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Wait, whut? U.S. grants new license for nat gas development…to Caribbean islands

Not that we need any development or licenses for the same ’round these parts – as we are doing so well, thank you, Brandon – but what the frick frack, over?

The Biden administration has granted a license to Trinidad and Tobago to develop a major gas field located in Venezuelan territorial waters, U.S. and Trinidad officials said on Tuesday, marking a further easing of some sanctions on Venezuela.

The license, issued by the U.S. Treasury Department at Trinidad’s request and intended to enhance Caribbean regional energy security, means the island nation can do business related to the Dragon gas field with Venezuela’s heavily sanctioned state-run oil company PDVSA.

We’re busy securing the Caribbean’s “regional energy security” while draining our own Strategic Petroleum Reserves to the last drop and demonizing clean, relatively cheap natural gas here in favor of pet renewable projects nationwide.

The administration puts up great talking points about how many leases they’ve allowed the fossil fuel industry to bid for, but even that has taken a precipitous decline. Besides, a lease still needs a permit for anything to happen on it, as this administration well knows. In March of last year, even as Biden was talking out of both sides of his mouth and oil and gas prices were spiking to insane levels, his Department of Interior was working on new rules to make permitting even tougher.

…When it comes to public lands and waters, though, oil and gas companies have accused the White House of not truly supporting their industry and aiming to curb production.

Ryan McConnaughey, spokesperson for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said the Biden administration has a “playbook” for federal development: “delay, distract and deflect.”

“It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the Biden Administration’s approval of APDs [applications for permit to drill] has plummeted,” he said.

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, said the political focus on the drilling permits and leases already held by industry is a red herring from the White House.

“Just because Acme O&G isn’t using a permit right away doesn’t mean that ABC O&G doesn’t need one for a well it’s planning to drill now,” she said. “If the federal permitting situation weren’t so inefficient and fraught with political interference, companies wouldn’t need to request a large inventory even years in advance.”

…The permitting showdown is the latest of many disagreements over the federal oil program under Biden. When Biden came into office last year, he paused oil and gas leasing on federal lands and last fall published a report criticizing the program as antiquated and deferential to industry.

The leasing moratorium was overturned by a federal judge, but leasing has been slow to resume — and bogged down in continued legal wrangling. The outlook for new leasing in 2022 remains in limbo as Interior has said it will be difficult to move forward after a Louisiana federal judge blocked the use of an interim climate metric.

Meanwhile, Interior is developing regulations on oil and gas that will increase royalty rates and bonding requirements on federal leases, as well as impose new methane rules.

The Department of Energy has been approving nat gas licenses – but for exporting it. Ten senators were so alarmed by price spikes and shortages in U.S. natural gas caused by those same exports, they sent a letter to the Biden White House. In it, they made some salient points and common sense suggestions in the best interests of the American people.

Mark Wolfe, an energy industry/climate change public policy expert, weighed in on the obvious solution in an op-ed – stop sending our resources to the wrong people.

…But is the Department of Energy really approving licenses “consistent with the public interest”? Recently, some of the nation’s leading energy and environmental policy groups, including the two organizations we represent, sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm asking the Department of Energy to consider whether exports of liquefied natural gas are increasing prices at home and harming lower-income families.

Similarly, 10 US senators sent a letter in February to Secretary Granholm asking the department to review liquefied natural gas exports and their impact on domestic prices, and then develop a plan to ensure that natural gas remains affordable for Americans.

These are important questions. We are not proposing that the US cut off exports to Ukraine or the European Union to reduce domestic prices. Access to natural gas is essential to Europe ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to cut gas supplies there.

But before authorizing any additional shipments, the US government should review natural gas export licenses in the context of their potential to increase domestic prices. And it should consider reducing sales to other parts of the world, especially countries that have been accused of human rights abuses. China, in particular, was the second largest purchaser of US natural gas by volume (via vessel) in 2021, and yet it has been accused of using forced labor of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region to produce goods (China has denied all allegations of human rights abuses). Consumers in the US should not have to pay higher prices for natural gas to help support a government that is routinely accused of violating human rights.

So far, you can guess where that’s gone and where our natural gas is still going. China’s making out like energy bandits – scoring both our SPR releases and our LNG (Way to go, Hunter and Big Guy!).

But seriously – the Biden White House still had time to worry about the Caribbean. Well, what about Mauro and sanctions?

Pfft. Don’t worry about that thuggish dictator guy. ‘S’all good.

…A senior U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said “the Maduro regime will not be permitted to receive any cash payments from this project” and all remaining U.S. sanctions would be unchanged and enforced.

(If you believe that, you’ll buy THIS watch!)

Oh…wait a hot minute. This might be the other reason, no?

Somebody needed a win.

…The decision was the result of extensive diplomacy between Vice President Kamala Harris and Caribbean leaders in an effort to ensure regional energy security and reduce reliance on other nations’ resources, including Russia, the official said.

“The U.S. Vice President has been a careful and committed listener,” Prime Minister Rowley said.

…One of Washington’s key aims appeared to be a response to U.S. partners in the Caribbean who have called for help to deal with high energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The Vice President conveyed to the Prime Minister that the Treasury Department would take action to help meet the region’s long-term energy needs,” a statement from Harris’ office said, referring to a call with Rowley on Tuesday.

What a slobber fest. And how awfully nice of her.

Now. What about the rest of us?

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