Leasing Ban Is a Job-Killing Spree

Fun fact: Energy Secretary nominee Jennifer Granholm has a bachelor’s degree in French. But as a Senate panel discovered last week, the Vancouver-born, California-raised Granholm has no such ease with her native tongue, at least not while answering a question that sets her on edge.

At Granholm’s confirmation hearing, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) asked her about the inevitable economic repercussions of President Biden’s anti-fossil-fuel crusade.

The nominee replied, “I think the president’s plan of ‘building back better,’ which would create more jobs in energy—clean energy—than the jobs that might be sacrificed. But I will say this: no job—we don’t want to see any jobs sacrificed.”

She jars the ear not only by bollixing grammar but by “thinking” and “wanting” what cannot be. When Biden killed the Keystone XL pipeline, thousands of jobs died with it. And he has dealt an even more savage blow to the energy workforce by barring new oil and gas leasing on federal lands.

An analysis last year by the American Petroleum Institute (API) projected that a leasing moratorium may cost about 120,000 jobs in Texas, 62,000 in New Mexico, 18,000 in Colorado, and 33,000 in Wyoming. The Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association expects supply-chain disruption to hurt workers and job-seekers even in states without much federal land.

Some news outlets have dismissed API’s job-loss figures because these estimates suppose all federal leasing for fossil-fuel extraction will stop. But API cautions that this is foreseeable, and they’re not alone.

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Energy analyst David Blackmon, writing in Forbes, observes that Biden once promised to ban hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) on federal lands before reversing himself on the campaign trail. (Vice President Harris unequivocally supports banning all fracking, as does Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland.) Blackmon notes the president could effectively phase out fossil-fuel drilling in federal territories by extending the leasing freeze over several years and burdening energy producers with tougher regulations.

If Congress cooperates, Biden will lay on some tax increases for good measure. Of course, he is too smart to call them that. Instead, he insists on ending “subsidies” or “handouts to ‘big oil.’” The tax code, however, bestows no industry-specific benefit upon fossil-fuel producers. These corporations can write off business expenses, e.g., the costs of drilling their wells. Preventing them from doing so would confer a tax disadvantage on oil and gas companies.

And on it goes. Having rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement and having reestablished the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases, America will face steep obligations to reduce carbon emissions. Pipeline projects beyond Keystone XL are being reconsidered or halted. Biden has affixed a $2 billion price tag to his “green jobs” plan, which means higher taxes or greater debt or—who are we kidding?—both.

But what of this “green jobs” vision? Can’t employment in renewables simply replace jobs in fossil fuels? Alas, no: similar economic “stimuli” haven’t helped the American workforce in the past. “Green technology” spending through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e., the 2009 Obama stimulus, or ARRA), for example, spent about $67,500 for every “green job” created. Obviously, those positions didn’t pay nearly that well. Most of the jobs generated by ARRA required more than a high school diploma yet perversely paid below the typical blue-collar salary.

Julian Morris and Vittorio Nastasi examined ARRA and other environmentally focused programs for the nonprofit Reason Foundation. They found that these programs always tend to devour more productive investment than they yield toward job creation.

Because fuel markets are global, the pain Biden is inflicting will spread far beyond America. Academic research attests to electricity’s causal link with economic growth, and therefore its counteractive effect on poverty. So closely does national electricity use correlate with industrial output that investment banks have tracked the former to gauge the latter. Yale economist William Nordhaus even demonstrated in 2010 that the amount of light detectable from space in developing nations closely parallels those countries’ aggregate personal incomes. If energy costs rise, the poor will suffer.

“We must talk about poverty,” Dorothy Day advised in 1963, “because people insulated by their own comfort lose sight of it.” She wasn’t referring to environmentalists. She should have been.


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