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10.11.2022 0

High gas prices are a feature of Biden’s energy policy

By Rick Manning

The Biden administration’s latest excuse for high gasoline prices is priceless, it’s Trump’s fault.

Current Labor Secretary Marty Walsh came out with this astonishing claim in an interview on CNN Newsroom where he said, “if the last administration made investments in refineries, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

That’s right, you read it right, the Trump administration should have invested taxpayer dollars in oil refineries and if they had, we would be awash in low cost gasoline. 

The reason that Walsh made this claim is because private investors are not as interested as you might think they would be in oil refinery investment.  The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the last major refinery built in the United States was completed in 1977. 

The CEO of Chevron, Mike Wirth, earlier this year famously predicted that there would not be any new refineries built in America saying, “You’re looking at committing capital 10 years out, that will need decades to offer a return for shareholders, in a policy environment where governments around the world are saying, ‘We don’t want these products to be used in the future.'” 

Adding to the cost is the finance world’s embrace of Environment, Social and Governance investing which cuts available capital to fund necessary refining capacity development.

In fact, since 1978 the 17 new refineries built only produce slightly more fuel than the last major refinery built processed last year.  It must be noted that during that same span, capacity increased at two other major refineries which upgraded their capacity significantly.

Meanwhile, refining capacity in the United States has declined the past two years to levels not seen since 2014 with at least two additional major refiners scheduled to shut down next year. 

The Institute for Energy Research, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit, wrote that one of the refineries slated to close at the end of 2023 is “due to the financial burden of upgrading its infrastructure and to advance its de-carbonization goals pushed by the Biden administration.” 

What’s more, a remnant policy left over from the Renewable Fuel Standard designed to encourage refiners to include corn ethanol in gasoline mixes called RINS credits has significantly increased costs for small refiners who make kerosene and other gasoline based products which are not suitable for ethanol. If the Biden administration is worried about declining capacity, they should dramatically increase the availability of waivers from ethanol requirements for small and medium sized refiners or get rid of ethanol requirements in their entirety.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration, at the behest of environmental groups and corn lobbyists, decided to continue to subsidize corn growers in 2018 by not ending the credits associated with the production of ethanol at the expense of small and mid-sized refiners.

Getting back to Walsh’s attempt to rewrite history through his claim that the Trump administration should have “invested” in oil refineries. It is laughable at best. The Democrats controlled Congress in 2019 and 2020, and there is no chance they would have voted to “invest” taxpayer funds in oil refineries, or else they would have.

Remember, in 2020, President Trump proposed to replenish the Strategic Oil Reserve when oil prices were extremely low. His common sense proposal to fill the Reserve while oil was cheap, was met with a chorus of Noes from Democrats who claimed it was a pandemic bailout for the oil companies. If filling the Strategic Oil Reserve when prices were low was stonewalled by Democrats in Congress, imagine the uproar if the Trump had sought help for refineries that were failing due to the lack of demand for gasoline during the shutdown? We’d still be hearing the screeching!

So, no Secretary Walsh, the Biden administration cannot blame President Trump for high gasoline prices or a failure to expand refinery capacity. Perhaps it is time for your administration to engage in some honest introspection about the impact of their policies on domestic oil refining, and come clean with America.

High gasoline prices are not a flaw in the Joe Biden’s energy plan, they are a feature. A feature designed to make expensive energy like wind and solar to appear cheap, while making inexpensive and available energy unaffordable.

Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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