Biden's heating oil fiasco

During World War II, U.S. coal companies ran radio advertisements cautioning people to buy only what they needed for immediate use.  The government anticipated needing to use much of the available coal to keep pace with the urgent demand for it by the military.  Eventually, the U.S. government rationed gasoline and oil, too.

Eighty years later, electric utilities are once again warning Americans that we could be in for a long, cold, dark winter.  However, the difference is, today's shortages are not due to a global conflict causing the consumption of more fuel than ever before.

Almost all countries are increasing energy consumption compared to last year.  Yet it reflects a return to normal, not a historic increase.

As the world climbs out of government-inflicted COVID-19 shutdowns, energy demand is certain to climb.  In fact, all energy sources and fuels are in high demand.  Such is why the price of oil and natural gas continues to rise.

European utilities are even switching from natural gas back to coal power this winter, just to keep the lights on and the heat running.  According to a report from Bloomberg Quint, American utility executives are warning that we may well do the same, and even then, we may still see blackouts in some areas.

The latest Energy Outlook report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) explains that "[e]lectricity generation from coal-fired power plants has not increased as much in response to rising natural gas prices as it has in the past, or by as much as our models forecasted in recent STEOs.  The lower price responsiveness of coal for electricity generation, which is likely the result of constraints on coal supply and low coal stocks, is contributing to upward pressure on natural gas prices."

EIA continues, explaining its predictions for the coming winter: "We forecast that average U.S. household expenditures for all major home heating fuels will increase significantly this winter primarily because of higher expected fuel costs as well as more consumption of energy due to a colder winter."

Even if it's not a particularly cold winter, EIA says your bill will still be higher: "Altering our assumptions for a 10% colder-than-expected winter significantly increases forecast expenditures, while a 10% warmer-than-expected winter still results in increased expenditures, because of price increases."

Although White House press secretary Jen Psaki makes snide jokes about "the tragedy of the treadmill that's delayed" (demonstrating a lack of awareness and tact that is becoming characteristic of the Biden administration), the reality is that there are essential materials and equipment that aren't reaching vital energy industries.  Supplies used in offshore drilling and production, for example, that normally take only a few days to deliver now take weeks.

The Biden administration can make light of the supply chain situation all they want, often implying that it primarily affects the wealthy, who can afford to buy treadmills and other nonessential luxury goods.  However, the downstream impact of supply shortages and delays will disproportionately harm America's poorest. 

South Carolina residents are already being warned that their heating bills could rise by at least $11 per month this year and into next.  That may not seem like much, but it matters for people who survive on tight or fixed budgets, especially when everything else they need is more expensive due to historic inflation.  Gasoline, food, winter clothing, and practically every product in between is more expensive due to ever-increasing inflation.

As if our domestic problems were not enough, remember when Russia was our worst enemy ever?  According to the left, Russia singlehandedly interfered with the 2016 election, helping Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

So why did President Biden allow completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that Trump blocked, which will supply Germany with natural gas from Russia?  This comes as we import a record amount of natural gas from Russia.  Even worse, why did Biden kill the Keystone XL pipeline?  And why does the administration impose increasingly strict regulations on our oil and gas industries?

In other words, Biden is suppressing U.S. energy production while buying energy from our rivals.  When you also consider the Biden administration's unwavering devotion to moving away from coal and other fossil fuels, it's not hard to see why production is struggling to keep up with increased demand.  In less than ten months, Biden has terminated U.S. energy independence.

Sadly, the supply chain crisis and fuel shortages that will harm Americans this winter and beyond have been created by dumb, but deliberate, government decisions, not natural market fluctuations, and not a world war.

Linnea Lueken (llueken@heartland.org) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute.

Image: US Energy Information Administration.

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