Missed Opportunity: Biden’s Silent State of the Union on Record U.S. Energy Production

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President Joe Biden recently delivered the 2024 State of the Union address, facing the intense spotlight that accompanies this annual event. The speech offers a prime opportunity for the President to tout achievements and rally support ahead of a grueling re-election campaign against his Republican challenger, former President Donald Trump.

While I briefly tuned into the speech, my aversion to political theater led me to skip most of the speech and simply read through the transcript afterward. My primary focus was on what Biden said about energy.

A recent social media post by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) exemplifies the common attack against Biden, when he accused Biden’s government of choosing energy dependence over dominance and independence. This narrative, often echoed by Donald Trump, seems at odds with the fact that the U.S. achieved record oil and production in 2023.

To be clear, I have long maintained that presidents don’t impact energy production a lot while they are in office, although their policies can have a bigger long-term impact. The reason is that it generally takes years to plan and execute projects, so policy changes don’t quickly turn into changes in energy production.

Nevertheless, presidents historically like to take credit for booming U.S. energy production. President Obama did it. President Trump did it. Given the criticisms surrounding President Biden’s energy policies, I expected him to at least challenge the notion that he has hurt American energy production.

But in a year when domestic energy dominance has been a political flashpoint, the President’s silence on this front was deafening.

Contrary to my expectations, Biden barely touched on energy in the State of the Union address. The word “oil” surfaced only once in the context of ending tax breaks for “Big Oil.” Natural gas went unmentioned, and references to energy were confined to the realm of “clean energy.”

The notable strides in U.S. energy production were conspicuously absent from the address. Why?

It’s crucial to recognize the nature of the State of the Union address as a political speech. One of Biden’s main objectives is to energize his base, with a significant focus on addressing climate change, a key campaign promise.

The Biden Administration has stated that it aims to eliminate fossil fuels for energy generation in the U.S. by 2035. Legislation has been enacted to expedite the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy while impeding fossil fuel development.

The inconvenient truth for the administration is record U.S. oil and gas production, which contradicts these stated objectives. Despite criticisms from Republicans, Biden may be hesitant to remind his base that oil and gas production continues to grow.

Another factor is Biden’s awareness that record production occurs despite, not because of, his policies. While presidents often claim credit for achievements, in this case, Biden’s stated policy aims are to work against the expansion of oil and gas. Taking credit for this success would be seen as disingenuous.

Nonetheless, amid a reelection campaign, Biden could have highlighted the extraordinary achievement of record U.S. energy production, leaving it to critics to point out its primary reliance on expanding oil and gas production.

 

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