Talking Points

Biden undermines his own climate goals

The U.N. reported this week that the world is on fire. The Biden administration has followed up by pouring fuel on the blaze.

The White House on Wednesday issued a statement from National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, urging OPEC to bump up its production of crude oil to bring down the cost of gasoline.

"Higher gasoline costs, if left unchecked, risk harming the ongoing global recovery," Sullivan said, and later added: "President Biden has made clear that he wants Americans to have access to affordable and reliable energy, including at the pump."

Is more oil production a bad idea? Let's ask ... the White House. On Wednesday, the administration also released a "Readout of the Fifth National Climate Task Force Meeting," a response to this week's United Nations report sounding a "code red for humanity" — a global climate emergency caused largely by humankind's use of fossil fuels.

"Americans are already feeling the effects of climate change – from devastating wildfires to extreme heat to a historic drought – and the IPCC report reminds us that we must act swiftly and decisively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," the statement read.

Not too swiftly or decisively, it seems. We still need cheap gasoline, after all.

There is nothing surprising about this. Democratic administrations have been much better than Republican administrations at taking climate-friendly steps like creating higher fuel standards for vehicles and encouraging the growth of clean energy sources. But even Democrats have been reluctant to tackle the problem with the vigor one would expect in an emergency situation. Under the Biden administration, for example, gas and oil drilling permits are at their highest level since the George W. Bush administration. The much-vaunted Paris Accords, signed by President Obama, fall short of what's necessary to slow down planetary warming — and the agreement is mostly toothless, anyway, lacking any real enforcement mechanisms. 

Mostly, when forced to choose between the short-term and long-term, Democratic presidents — like the rest of humanity — choose the short-term. That's somewhat understandable: For millions of American voters, higher gas prices are a problem now, or at least an annoyance. But recent events have shown that the long term isn't actually so long. The Biden administration's decision to pressure OPEC might make a certain amount of sense today. It won't tomorrow.