The phrase “war on coal” was always something of a misleading statement. It was political, saying that the nation’s shift away from coal production was some sort of plot.
Fact is, the war on coal was perpetrated by cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas, much of it from Louisiana. We were warriors against coal, to some extent.
However politicians tried to polish their halos in coal country with the slogan, economic reality was the driver of decisions.
So it will be with Joe Biden’s “war on oil,” as GOP critics have already dubbed the new president’s energy plans. That’s a recycled slogan just about as relevant to the marketplace as the old war on coal.
What’s misguided about Biden’s ideas? A lot, starting with a “pause” on leasing on federal lands and in offshore waters.
The notion that the world economy should simply shut off its consumption of the widely available and relatively cheap benefits of oil and natural gas is economically silly.
Not going to happen.
Even though oil and gas consumption has declined because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the millions of barrels per day of domestic oil production is essential to the prosperity of Biden’s constituents in every state, not just here in the oil patch.
That political reality is not going to change.
The president’s rhetoric about leading the world into a future of cleaner energy is, after all, what major oil and gas companies have been doing for years.
We support, as did President Barack Obama under whom Biden served for eight years, an all-of-the-above energy strategy for this country. We’re not impressed with Biden’s rhetoric: With every advance in energy production, typically driven by American ingenuity, there probably were a dozen Obama statements about cleaner energy over eight years.
But the bottom line, then and now, is that the industrial world lives on oil and gas production.
We don’t want to play down the impact of Biden’s statements. He is president of the United States, and he has at least in the short term the power to slow down leasing on public lands — but not private property, nor producing land under state jurisdiction. Nor should anyone in coastal Louisiana underrate the importance of avoiding a catastrophic rise in sea levels.
How long is the president’s “pause” going to last? Given that much of Louisiana’s production is offshore in federal waters, it is an attack on our state’s interests. But another economic reality is that big oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico cost billions and require years to deploy.
There is more than enough time for the bad economic impact of the “pause” to allow the administration to hit the unpause button.
Even in his statements and that of his officials, there is a great deal of wiggle room about the “pause.” Right now, Joe Biden is enlisting in an anti-oil crusade that his most liberal followers want.
It won’t last. The “war on oil” is not going to be won. And within months, or perhaps a year post-coronavirus, demand will go up, more energy will be needed — and Biden will surrender to market forces.