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28th November 2023

Opinion: Energy policy will have a role to play in the 2024 US election result

Randall Heather


One reason why Trump’s numbers are looking good is because the Biden administration is so incredibly stupid regarding energy policy – so much so that every increase in the price of oil will be seen as a creation of the Democratic Party.

Let’s look at what Biden’s done. He got rid of the Keystone Pipeline, but that oil is still coming down from Canada on trains and barges and the likelihood of a spill is multiple times that of a pipeline. Nor will they issue any new permits for oil- or gas-drilling on federal land at a time when oil prices have been going up. This means that everyone’s underinvesting in oil because it’s not politically popular.

All of this means that not only is supply being shut down but that demand is going up and it’s hitting people’s pockets every day. Really, when you come right down to it the best thing we could do is to drill like hell for gas – as there’s so much of it out there. The world is a huge methane creating machine: if you displaced all the coal fire generation with natural gas then the impact on the environment would be substantial. But the green lobby go after natural gas as if it’s oil or coal. But everybody knows you have to have some sort of bridge to build a solar-based energy policy.

The truth is we don’t have an energy crisis – we have an energy storage crisis. As things stand, we can’t take solar and wind energy and save it at grid level. The technology doesn’t enable us to store it for any length of time whatsoever – and until you solve that problem, you can’t rely on solar or wind.

Which brings me back to the Keystone Pipeline and the question of why Biden might be struggling in those states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan which he needs to win to retain the presidency, if he’s well enough to contest the election. There are lots of blue collar jobs associated with the natural gas infrastructure, and if you make an intervention like the one Biden did, then any adverse fluctuation in the gas prices can be justifiably placed at your door. Added to that, there’s not much spare capacity globally – expect in states like United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. But you can’t expect to switch off supply without some effect on prices, and therefore political ramifications.

Biden is discovering this all too late. There’s the perception of a weak President – more than that there’s no real Bidenism that I can see which might amount to a core set of principles. It’s worth comparing him for instance with Bill Clinton. People forget that after Clinton came in in 1992, he immediately got cleaned out in the mid-terms, and had to work with Republicans. But he didn’t stick his head in the sand: instead he brought down the federal deficit and instituted some important welfare reforms. That led to a remarkably prosperous decade where the federal government even ran a surplus.

That’s where Obama differed with Clinton. Clinton saw how he could make lemonade out of lemons – and it helped him in doing that, to have been the Governor of Arkansas. Obama, by unhappy contrast, had never run anything and it certainly showed. Biden suffers from the same affliction.

What we’re witnessing with Trump’s resurgence speaks to a gap in America’s institutions: there’s no Leader of the Opposition in America. Trump has effectively been fulfilling that role by default – and you could say Nancy Pelosi did something similar from 2016-2020 during the Trump years. The system is too diffuse and lacks that gladiatorial atmosphere of parliamentary debate we see week in week out in the House of Commons.

Politicians never debate each other except during elections and all interaction is done through the prism of the media.  No American President is called upon to do PMQs and the Cabinet meanwhile is absolutely invisible to the public. We’re paying the price of all that now – and who knows where it will end.

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