As Republicans continue to try to have it both ways on gas prices – supporting President Biden’s ban on imports of Russian oil amid Putin’s unprovoked war on Ukraine while blaming the Biden administration for Putin’s price hike – a recent New York Times fact check laid out why their claims are wrong.
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By Linda Qiu
WASHINGTON — As gas prices hit a high this week, top Republican lawmakers took to the airwaves and the floors of Congress with misleading claims that pinned the blame on President Biden and his energy policies.
Mr. Biden warned that his ban on imports of Russian oil, gas and coal, announced on Tuesday as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, would cause gas prices to rise further. High costs are expected to last as long as the confrontation does.
While Republican lawmakers supported the ban, they asserted that the pain at the pump long preceded the war in Ukraine. Gas price hikes, they said, were the result of Mr. Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, the temporary halt on new drilling leases on public lands and the surrendering of “energy independence” — all incorrect assertions.
“Covid changed the game, not President Biden,” said Patrick De Haan, the head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, which tracks gasoline prices. “U.S. oil production fell in the last eight months of President Trump’s tenure. Is that his fault? No.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only compounded the issues.
The notion that the United States gained “energy independence” under Mr. Trump, and reversed course under Mr. Biden, is also misleading.
Even before Mr. Trump took office, the United States had been projected to become a net energy exporter in the 2020s “because favorable geology and technological developments result in the production of oil and natural gas at lower costs,” according to the Energy Information Administration.
Moreover, the specific policies cited by Republican lawmakers as evidence of Mr. Biden’s supposed “war on American energy” have had little impact on rising gas prices.
The Keystone XL pipeline, which would have expanded an existing system transporting oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast, has been a political and environmental battleground since its conception in 2008. The Obama administration denied the company behind it, TransCanada, a construction permit in 2015. The Trump administration approved the permit in 2017, but the project stalled in the face of litigation. By the time Mr. Biden rescinded its permit on his first day in office, just 8 percent of it had been built.
Absent the Keystone XL pipeline, crude oil imports from Canada have nonetheless increased by 70 percent since 2008, transported by other pipelines and rail. The Trump administration itself told PolitiFact in 2017 that the pipeline’s impact on prices at the pump “would be minimal.”
The claims about oil and gas leases are even more incorrect.
Though Mr. Biden temporarily halted new drilling leases on federal lands in January 2021, a federal judge blocked that move last June. In its first year, the Biden administration actually approved 34 percent more of these permits than the Trump administration did in its first year, according to federal data compiled by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group.
“None of these permits are relevant to production right now,” Mr. Rajendran said. “These permits are for production three, four years down the line. If they had approved 10 times as many permits, we would have the same production issues.”