United States President Joe Biden has been scouring the planet in his quest to unearth additional global oil supplies after his move this week to ban Russian crude imports. Several European countries also promised to sever their dependence on Russian energy.
Indeed, about the only major oil-producing country outside Russia that Mr. Biden has not appealed to in recent days to boost supply is the one with which the United States shares the world’s longest undefended border.
In one of the most glaring examples of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face, Mr. Biden would rather court dictators in Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia than incur the wrath of the Democratic base by revisiting his decision to withdraw a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. Had he allowed construction of the pipeline to go ahead, instead of cancelling it on his first day in office, it would be ready soon to provide the U.S. with a secure alternative to Russian crude.
Instead, Mr. Biden sent a White House delegation to Caracas last week to begin talks with Venezuela’s authoritarian President Nicolas Maduro – whose treatment of political opponents has been as brutal as that of Russian President Vladimir Putin – aimed at lifting U.S. sanctions on the country’s state-owned oil company. No matter that an aide to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido told the Miami Herald that “to buy oil from Maduro is the same as buying oil from Putin.” Mr. Maduro, after all, has only remained in power mostly thanks to Russia’s largesse.
The Biden administration has also been scrambling to conclude a deal with Iran, one of four countries on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, that would see Washington lift sanctions on Iranian oil in exchange for a renewed undertaking to limit its nuclear program. The only problem is that Russia is a party to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, from which former president Donald Trump withdrew his country. And Russia appears to be in no hurry to sign a new deal, especially now that it, too, is the subject of punishing Western sanctions.
So, what about Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, respectively the world’s second- and seventh-largest oil producers? Well, their de facto leaders are not even taking Mr. Biden’s calls. Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman and UAE’s Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan have reportedly refused to talk to the U.S. President, even though both spoke recently to Mr. Putin.
The Saudi crown prince is still smarting from Mr. Biden’s declaration, during a 2020 presidential debate, that he found “very little redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia.” Mr. Biden further angered the Saudi leader by releasing a U.S. intelligence report on the crown prince’s involvement in the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Mr. Biden, whose Democrats face a bloodbath in fall midterm elections if gas prices continue to rise, may still get his wish to see Saudi Arabia, UAE and other OPEC countries spill more oil onto the global market. They are keenly aware that near-record crude prices threaten to push the global economy into a recession, which would be bad for business. And they don’t want to give drivers any more incentive to scrap their gas-powered cars for electric ones.
Still, Mr. Biden might not be pleading with dictatorships whose values run counter to our own to produce more oil now had former president Barack Obama, under whom he served as vice-president, not denied a permit for Keystone XL in the first place in 2015.
Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for pandering to progressives by cancelling a pipeline from Canada – a friendly, democratic neighbour – just to look environmentally conscious. But there is nothing virtuous about increasing the planet’s dependence on non-free-world oil. The myopia behind such decisions is clear now amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The same goes for previous German refusals to import liquefied natural gas from North America because of environmentalist opposition to hydraulic fracturing. Successive German governments chose instead to increase their country’s reliance on Russian gas. Those short-sighted decisions mean that Germany is unable to end its dependence on Russian energy now, undermining the impact of sanctions aimed at bringing Mr. Putin to his knees.
We are now witnessing the result of environmental policies conceived to curry favour with domestic political constituencies – policies that have had negligible or zero impact on overall greenhouse emissions – that also discounted their geopolitical consequences. It might be a good idea to avoid doing that again.
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