The rest of the world may have no use for Vladimir Putin, but in this White House, he's performing one very valuable function: scapegoat. For Joe Biden, who's been desperate to offload his share of the blame for this global catastrophe, the Russian warmonger has been a convenient option. When reporters press him about the pain at the pump, the president simply shrugs and says, "Can't do much about it right now. Russia is responsible." He's even taken to calling it "Putin's price hike" -- hoping Americans' outrage will help them forget: it was Biden who was punishing us all along.
In a sign of how quickly things have changed, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki spent Tuesday trying to convince the country (unsuccessfully) that this administration wasn't cracking down on energy. "Well, just to be very clear," Psaki fired back at critics, "federal policies are not limiting the supplies of oil and gas... The suggestion that we are not allowing companies to drill is inaccurate," she claimed. Biden personally chimed in later, insisting that it's "simply not true" that his policies were holding back domestic energy production.
Except, experts across the industry say, it is true. "Interior has been slow-rolling oil and gas permits since Mr. Biden took office," the Wall Street Journal points out. His "9,000 drill permits have already been approved" malarkey sparked massive outrage across the energy sector, who called the suggestion that all of these oil companies are just twiddling their thumbs "a complete red herring." Like so many people, Trent Franks, a former member of Congress and co-founder of Liberty Petroleum, pinned the blame for America's energy freefall directly on this president.
As for the 9,000 leases Biden brought up, Franks said that just reveals his ignorance. "He has to realize that you can't just go out and drill anywhere and just hope that you are successful. A lot of these leases aren't drilled simply because they're not prospective. And the truth is, there is so much red tape, so [many] challenges from [Biden's] Environmental Protection Agency, so many different things that occur to prevent domestic drilling that to suggest that somehow this president has facilitated exploiting our own resources is preposterous." Other insiders echo Franks's assessment. "This represents a fundamental misunderstanding as to how this process works," the head of the American Petroleum Institute agreed.
It's time, Franks insisted on "Washington Watch," for the president to turn the industry loose again. And that doesn't mean abandoning alternate energy ideas. "I'm all for innovation -- that's a vital component of American advancement. But the truth is, the green energy people at the moment have a big problem with physics." For example, he explained, to power a city the size of Manhattan, they need a wind farm the size of Connecticut. "They just simply don't understand the inability of us to meet our energy needs without fossil fuels at the moment. If somebody else can come up with a different way, then let's see that happen... Let's turn loose the inventors. Let's turn loose the scientific minds of America and become energy independent in whatever way it works. But until we do, we cannot find ourselves dependent on foreign oil [from tyrants]."
And the problem for Joe Biden is: Democrats agree. Some of the party's most outspoken Leftists are blasting the president for going hat-in-hand to a "cancer" like Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro. Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) had the strongest words for Biden, who he believes would be "perpetuating a humanitarian crisis" by "fill[ing] the pockets of regime oligarchs with oil profits while Maduro continues to deprive Venezuelans of basic human rights, freedoms, and food." We shouldn't be uniting the world against a "murderous tyrant in Moscow" by propping up "a dictator under investigation for crimes against humanity," Menendez argued.
Even if Venezuela did share our values, the reality is oil production in the country has hit "an almost all-time low," CNN reports, thanks to "years of mismanagement and lack of maintenance of oil facilities. It would take years, and billions of dollars of investments, to recover oil exports from Venezuela to what they used to be, suggests expert Francisco Monaldi, director of the Latin American Energy Program in Houston... So if the White House needs a short-term solution to lower the price of gasoline, it cannot come from Venezuela."
Democrat Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) urged Biden to learn his lesson and "become energy independent... so we never have to choose between one dictator versus another." But Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) took it a step farther, insisting that the White House open the spigots to domestic production again. "I think that the opportunity here is to do it domestically, create jobs here... and also see if we can help Europe out, too," Tester said. Manchin agreed. It's time to "go back to the policies that we've had before... If we're asking the rest of the world to step up, let's show [that] we're going to step up. Any oil that's needed [by] our allies around the world, we produce it cleaner than anybody."
In the meantime, Republicans are under no illusion that Joe Biden has been eager to do the right thing on Russia. Rep. Don Bacon (R-Nebr.) has been horrified at the $70 million dollars a day we've been sending Putin for his oil since Biden became president. And while he's glad the White House finally did the right thing and decided to stop buying Russian energy, all of Capitol Hill knows -- he didn't want to ban it. "He fought it all week and was trying to stop [Congress from doing it]. Once he realized it [the ban] was going to happen, he decided to jump on board and at least give the impression he was leading on this."
Of course, right now, even the impression of leadership would be an improvement. Especially when the only thing Americans have tasted for the last 14 months is incompetence.