Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday heavily criticized the Biden administration’s actions on energy policy that he collectively dubbed a “piecemeal green new deal.”
McConnell said at a Senate session on Thursday that the Biden administration’s actions so far are “the wrong prescription,” including the decision to revoke authorization for the Keystone pipeline, the decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, and other actions taken in the name of addressing climate change.
“There’s nothing green about a tsunami of pink slips for American workers, or carting Canadian crude around in trucks and trains instead of a pipeline,” McConnell said. “This piecemeal green new deal is the wrong prescription. Wrong for the environment, wrong for national security. And most of all for the working Americans who will soon be formerly working Americans if this keeps up.”
He added, “China, Russia, and our other competitors must be thrilled, absolutely thrilled, that our new government is essentially declaring war on some of our own economic foundations to satisfy a craving for symbolic gesture.
“Wilfully throwing our own people out of work, reducing our domestic energy security, raising costs and prices for working families—all for no meaningful impact on global temperatures.”
The Republican senator praised the policies of the Trump administration saying, “The last four years prove that growing our prosperity, reducing emissions, and expanding domestic energy are actually not in tension—we can achieve all three.”
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Keystone XL Oil Pipeline
McConnell called Biden’s decision to revoke the permit on the Keystone XL oil pipeline a “massive setback for energy security in North America.” Former President Donald Trump had in 2017 permitted the completion of the pipeline.
A Canadian leader last week called Biden’s decision to halt the completion of the oil pipeline system in Canada and the United States a “gut punch,” McConnell noted. “I’d imagine the 11,000 American workers, including 8,000 union workers who were counting on that work, feel the same way,” he added, saying that Biden “effectively closed the door on thousands of American jobs with a stroke of a pen.”
Biden’s executive order that paused the pipeline’s construction said that in 2015, the Department of State and former President Barack Obama “determined that approving the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the U.S. national interest.”
The same analysis had said that the country “must prioritize the development of a clean energy economy, which will in turn create good jobs.” It also said that the pipeline would have a limited impact on U.S. energy security, and that approval of the pipeline would “undermine U.S. climate leadership by undercutting the credibility and influence of the United States in urging other countries to take ambitious climate action.”
Paris Climate Accord
Separately, McConnell said that Biden’s decision on Jan. 20 to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord will only bring Americans “serious pain.”
“We’ve headed back into an international pact that would’ve self inflict[ed] serious pain on working families, that failed to curb China’s emissions, and without which our own emissions have been dropping anyway,” he said.
John Kerry, former secretary of state under the Obama-Biden administration and now Biden’s top environmental policy adviser, “admitted yesterday that even if the United States somehow brought our carbon emissions to zero, it wouldn’t make much difference in the global picture,” McConnell pointed out. “That’s because our competitors, including China, have already gone roaring past us.”
The United States formally left the climate agreement on Nov. 4, 2020. Former President Donald Trump first announced in 2017 his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, calling the United Nations framework to tackle climate change “a total disaster” for the U.S. economy that was too lenient towards communist China and its greenhouse gas emissions.
China has become the world’s largest greenhouse-gas emitter, contributing 26.8 percent. Both China and India, which contributes 7 percent, pledged in the international pact to reduce their emissions intensity relative to GDP by 2030. This means their emissions will continue to increase in the next decade due to economic growth and also would not contribute to reducing global emissions by 50 percent by 2030, according to the Universal Ecological Fund.
U.S. participation in the agreement would cost the average family $20,000 and the national GDP $2.5 trillion by 2035, as well as an overall loss of nearly 400,000 jobs, half of which would be in manufacturing, according to a 2019 report published by the Heritage Foundation. The United States contributes 13.1 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions.
Ban on Oil, Gas Development on Public Land
McConnell also questioned Biden’s Wednesday decision to halt oil and natural gas development on public lands.
“Yesterday, the administration slammed the brakes on further domestic energy development on the huge swaths of land owned by the federal government,” the senator said Thursday. “No new oil, gas or coal leases on federal land.”
“Our responsible use of these lands accounts for more than a fifth, one fifth, of our domestic production—about 2.8 million barrels per day. That is almost the equivalent of Kuwait’s daily oil production from our federal lands alone. Plus more than 10 [percent] of domestic natural gas,” he noted.
But “some left-wing elites” are “not happy” that the United States in 2019 for the first time since the 1950s ran an energy surplus and its exports surpassed imports, he said.
“The sources of this affordable domestic energy are not sufficiently trending,” McConnell said. “As John Kerry explained yesterday on behalf of the administration, he wants the large numbers of American workers in those sectors to find ‘better choices.’ Better choices than their good jobs to treat their families and strengthen our independence?” he questioned.
Kerry on Wednesday said that Biden wants to make sure workers in the energy industry “have better choices” in jobs that “pay better” and are “cleaner,” giving the example of being a solar power technician instead of being a miner.
Kerry also asserted that it’s a false notion that “dealing with climate” is coming at the expense of energy workers. He added that there is “a lot of money to be made” in the creation of new “healthier” jobs in sectors such as green hydrogen, geothermal heat, and other renewables.
McConnell noted on Thursday that a study (pdf) by energy consulting firm OnLocation concluded that a leasing and development ban on federal land and waters would mean the loss of nearly 1 million jobs by 2022.
“One million lost jobs by next year alone. Goes a heck of a way to kick off a presidency—mass layoffs of our own citizens,” he emphasized.
McConnell said that states which have much of their oil and natural gas production tied to federal land will suffer significant job losses by next year, with estimates suggesting at least 16,000 jobs are at stake in New Mexico and 3,000 jobs in Colorado if Biden’s federal ban persists.
McConnell added, “Working Americans in other sectors will pay as well.”
According to the study, the decision on federal lands could mean that U.S. households could spend a cumulative $19 billion more on energy by 2030.
Four House Democrats from Texas urged Biden to rescind his order, saying it will lead to job losses, squeeze budgetary revenues, undercut American energy independence, and will “hurt an already suffering community.”
Western Energy Alliance, a group representing fossil fuel producers on federal lands, sued the Biden administration on Wednesday over the order saying the president exceeded his authority.