November 27, 2023 - 9:00pm

Under President Joe Biden, the United States is pumping out more oil per day than at any point in history. His administration, which is struggling to convince voters that its economic agenda has been a success, has been uncharacteristically quiet about the achievement. 

The US is currently producing 13.2 million barrels of crude oil per day, beating out the previous record set under Donald Trump, under whom the US became the world’s leading crude oil producer. 

One might expect an increase in domestic oil production – which should bring down consumer prices, bolster the economy and decrease American dependence on foreign oil – to be cause for celebration. After all, this is the same White House that boasted of July 4th cookout prices dropping by $0.16 in 2021. 

But for Biden, who campaigned on transitioning the country to renewable energy, declining energy costs are in tension with climate goals, posing the President with a conundrum. 

For example, a White House fact sheet on “New Actions to Strengthen America’s Supply Chains, Lower Costs for Families, and Secure Key Sectors” released this morning made no mention of the record-breaking oil output, but did speak extensively about “clean energy” (the term gets seven mentions in the document). The White House did not respond to UnHerd’s inquiry about the development. 

Notwithstanding the occasional tweet on declining gas prices, very little has come from the White House on American oil output. This theme has been a constant through the Biden presidency and before: on his first day in office, Biden imposed a series of new restrictions targeting the oil industry, which the White House labelled “Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” Throughout his campaign he referred to climate change as an existential threat and pledged to “hold oil executives responsible”. “I want you to look at my eyes,” he told one young voter on the campaign trail in 2019. “I guarantee you. I guarantee you. We’re going to end fossil fuel [sic].” 

Part of this promise to “end fossil fuel[s]” has meant that the US has looked abroad for additional energy sources — often with unfriendly regimes. The President has, for instance, eased sanctions on Venezuela to allow for more oil exports and unsuccessfully solicited an output increase from Arab leaders while in office. 

Only 31% of Americans said they were ready for the country to phase out fossil fuels, and 35% said we should never phase out fossil fuels, in a June poll from Pew Research. Republicans are more sceptical than Democrats, with 87% of GOP supporters believing that the US should use a combination of renewables and fossil fuels rather than phase out fossil fuels, compared to 51% of Democrats, the poll found. 

Rising gas prices are a threat to any incumbent president, and the decision to pump more oil may be a tacit recognition of that fact. With the presidential election less than a year away, Joe Biden will be trying all that he can to ensure that voters won’t be feeling the pinch as they go to the ballot box.

is UnHerd’s US correspondent.