreeze Venezuelan assets currently held in the United States. 

The report quoted a U.S. official stating that neither the Biden administration or the Venezuelan government have committed to anything so far, but the Norwegian Embassy in Mexico confirmed the negotiation meetings in a post on X Monday. The Norwegian government is facilitating the talks.

“The United States welcomes the announcement by Maduro representatives and the Unitary Platform to resume Venezuelan-led negotiations in Barbados. Along with like minded partners and other friends of Venezuela, the United States will continue its efforts to unite the international community in support of the Venezuelan-led negotiation process,” Matthew Miller, state department spokesperson, said in a statement.

According to Fox News, in 2019, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the Venezuelan oil industry after the 2018 election, which ended with disputes between opposition leader Juan Guaido and Maduro. The U.S. government officially recognized Guaido to be the nation’s interim president in 2019.

After the sanctions were enacted, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, crude oil imports from Venezuela dropped from 634,000 barrels per day in January 2019 to 11,000 barrels per day by May. By June, no crude oil was being imported from Venezuela.

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