Republican critics are using the excuse of a cyberattack from Russian hackers on a key gasoline pipeline to show that somehow President BidenJoe BidenWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE must move to the far right on energy and climate policy. Meanwhile, fringe groups on the far left are claiming Biden isn’t serious about climate protection. In truth, all of these fake accusations merely prove that Biden occupies the sensible center of American energy and climate change politics.
Biden has acted quickly to reduce any serious impacts from the cyberattack on the Colonial by Russian hackers, expanding access to fuel by easing rules on trucks and tankers, lifting gasoline blending requirements, issuing an executive order aimed at preventing future cyber-attacks and many other actions. Meanwhile, a Republican Party increasingly divorced from factual reality has made a series of absurd, unfounded allegations trying to connect the attack on the pipeline to Biden’s energy and climate change policies.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and many other Republicans falsely claim Biden’s canceling of the Keystone XL pipeline was to blame for a temporary gasoline shortage in a few mid-Atlantic and Southeastern locations. Yet, the canceled pipeline has nothing to do with Eastern seaboard gasoline. It would have carried crude oil, not refined petroleum, from Canada to ports on the Gulf Coast for export, not gasoline for domestic use.
But falsehoods be damned in the fact-free GOP of today. Not to be outdone, a leading purveyor of dangerous fictions Tucker Carlson on Fox News absurdly said Biden wants to “close every gas station in the entire United States.” Of course, it’s all made up.
One actual big picture truth is that Biden’s focus on defeating the COVID-19 pandemic is allowing the safe opening up of the economy again, with Americans demanding more gasoline as they become more mobile ahead of the traditional Memorial Day kickoff for summer vacations.
“Rising gas prices are a sign Americans are getting back out into the world — attending baseball games, going to concerts, taking a road trip — basically staying anywhere but at home,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.
In fact, all experts agree that it was panic buying, in large part due to right wing media fear-mongering, that cause the temporary shortages in some areas of the southeast. Yet, some far right conspiracy theorists of the QAnon ilk even suggested the brief, localized gasoline shortage were all part of a Biden plot.
But Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE‘s takeover of the Republican Party means respect for truth is forfeited — just ask Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyJan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden, Democrats dig into legislative specifics Trump sues Jan. 6 panel to block records MORE (R-Wyo.).
In truth, Biden’s ambitious infrastructure and clean energy agenda is aimed at diversifying the sources of U.S. transportation energy to include much greater use of electric vehicles and other technologies to cut pollution, climate emissions and our reliance on oil. This clean energy infrastructure agenda is highly popular, garnering support from nearly 70 percent of the American public.
Unfortunately, the right-wing is not alone and attacking Biden. On the farthest left of American politics, several hundred fringe green groups charged Biden with climate malfeasance for having the temerity to support nuclear power, carbon capture technology and low-emitting natural gas.
Never mind that nuclear power currently supplies half of all America’s zero-emission electricity. Or that natural gas has allowed us to cut our use of higher emitting coal in half over the last 15 years. Or that carbon capture will be needed to prevent emissions from the industrial sector no matter what energy powers it.
All of these technologies are absolutely critical to reaching the key goal of net zero U.S. emissions by mid-century, the goal the farthest left claims to support and which is embraced by the vast majority of scientists, top corporate leaders and almost all governments around the world. Moreover, nuclear power, carbon capture and natural gas will all keep the costs of doing so much lower, enabling Biden’s climate policies to gain political support. But facts don’t matter at the fringes of American politics today.
Indeed, mainstream, responsible environmental groups wanted nothing to do with the letter, which Politico rightly called a “circular firing squad.” This still didn’t stop the holier-than-thou far left groups from assigning Biden’s remarkably ambitious climate policy a grade of F- during the Democratic primary.
Biden has carefully calibrated his infrastructure and clean energy plant to emphasize job creation, growth of new energy technology sectors and emissions reductions together. He knows this is both best for the country and can also gain greatest political support. But the far-left lives in a fantasy land where politics and the need to pass legislation into law doesn’t intrude.
The ransomware attack on the pipeline is simply the latest illustration that the aging U.S. energy infrastructure does need an overhaul since our entire energy system— transport, electricity, aviation, ports — is increasingly vulnerable to cyberattack without upgrades in security systems and hardware.
All of this is worth remembering over the coming days as Biden works with Congress to pass his jobs and infrastructure bill. Just last week, he met with Republican congressional leaders at the White House to try to find common ground. The time has come to put political falsehoods aside to pass infrastructure legislation to protect our economy, environment, and security, as the vast center of the American public clearly expects and supports.
Paul Bledsoe is strategic advisor at the Progressive Policy Institute and a professorial lecturer at American University Center for Environmental Policy. He served on the White House Climate Change Task Force under President Bill Clinton. Follow him on Twitter: @paulbledsoe