Featured, Opinion

Op-Ed: West Virginia Deserves Commitment to Energy Independence

By Mick Bates

Senator Joe Manchin recently called on the Biden administration to ban crude oil imports from Russia in a push toward energy independence. In his words:

“The entire world is watching as Vladimir Putin uses energy as a weapon in an attempt to extort and coerce our European allies…. The United States can and must ramp up domestic energy production and increase access to our abundant resources and technologies to both protect our energy independence and support our allies around the globe.”

Senator Manchin is exactly right. As geopolitical tensions rise and energy prices continue to climb higher, the world looks to America for energy leadership and stability. Instead, the administration continues to restrict access to America’s oil and natural gas resources. At the same time, coal operators — already struggling with government regulations and access to capital—try to keepup with customer demand and deliver their product to market. The Biden administration is not helpful.

Legal and regulatory uncertainty is weakening U.S. energy production and endangering our national security. Most pressing, our current offshore leasing program is set to expire July 1, and the Biden administration is well behind schedule and highly unlikely to finalize a new leasing program by July 1.
The current five-year offshore leasing program, established under the Obama administration, introduced the current guidelines for the federal government to engage in the offshore production of oil and gas. The program has been an essential component of our nation’s expanded domestic energy production and allowed us to become less reliant on foreign sources.

The Biden current administration, however, has yet to signal any intentions of establishing a new five-year program. That unprecedented development would restrict federal offshore lease sales, presenting a major threat to our domestic energy production.  

The administration is fixated on reducing our domestic use of oil, gas, and coal in its commitment to reverse the course of climate change. Ironically, the decision to end our current offshore leasing program will only exacerbate those current problems.

Domestic operations in the Gulf produce one of the lowest carbon barrels in the world. Shifting U.S. reliance more heavily toward imports would increase greenhouse gas emissions.

As Senator Manchin points out, this reliance is already a reality. The U.S. imports more than half a million barrels of crude oil each day from Russia for domestic use. When it comes to international security, it is paramount that President Biden and his administration recognize the importance of energy independence.

States must work alongside the administration to reassert their commitment to domestic production. With its coal and oil and gas reserves, West Virginia continues to play a pivotal role in domestic energy production, but key regulatory improvements must be made to lead us toward energy independence. Investing in our mineral owners and modernizing the tax code will make West Virginia more competitive in the global energy race. 

By bolstering our coal and natural gas and oil production with renewed support, West Virginia’s leaders can renew the shift back to domestic energy leadership against our recent reliance on unstable international adversaries. Unfortunately, we cannot achieve that important goal if President Biden stands by the policies he instituted.

Mick Bates represents Raleigh County in the 30th District of the West Virginia House of Delegates. He is running for the state Senate in District 9, which includes Raleigh County, Wyoming County and part of Fayette County.