By Larry Bell
President Joe Biden has a strange strategy to protect us against the world’s greatest existential threat.
I’m referring, of course, to climate change.
Joe launched the Democratic party’s campaign against planet-ravaging American petroleum use and export on his very first day in office by capping off the Keystone XL pipeline at the Canadian border, costing approximately 11,000 workers in the United States their jobs, and preventing 830,000 barrels of oil per day of oil from flowing to American refineries. That same day, he placed moratoriums on oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters.
Biden Okay’s Russian Pipeline
In the light of Biden’s domestic actions restricting fossil fuel production, his prior complaints previous President Donald Trump was too chummy with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and his professed concern for the climate, it is remarkably paradoxical Biden decided to lift Trump’s sanctions on the corporate entity and its CEO who are overseeing the construction of Russia’s Arctic Gazprom Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea into Germany?
Didn’t Biden promise to draw a contrast between himself and Trump by vowing there would be no more “rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions?”
Biden’s actions seem bizarrely out of touch with his position on climate change and with U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken’s confirmation hearing statement, “I am determined to do whatever we can to prevent that completion” of Nord Stream 2.
Biden, Not Trump, Rewards Putin
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the top-Republican on foreign affairs, characterized Nord Stream 2 as “a Russian malign influence project that threatens to deepen Europe’s energy dependence on Moscow, render Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian aggression and provide billions of dollars to Putin’s coffers.’
Even a member of Biden’s own party, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said in a statement: “I urge the administration to rip off the Band-Aid, lift these waivers and move forward with the congressionally mandated sanctions.”
Pipeline completion, which may occur this summer without intervention, will give Putin enormous leverage in Europe. Russia has a long record of withholding critical supplies to neighbors during disputes, including cutting off gas to Ukraine.
Odd Cyberattack Response
The timing for lifting the sanctions is particularly ironic, occurring just weeks following a Russian-origin ransomware cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline which left thousands of gasoline stations across the eastern United States with fuel shortages.
Although U.S. officials have stated that they don’t believe the Russian government was directly responsible, in Russia, China and elsewhere, the line between criminal hacking groups and state-backed cyber operations is often murky.
As discussed in my book, Cyberwarfare: Targeting America, Our Infrastructure, and Our Future, governments often recruit hackers and services from deniably independent groups to carry out their own objectives.
Paris Reversal Rewards Putin
Russia, one of the world’s three largest oil producers and second biggest natural gas exporter, is also be a big winner from Biden administration’s reversal of Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. from the 2015 Paris climate accord.
With an economy smaller than Italy’s, oil and gas provides 40 to 50 percent of the government’s operating budget, 55 to 60 percent of the country’s export earnings, and an estimated 30 percent of Russia’s GDP.
Accordingly, those oil and gas revenues are key to financing Russia’s global military power and projecting Moscow’s presence as an important supply source to China and other import-dependent nations.
Meanwhile, Nord Stream 2 natural gas supplies will be a big boon to another big Paris party, the European Union (EU), most particularly to its big economic powerhouse, Germany.
In attempting to meet its carbon emission reduction commitments, Germany installed more wind capacity than any other EU nation and ranked as third largest in the world by 2018.
Between 1999 and 2013, Germany also installed more solar capacity than any other nation, much of it imported from China. Of the two, solar was 40 percent less efficient than wind.
As a result, 40 million German households experienced and estimate 50 percent rise in the prices they paid for electricity between 2006 and 2015.
Through 2014, because of Germany’s shift to wind and solar power, large businesses and industrial users paid approximately one-quarter more for electricity than the average for businesses in the rest of the EU.
Along with spiraling costs, adding intermittent wind and solar electricity also challenged power reliability. Up until 2008, Germany’s grid had never been interrupted. In 2012 there were 1,000 brownouts, followed by more than 2,500 in 2013.
Sometimes wind or solar generate more power than the grid can safely handle or that its consumers can use. This has necessitated Germany having to pay Switzerland and the Netherlands to take “garbage power” off their grid.
In short, the Biden administration’s energy agenda will benefit Russia, while ending America’s energy independence and our energy resource advantage that has stimulated over $200 billion of investment in new factories, generated millions of jobs, produced vital federal and state revenues, and reduced the U.S. trade deficit by several hundred billion dollars.
Wasn’t the original idea behind the Democrats’ war on fossil fuels supposed to be about protecting the planet from the menace of climate change?
How will a plan that does nothing to reduce fossil fuel emissions, one that only relocates them to a geopolitical rival, prevent drowning polar bears?
Larry Bell (email@example.com) is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and the graduate space architecture program.