- - Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The permitting process has hamstrung American energy projects for the past two years. One of President Biden’s first actions in office was to kill the Keystone pipeline with the stroke of a pen.

It is a well-known fact that in doing so, he single-handedly increased the price of energy and weakened U.S. energy production. For the next two years, the administration slow-rolled the permitting process for new oil and gas leases. This has not only been bad for domestic energy production, but it has also undermined American power abroad as Mr. Biden was forced to beg foreign energy producers including Venezuela and OPEC member states for more oil in order to meet domestic energy demand.

HR 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, which is the House Republicans’ energy package, would bring about much-needed changes to our permitting process for new energy development. The bill would support greater interagency cooperation with regard to natural gas pipeline projects, streamline the permitting process and cut the regulatory red tape that has contributed to high prices at the gas station and weakened American influence abroad.

Recall that last year, Mr. Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, both of which he has since lauded as major accomplishments and which made major investments in renewable energy projects. Such energy projects are unable to move forward, however, thanks to the burdensome regulatory environment. Mr. Biden’s investments in energy are going nowhere without adequate permitting reform.

As things stand, these two bills do little more than run up the national debt. If Mr. Biden were serious about investments in renewable energy, he would be inclined to support the House Republicans’ energy package, which goes a long way toward cleaning up the permitting process for new energy projects.

Included in the House Republicans’ energy package is HR 1355, from Reps. Bruce Westerman, Garret Graves and Pete Stauber. The bill would direct the Department of the Interior to restart onshore and offshore fossil fuel leasing and streamline the process for energy infrastructure. Late last year, the Biden administration quietly opened the permitting process for some new oil and natural gas leases. But earlier this month, Mr. Biden announced that he would restrict drilling on a further 16 million acres in Alaska and the Arctic Ocean.

There is still much to be done to restore American energy production to its Trump administration heights, but the Biden White House remains beholden to the unreasonable demands of the environmental left.

Despite what Mr. Biden’s surrogates might parrot, the House Republicans’ energy package supports a variety of energy sources. If the U.S. wants to get serious about producing solar energy here at home, it needs the critical mineral resources to do so. After all, China has cornered the global market when it comes to the rare earth minerals necessary for investment in renewable energy infrastructure.

Indiana Republican Rep. Larry Bucshon’s HR 1068 would refocus federal agencies on strengthening critical mineral supply chains. While it did not make it into final passage, Democrats had tried to impose further burdens on domestic critical mineral production as part of last year’s infrastructure package. Thankfully, House Republicans are serious about restoring U.S. energy production.

Had the American natural gas industry not been suffocated by the Biden regulatory state, the U.S. could no doubt have been in a stronger position to ward off Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. Russia still has leverage over its neighbors due to its abundance of natural gas and the European Union’s overreliance on inefficient renewables.

The U.S. needs to increase both production and exports of natural gas abroad. HR 1130 from Rep. Bill Johnson, Ohio Republican, would facilitate just that by repealing restrictions on the export and import of liquefied natural gas.

HR 1 is likely to pass the House despite the GOP’s slim majority. And Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana may end up supporting the bill in the Senate. Their votes are enough to tip the balance; both West Virginia and Montana are among the chief producers of reliable fossil fuels. Would Mr. Biden see it necessary to veto a bipartisan energy bill if it arrives at his desk? Or will he once again cave to the far left green movement?

• Cesar Ybarra is vice president of policy at FreedomWorks.

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