Biden’s oil and gas production problem

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The Biden administration has an oil and gas production problem—and it’s not what you might think.

The problem is that production is higher than ever, despite the administration’s most ardent efforts to the contrary—but the President can’t take credit.

US oil and gas production in 2023 hit all-time highs with average crude oil production of 12.9 million barrels per day and natural gas production hitting all-time highs of 105.5 billion cubic feet per day. Production of both oil and gas has been trending upward over the last two decades with minor interruptions in the pattern, most notably during the COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020 production. In fact, production of both natural gas and oil has more than doubled since 2005 and 2008, respectively.  

The Biden administration has taken an array of actions to constrain oil and gas production. In the short term, the administration’s actions, along with their messaging, could have an immediate effect by signaling to the oil and gas industry that they should think twice about their next steps. However, the full effect of those actions will likely take several years. For example, the full effects of a pause on natural gas export permits will take time to materialize, as will constraints on oil and gas permitting on federal lands. The failure to approve new pipelines and the litany of other policies that the administration has put into place will constrain the long-term growth of US oil and gas production long after Biden leaves office unless changes are made quickly to reverse course. And even this will likely be insufficient to mitigate a lot of the damage that has been caused.

In the meantime, both Republicans and Democrats are struggling with an energy communications issue.

Democrats can’t take credit for the high production that’s occurring because their coalition is opposed to higher production. In any previous administration, we would have seen serious efforts to take credit for the economic and strategic benefits of record high oil and gas production and the energy independence that they provide. Whereas in this administration there hasn’t been (and isn’t likely to be) any such rhetoric. If anything, Biden is trying to apologize away the production and manage frustrated anti-fossil fuel activists in the lead up to the 2024 election.

At the same time, Republicans pointing to the flaws with Biden’s oil and gas policy need to take the extra step to explain the delay in the effects of the Biden administration’s anti-production policies to account for record high production occurring during this anti-production administration.

Time will tell if the current record production was the high watermark for this period of growth. As this administration’s energy policy continues to take effect, production growth will suffer. However, the future for production will be bright if there is a change in US oil and gas policy that unleashes American energy, instead of hindering it. Whichever way it goes, the issue will have lasting repercussions for transportation, electricity, and the country’s position on the world’s stage.