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Democrats double down on extreme: New plans could kill off essential energy infrastructure

Associated Press/Alex Brandon

Voters just handed Democrats a crushing defeat in the most recent elections, and it appears that further setbacks may be on the near horizon. The party seems to have two clear choices: They could pause and reconsider, or they could double down.

Taking an even stronger position might embolden their team and bring on future wins, or it could turn into further setbacks as voters flee from their increasingly extreme views. Doubling down is a definite risk, but it’s clearly the hand many senior Democrats are choosing to play. In energy policy terms, doubling down means that, with winter approaching and energy prices skyrocketing, they were — even momentarily — considering plans to close down yet another major pipeline.

There was no mistaking the “political nightmare” that Democrats experienced in the November elections. Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, is the most obvious example. Governor from 2014 to 2018, McAuliffe was seeking another term, but his opponent, Republican Glenn Youngkin, handily won the prize after McAuliffe made a host of campaign gaffes.

One key error set Virginia’s parents on edge. During a campaign appearance, McAuliffe explained he was “not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out, and make their own decision.” McAuliffe continued, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Pairing his authoritarian views with the contentious debate over critical race theory being taught in public schools, Virginia’s parents responded by voting governor-elect Youngkin into office. 

At the federal level, the divide over progressive policies is also growing. President Biden, who campaigned as a moderate and promised to be a uniter, has governed as almost an extreme progressive. But the president publicly refused to acknowledge that his expansive approach to spending and government action had anything to do with the election setbacks. In fact, he argued the losses were a result of a lack of progress in passing his multitrillion-dollar plans.

Biden has prioritized these same themes in his climate and energy policies. He began his time in office by rejoining the Paris agreement and killing the Keystone XL pipeline, then moved on to helping promote Russian pipeline construction, and then to begging OPEC to increase production. Fellow Democrats are even pressuring Biden to consider shutting down oil exports and tapping the strategic petroleum reserve

Apparently, they have never seriously considered encouraging the American oil and gas industry to increase production and transportation of their products. In fact, we’ve even been treated to Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm’s guffawing when asked to consider the notion that she might be able to do something — anything — to help rein in energy prices by expanding domestic production.

Even worse, while Granholm yucked it up on TV, she was also warning members of OPEC that “we need to increase [energy] supply at this moment so that people will not be hurt during the winter months.” Despite recognizing the protective value of more energy supplies, the Biden administration first acknowledged, and then rapidly walked back, reports that they were studying the costs of closing down the Line 5 pipeline, which supplies heating and transportation fuels to much of the Midwest.

The only thing that possibly could inspire less confidence in this administration’s energy chops would be if ideological blinders had allowed the White House to rely on experts with inadequate experience. But they did that, too. In fact, private-sector energy officials recently described White House staff as a “team [with] experience in renewable energy markets but relatively few people with detailed knowledge of oil markets.” No doubt that’s why the White House was “huddling” with oil and gas experts while their Democratic colleagues held hearings to “target oil CEOs for alleged climate lies.”

There actually are good times to double down, but pulling that off well requires at least a basic awareness of where the overall game is going. Doubling down on a fanciful hope that the right card might turn up is a dangerous basis for going all in. In the same way, when voters hand you a big loss, citing your hard leftward lurch as their primary reason, forcing them to endure a long winter of high energy prices is not likely to win many back. 

When you are also closing down the reliable domestic energy supplies voters will need for the winter, praying for weather-dependent renewables to fill the gap and begging foreign producers for help, it’s past time to realize you’ve gone bust and your game is up. 

Jason Hayes is director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Mich. Follow him on Twitter @jasonthayes.

Tags Biden climate plan Energy Glenn Youngkin Jennifer Granholm Joe Biden Keystone Pipeline OPEC Petroleum industry Terry McAuliffe

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