Guest Column

Biden’s damaging war against American energy production

By John Barrasso
Posted 5/9/24

The United States is the largest oil producer in the world. In 2023, we pumped out a record 12.9 million barrels every day.

This is a significant milestone for the American …

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Guest Column

Biden’s damaging war against American energy production


The United States is the largest oil producer in the world. In 2023, we pumped out a record 12.9 million barrels every day.

This is a significant milestone for the American economy — but not one you will hear Joe Biden brag about. It’s clear enough why — election-year politics. Talking up record U.S. oil production would offend one of President Biden’s biggest constituencies, the climate lobby.

There’s another reason for the president’s silence. He knows he deserves zero credit for production records. For three years, he has attacked affordable, available and reliable American energy.

The credit belongs to the innovators, entrepreneurs and roughnecks in places such as my home state of Wyoming. These individuals work hard and take enormous risks every day. Their vision and labor made the U.S. energy independent in 2019 — for the first time in 70 years.

Instead of celebrating their achievement, candidate Joe Biden threatened to throw them out of work. He “guaranteed” his administration would “end fossil fuel.” In his first days in office, he killed the Keystone Pipeline and canceled federal lease sales and then existing leases. He has launched an unprecedented regulatory assault on the fuels that provide four-fifths of the nation’s energy.

While oil output is at a record high, we could be producing even more but for the president’s “whole of government” effort to chill investment. The year before President Biden was inaugurated, the Energy Information Administration was forecasting oil output in 2023 of 14 million barrels a day. Actual output came in at 1.1 million barrels per day below that forecast.

Oil production hit a record in 2023 because more and more of our oil and natural gas production is occurring on private and state lands, where developers don’t need permission from Washington to drill. In 2005, about 68% of our oil and 62% of our gas came from private and state lands.Today it’s risen to roughly 75% and 90%, respectively. It’s also no accident that most of this production takes place in Republican-led states, including Wyoming.

When it comes to production on federal lands, however, we’re living on borrowed time. We’ve been able to maintain output thanks to production from wells drilled on leases issued before Biden became president. While the administration has issued drilling permits to existing leaseholders — as required by law — that hasn’t stopped it from slow walking these permits.

The administration is also offering the bare amount in new leases. From 2001 through 2020, under both Democrat and Republican administrations, the Department of the Interior averaged nearly 2,000 new leases totaling 2.3 million acres annually. In Joe Biden’s first full fiscal year as president, new leases plunged to 120, totaling a meager 75,000 acres. Those are cuts of more than 90% from the previous 20-year averages. Preliminary data for FY2023 indicate little improvement.

According to press reports, the Biden administration has leased the fewest acres for onshore drilling of any administration since the end of World War II. On top of that, it wants to restrict future access to millions of additional acres through land designations Congress never authorized.

The outlook isn’t any better for federal offshore areas, which account for about 15% of U.S. oil production. In 2022, the administration canceled three offshore lease sales. When Congress mandated the sales, the administration tried to impose conditions to make them uneconomic. It also issued a five-year leasing plan for 2025-2029 featuring the lowest number of lease sales in history.

The president’s foolish actions will lock in his climate zealotry. OPEC and Russia will gain market leverage and geopolitical strength. We simply cannot maintain, much less increase, production in federal areas without returning to pre-Biden levels of leases and acreage.

This isn’t just incompetence, though there’s plenty of that. It’s an ideological effort to smother American energy, along with the jobs and income it generates.

There is a boom in American oil production. By waging war against it, President Biden could make us more reliant on OPEC, Venezuela, Russia and Iran in the years ahead. The biggest impacts of the president’s foolishness won’t appear until his administration is a bad memory. With fewer leases to work with, a future administration will have fewer drilling permits to approve — and almost certainly less production.

That’s nothing to take credit for.


(John Barrasso is chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. First published at The Hill.)