Utah Gov. Spencer Cox sent a three-page missive to President Joe Biden on Monday, arguing that his Interior Department’s “anti-energy” policies are not only economically destructive and environmentally wrongheaded, but clearly have serious geopolitical implications.
“As a Western public lands state, we certainly have an interest in seeing these resources developed, but this is about far more than benefiting Western communities. It is strikingly inconsistent for U.S. policy to discourage European reliance on Russian-produced energy while simultaneously refusing the leasing and permitting of oil and gas development on our own federal lands,” the governor wrote.
On Tuesday, Biden announced a ban on any U.S. imports of Russian oil, but his administration is being pummeled by the GOP, including Utah Republicans in Congress, and others for going after oil in places like Iran and Venezuela instead of pursuing domestic production.
“Why is @POTUS asking dictators in Venezuela and Iran to produce more energy for us?” Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, tweeted Tuesday.
“U.S. shale producers can increase production twice as fast as Venezuelan oil companies, and the profits would go to American workers rather than another dictatorship.”
Why is @POTUS asking dictators in Venezuela and Iran to produce more energy for us?— Rep. Chris Stewart (@RepChrisStewart) March 8, 2022
U.S. shale producers can increase production twice as fast as Venezuelan oil companies, and the profits would go to American workers rather than another dictatorship.
Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, said shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline is one of Biden’s “most egregious fatal flaws” of his time in office.
“There is no reason to rely on an ounce of Russian oil when we can process it, we can do it better here in America. We can do it with better environmental standards. I am hypersensitive to the need to reduce emissions. It doesn’t help us to rely on foreign, particularly bad actors, with respect to this,” he said on KSL Newsradio’s “Inside Sources.”
Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, said in a statement that Biden took the country from being energy independent to being “dependent on our enemies.”
“President Biden put millions in the pocket of Vladimir Putin and wants to add millions more for the Iranians and Venezuelans while Utahns are paying well over $1 more per gallon than they were a year ago,” he said, adding he will continue to support efforts to “unleash” U.S. energy capabilities in a responsible way.
Cox told Biden his administration needs to remove the regulatory chokehold he has put on the fossil fuel industry.
“We need support for the Uinta Basin Railway, which would increase Utah’s oil exports to refineries on the Gulf Coast to support both domestic and European markets,” he wrote. “We need the federal government to refrain from using overly restrictive, landscape scale designations that often lock up Utah’s energy wealth,” the governor wrote. “And we need the federal government to improve regulatory processes and reduce red tape to allow for the timely development of Utah’s resources by private industry.”
Cox pointed out that leases on federal land have ground to a halt because of Biden’s moratorium on new lease sales he instituted on his first day in office.
“During the previous administration, the Bureau of Land Management issued an average of 115 leases a year for oil and gas development in Utah. Even the Obama administration issued an average of 81 each year. Since you took office, the Bureau of Land Management has not conducted a single oil and gas lease sale in Utah and has now canceled the small lease sale originally planned for later this month,” Cox wrote.
The lack of quarterly lease sales under the Mineral Leasing Act continues, despite assurances in court documents and verbal statements by the Interior Department that they would resume this year, according to the Western Energy Alliance.
“It’s flat out incorrect to say public lands leasing is ongoing. The reality is there hasn’t been a single onshore lease sale since the Biden administration took office and it’s unclear there’s one on the horizon. From the looks of it, the Biden administration is working like the devil to hinder, not help, American production,” said Kathleen Sgamma, head of the Western Energy Alliance.
Cox told Biden the transition to a low-carbon green global economy will take time.
“Meanwhile, the world and European countries will continue to rely on oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels while this transition occurs,” he wrote. “So long as oil and gas extraction continues to occur around the globe, the United States must play a role as we produce oil and gas with far less environmental impacts than our energy competitors in Russia, Venezuela, and the Middle East.”
Last week, Cox and two dozen other GOP governors across the country demanded the Biden administration pursue policies that promote domestic energy independence.
Cox also urged the Biden administration to develop a clear path forward in the extraction of critical minerals and rare earth elements.
“Your administration seemed to recognize this recently by announcing new initiatives around our critical minerals supply chain, but on the same day the Department of Interior renewed its litigation against a major Alaska mining project, making me skeptical about the administration’s sincerity and commitment to critical mineral exploration,” he wrote.
“Ramping up our leasing, permitting, and development of energy and critical minerals on federal lands won’t happen overnight, but to paraphrase the old adage, the best time to develop American resources was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now.”