A trend is emerging in the Biden administration’s foreign policy, a perpetual obsession with supporting Europe above and even at the expense of U.S. needs at home.
In response to attacks on the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline system, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the situation in Europe a “tremendous opportunity to once and for all remove the dependence on Russian energy.” Blinken went on to tout the ability of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) producers to meet heightened European demand, conveniently forgetting it was the Biden administration’s executive actions that stifled production capacity within its first 100 days in office. Careful, Mr. Secretary, with too much premature boasting.
Blinken’s naïve comments, practically salivating at the idea of saving Europe, indicate just how much the Biden administration does not want the war in Ukraine to end. The conflict has become the administration’s sacred cow, allowing it to cover up domestic political blunders and receive heaps of praise from European elites, perhaps the toughest crowd globally for the U.S. post-Trump. What goes unsaid is that all this European love comes at the expense of the interests and bank account balances of American households.
U.S. LNG exporters are, for the moment, enjoying a hefty payday. Data from the first half of 2022 show the U.S. became the world’s leading exporter of natural gas, with a 12 percent increase from the second half of 2021, according to the Energy Information Administration. Compounded by disruption in Russia’s ability to export to Europe, the U.S. sent 70 percent of its exports last month alone to Europe. Compared with the same timeframe last year, exports to Europe hovered at only about 20 percent of overall U.S. exports. As New England competes with Europe for LNG supply, the region’s power grid operator has warned of possible blackouts this winter. Meanwhile, energy companies have been profiting approximately $200 million per shipment to Europe thanks to record prices there. With a continued influx of U.S. supply, Europe’s prices are likely to start to come down.
But let’s not forget that American producers haven’t had the best relationship with the Biden administration. Almost immediately upon entering office, President Joe Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline and mandated numerous new environmental rules and regulations with executive orders. American producers may be getting a fat payday thanks to Europe, but sustainable long-term production at home remains in jeopardy.
Price Increases at Home
But what about prices for American households this winter? U.S. energy prices have reached 14-year highs, sparking calls domestically for a freeze on exports abroad heading into winter to ensure a strong U.S. supply that will directly benefit U.S. consumers. The Biden administration said no thanks. Reuters reports the White House has “ruled out any ban or curbs on exports this winter” with a senior administration official quoted as saying “because of the steps we and our partners have been taking, gas storage in Europe is at a significantly higher level than last year. More work remains” as part of the rationale for the decision.
Meanwhile, as the White House ensures Europe is nice and warm this winter, U.S. households should brace for an estimated average 17.2 percent increase (approximately $1,202) in home heating costs, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA). In certain parts of the country, this could mean a more than 50 percent increase in the price printed on the monthly energy bill. NEADA further warned it should not come as a shock if low-income families fall behind on their bills as a result. How kind of the White House to volunteer the poorest American families to go cold on behalf of Europe this holiday season.
While the war in Ukraine is a significant factor in the disruption of LNG access, Europe is also culpable for its hefty reliance on an adversary for an essential energy source. The radical climate agenda of the European Union, which overemphasizes the use of green energy sources without the appropriate storage capabilities, means the continent cannot escape the use of traditional sources like LNG for now.
Despite attempts under the Trump administration, which fostered a regulatory environment that made greater U.S. production possible, to strike a deal to increase exports to Europe, these efforts were rejected on the grounds that American LNG is “too dirty” for EU standards. So Europe continued to rely nearly exclusively on Russia, which according to a 2019 U.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory study emits more greenhouse gases than European coal. The same study found U.S. LNG releases up to 56 percent fewer emissions than European coal. Yes, Europe, Russia as your greatest continental adversary with dirtier fuel is a better choice than having to do any business with President Donald Trump. Further, the continent seems all too happy to burn American LNG now that its preferred political party controls the White House. The Biden administration is free to fawn over Europe, but please stop selling the continent’s energy predicament as the stuff of martyrdom.
Entrenchment in Europe should enrage Americans all the way to the polls this November. From a national security perspective, the U.S. is sacrificing its own security interests in the Indo-Pacific and on the southern border by cutting big checks to Ukraine and subsidizing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, exercising little restraint despite military realities. But fold in energy and economic policy, and the effects hit even closer to home. White House elites are further straining American households’ finances, proving nothing is off limits in the name of protecting and nursing Europe back to health. American patience will rightly wear thin, and no one in Washington should act surprised at a fervor to trade Europe First for a return to America First.
Ms. Katherine Thompson is a fellow at the Center for Renewing America and a former Military Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Mike Lee.
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