Three Questions for President Biden During His Denver Visit
President Joe Biden is visiting Denver on Tuesday to talk about his energy agenda and promote his Build Back Better plan. Colorado has been at the forefront of developing strong regulations that protect the environment without hindering the state’s prolific energy development.
Here are some key questions for President Biden that Coloradans are awaiting answers on:
Will Interior Return To Regular Lease Sales?
When President Biden took office in January, one of his first moves was to put an indefinite moratorium on federal oil and gas leasing. The Department of Interior announced in mid-August that it would resume holding lease sales – but not until February 2022 onshore – while simultaneously appealing a court ruling that called the pause illegal.
But that announcement has still left questions about the future of energy production in the Mountain West unanswered. Industry—and western states—are wondering how frequently lease sales will be held and what they will entail moving forward (and if that will change on a whim as Interior continues its review), among other things.
When Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited Denver in July, she again stated that the department’s review of the leasing program would come by “early summer.” But it is now after Labor Day and the review still hasn’t been published.
The longer that these questions remain unanswered, the worse the impact will be on the economies of states in the Mountain West, which benefit from lease sales and tax revenues from oil and gas production.
Federal leasing in Colorado generated $121 million in tax revenue in 2019, while leasing in neighboring New Mexico and Wyoming generated $1.5 billion and $833 million, respectively. That’s a huge hit to budgets when no sales have occurred since January 2021.
Why Encourage OPEC To Produce, Rather Than Boost Domestic Production?
In the aftermath of the Biden administration’s campaign against domestic production and restrictions on energy imports, American energy prices are soaring. Despite the wealth of oil and gas reserves within the United States, energy imports are on the rise—even imports from unfriendly countries like Russia. Over the summer, imports of Russian oil hit a 10-year high and increased imports from OPEC countries are also expected.
Facing pressure about rising gas prices, in July, President Biden urged OPEC to increase production to help keep gasoline prices low. Today, gasoline prices remain high even while wells in the U.S. remain idle. The question is will the president continue to look beyond U.S. borders to try to bring prices down, and if so, why?
Even Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.), who is leading the state in its goal to ban fracking, admitted last year that banning domestic production accomplishes nothing as long as the demand is still there:
“As it relates to managing decline, we’ve got to address the issue of demand. California since 1985, has declined its (oil) production by 60 percent, but only seen a modest decrease in demand, 4.4 percent. And that means we’re making up for a lack of domestic production from Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, and Colombia, and that’s hardly an environmental solution when you look globally.”
Will the Energy Transition Be Able to Ensure Affordable Electricity?
Colorado has been a leader in the Mountain West pushing for electrification and earlier this year, Gov. Jared Polis’ administration released its Greenhouse Gas Emissions Roadmap that aims to “increase electrification.” In 2019, Will Toor, the director of the Colorado Energy Office touted that the goal was to “electrify the heck” out of everything.
The Biden administration supports these goals and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm spoke in support of strong electrification mandates—and a ban on natural gas in new construction—over the summer, saying that she needed state and local officials to “step up.”
Key members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, including Sen. John Hickenlooper and Rep. Joe Neguse are also supporting Biden’s Build Back Better agenda and these climate and electrification goals.
Electrification studies show that transitioning from fossil fuels to electricity will be complex and expensive. A strict focus on electrification ignores the significant emissions reductions the United States has seen over the past decade as power producers switched from coal to natural gas as a generation fuel, as well as the reliability and affordability of natural gas as a fuel source.
Added to this complexity is growing concern over grid reliability, particularly as the administration’s push for more electric cars will increase electricity demand. Even as they expand renewable generation, states like Colorado rely on natural gas to help ensure affordable, reliable electric power. But will overly strict clean energy mandates doom these complementary fuels?
During his trip to Colorado, President Biden hopes to talk about the new economy he hopes to build. Reporters should ask him what will power that economy of the future—and if it will saddle Americans with high energy prices and reliance on foreign energy.