Last week’s news that the European Union has reached an agreement to sharply curtail the purchase of Russian oil is a welcome development that signals the continent is not only united against the genocidal attack on Ukraine but that its political leaders are prepared to make hard choices in response.
It’s a choice worth remembering as Americans labor under high gas prices this summer. And it’s a reminder of why we need a robust domestic energy industry that includes the continued development of oil and gas production as well as investment in renewable energy research and infrastructure.
According to The Associated Press, European Union nations rely on Russia for 25% of their oil and 40% of their gas. Last week’s decision involved only oil. Weaning off gas will be far harder.
Still, we hope and expect this will lead to a rising Russian price for Vladimir Putin’s war. The sooner he is brought to heel the better off the whole world will be.
But we also recognize that higher prices will be borne by us all. Reports early last week suggested President Joe Biden would travel to Saudi Arabia in hopes of persuading its leader to put more oil into the market. The president dialed that down later in the week when he said he had “no direct plans at the moment.”
The president shouldn’t go at all. The Saudi regime is a pariah state. U.S. intelligence under Biden determined Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was personally responsible for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In March, Human Rights Watch reported that the Saudi regime killed 81 men in a mass execution. More than half of those were of the Shia Muslim minority.
Opening the OPEC oil machine might be a fast path to relief at the pump, but it would come at the price of cozying up to petrol tyrants. How about, instead, this country do all it can to support domestic production?
No, that wouldn’t have the same immediate effect on prices at the pump. But it would be a better long-term strategy than spending time with the Saudi prince.
U.S. production is already high. The country produced 11.6 million barrels of crude per day in March, the most recent figure listed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s lower than the record high of 12.9 million barrels per day in November 2019. But the average daily production so far this year is higher than any production level before 2018.
We are taking advantage of this resource. But more could be done to ensure it continues to flow.
Meanwhile, high prices for gas and oil represent an opportunity for the development of renewables: bringing greater renewable resources online, increasing battery production and research and moving more quickly from fossil fuel dependency.
Instead of getting on a plane to Saudi Arabia, the president would do better by the country if he stayed home and worked on delivering a domestic energy policy that maximized all of our resources and generated a more powerful American future.