Biden’s Political Pandering Undermines Energy Jobs

Member Group : PA Manufacturers' Assn.

Upcoming congressional hearings will examine what could be the worst political pandering yet by the Biden Administration to its progressive base. The left was jubilant over the president’s recent freeze on permits for new liquified natural gas (LNG) export projects in the U.S. The move threatens not only billions-of-dollars invested in current projects, but the prospect of billions into the future. For added measure, the new policy has our allies concerned about the reliability of American LNG supplies in a world economy increasingly threatened by Russia, China, and Iran.

“Maximizing the production, distribution, and export of domestic energy strengthens the American economy at home and American leadership on the world stage,” said PMA President & CEO David N. Taylor. “U.S. LNG exports help our balance of trade, disentangle our allies from energy relationships with hostile powers, and de-fund the Kremlin by driving down prices and taking away market share from Russia. Now that America has become the world’s leading exporter of LNG, the Biden Administration’s proposed ‘pause’ is an unforced error that must be corrected as quickly as possible.”

The Biden move changes the definition of “public interest,” a guiding term the Department of Energy looks to when reviewing LNG terminal permits. Up to this point, the Department has never rejected one. But the Biden administration broadened the term to include potential future impacts a terminal might have on planetary climate. This action is uncalled for and counterproductive, considering that LNG is a clean energy source responsible for a dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions across the globe.

Biden’s policy change sparked a rare statement of opposition from both of Pennsylvania’s Democratic senators. Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman rightfully attacked the impact the policy will have on the industry, and the high-paying jobs provided by it.

“Pennsylvania is an energy state,” the Casey-Fetterman statement said. “As the second largest natural gas-producing state, this industry has created good-paying energy jobs in towns and communities across the Commonwealth and has played a critical role in promoting U.S. energy independence.”

“While the immediate impacts on Pennsylvania remain to be seen,” they continued, “we have concerns about the long-term impacts that this pause will have on the thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry. If this decision puts Pennsylvania energy jobs at risk, we will push the Biden Administration to reverse this decision.”

Economists estimate that over its lifetime, an LNG export project creates thousands of jobs, including high paying steel and fracking jobs.

But all that is now at risk under this new policy, says PMA Executive Director Carl Marrara.

“President Biden’s decision to stop industrial projects that would export more American energy to our allies is just another example of this administration’s failed foreign and economic policies,” Marrara said. “Global trade of LNG hit a record high in 2022 and is expected to grow another 25 percent in the next five years, all while drastically reducing CO2 emissions. Thanks to Pennsylvania’s contributions, the United States is now the top natural gas producing nation in the world, but without expanded American export capacity our overseas allies will be at the mercy of hostile powers like Russia.”

As Vice President, Biden had an entirely different take on the industry, and a correct one.

“The United States is now a net gas exporter,” he boasted at the 2016 CAF conference. “There are even greater opportunities to supply the energy needs of our partners in Latin America and around the world.”

The White House tried to downplay the impact of the policy, saying the freeze will only affect a handful of projects that are currently seeking Department permits. But as the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board recently pointed out, the move will also freeze about a half a dozen projects seeking Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approvals, and could halt another dozen or so that have been permitted by previous Presidents.

The rub is that the U.S. Department of Energy announced in December that projects not yet operating will have to reapply for permits if it’s been seven years since they were authorized. Projects already in the works could be stopped, some that have billions of dollars in committed capital, as well as contractual agreements with customers.

“The Administration is deliberately creating uncertainty about permit approvals and extensions to chill investment and discourage foreign governments from signing long-term contracts,” the Journal’s Editorial Board wrote. “Why risk investing in or signing a purchase agreement with a Gulf Coast project that may later be killed?”

The Biden Administration needs to listen to leading members of his own party, industry leaders, and our overseas allies and reverse this disastrous re-election ploy before the damage to the energy industry and the jobs it creates is irreversible.