President Joe Biden, that supposed proponent of green infrastructure, surprised many environmentally conscious folks on Wednesday. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan issued a statement asking for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to pump more oil.
Why? In a classic wish for instant gratification, Biden’s White House is choosing the short-term goal of keeping gas prices down over the long-term goal of an inhabitable planet.
“Higher gasoline costs, if left unchecked, risk harming the ongoing global recovery,” Sullivan’s statement read, in part. “The price of crude oil has been higher than it was at the end of 2019, before the onset of the pandemic.”
So, can you increase fossil fuel production while simultaneously cutting emissions? Uh, no. Expanding fossil fuel capacity is not part of any plan to reach net zero by 2050. We can’t have it both ways.
But the problem is that it’s hard to focus on long-term planet goals when so many Americans are a few hundred bucks away from disaster. In May, the national average gas price increased to over three dollars per gallon for the first time since 2014. As gas prices rise, households have less money to spend on other useful things, like food and bills.
Sarah Hunt, CEO of the Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy, tweeted that Biden’s OPEC request is an example of the fact that “we are not going to choose a habitable planet tomorrow over quality of life today.” In another tweet, she said, “People want cheap energy more than they want clean energy. People don’t want cheap energy produced in their backyard.”
Biden also managed to irritate conservatives, who want energy jobs in the U.S. rather than increasing reliance on overseas fossil fuels. According to Hunt, the only answer “is to innovate for better energy with fewer externalities.”
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