While President Biden’s administration is making diversity and equity a priority, and have signed several executive orders to address disparities, some of their recent announcements on energy policies could have adverse effects on underserved communities.
National Public Radio and others have reported that President Biden ordered the Department of Interior to suspend new oil and natural gas leases on federal lands and in offshore waters, effectively stopping ‘federal leasing.’
This is a big deal for local communities that rely on affordable and reliable energy, as access to energy produced on federal lands and waters is critical to strengthening America’s energy security. Thanks to U.S. energy leadership, consumer spending has increased steadily on health care, education, and food over the last decade, while U.S. household expenditures have decreased by five percent. This makes a huge impact for minority and low-income families, as savings on household expenditures (like energy bills) allow families to spend more on necessities like food and clothes.
The oil and natural gas industry supports more than 10 million jobs, over $100,000 in average annual salaries for direct industry jobs, and opportunities for many underserved and diverse communities. For example, David Valdes, 22 years old, of Mexican parents, has praised his STEM education and the industry for allowing him to pursue his dreams. Today, David is a chemical engineer, recently graduated in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, from Columbia University in New York and has the opportunity to become a public policy fellow at the American Petroleum Institute (API) until December, and then pass through one of the Chambers of Congress, as part of the “Public Policy Fellow” program of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI).
Additionally, the Biden administration is also getting in the way of its own climate goals by eschewing natural gas production. Last year the EPA stated “The United States is a world leader in protecting the environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. From 2005 to 2018, total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 12%.” During this same period, the country became the global leader in oil and natural gas production while the Energy Information Administration cited natural gas as a means to reducing emissions as natural gas displaced more carbon-intensive resources in the grid.
Policymakers must better evaluate the tradeoffs inherent in policy choices. President Biden’s early energy actions will harm our economy and local communities around the country. A better course of action would involve supporting underserved communities’ access to affordable and reliable energy through the continued support of U.S. energy leadership.