The war in Ukraine has driven oil prices to their highest levels since 2008. As crude oil is the main component of gasoline, the first place Americans encounter price pain is at the pump, with 56% of every gallon of gas reflecting the cost of crude, followed by spikes in home climate control. There’s more pain coming – economists warn that prices for food and consumer goods like iPhones may also soon increase with the cost of transportation and production. Yet, this crisis in America could have been avoided.

As we scramble for solutions, it’s crucial to learn from the mistakes that have brought our energy-rich nation to this point.

California could be a case study. In September of 2021, faced with an energy shortage and 2.6 million homes about to be without electricity, the state of California wrote the U.S. Energy Department to request exemption from emissions rules. The state that felt EPA was not strict enough about automobile emissions, repeatedly requesting exemptions from federal law to require special emissions standards for their cars and mandate higher cost equipment wrote the Biden administration to ask that they be allowed to pollute without limit as a means of offsetting its inability to power its homes.

The energy shortage was the result of state policies to abandon politically unpopular sources of fuel like nuclear, natural gas and hydroelectric in favor of “green” energy sources. Though increasing funding of solar and wind made for good politics, it has been disastrous for consumers, who face higher prices and must compete on the spot market, a short-term exchange, for energy. Worse, the same customers having to pay more for short-term energy fixes also has subsidies for solar and wind customers added onto their bills.

Though alternative energy has received nearly three trillion dollars in subsidies the share of electricity produced by conventional energy has not changed – it’s about 80 percent.

Nor has the amount of political theater criticizing the companies that keep our lights on. Only a month after California needed to be exempt from federal pollution laws or suffer brownouts again, the House Oversight Committee forced Board members of four energy companies to testify at a hearing where they were harangued and accused of climate disinformation.

They were yelled at for cameras again in February but then the third hearing scheduled for March 8th, which they were warned by Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY 12th District) was "their last chance to cooperate", was abruptly canceled. The reason was obvious. The military situation in Ukraine, and the shock to oil supplies, meant that political posturing had to make way for science reality. With war, Germany and large parts of Europe face a difficult year. Like California, they scuttled nuclear and embraced solar and wind, but the dirty secret is that it made Russian natural gas so essential Germany was fast-tracking a new pipeline from Russia over the objections of its green parties. And they can't function without it.


With Russia under embargo, everyone is scrambling to lock in energy supplies. In October, Rep. Ro Khannaz (D-CA 17th District), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Environment, repeatedly asked the CEO of Chevron whether he was "embarrassed" as an American company executive that his production was increasing while European counterparts' was going down. Fast forward to February, and the congressman was singing a different tune about how he supported President Biden’s “decisive action” to lower gas prices by asking oil companies to increase production.


Khanna had company in his about-face. The Biden administration went from declaring a moratorium on new oil and gas leases in early 2021—a cute bit of political theater for the benefit of the fringe of the Democratic party -- to begging companies to increase output. "I hope you will hear me say that please, take advantage of the leases that you have, hire workers, get your rig count up," said US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who, coincidentally, had just honored California's request to be exempt from any pollution standards ahead of Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom’s recall vote. A vote he stood to lose if the lights went out during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Now, with war in eastern Europe sending energy markets into a panic, Congress has abandoned its energy company demagoguery entirely – which simply means it was misplaced all along. Energy plants are not light switches, they can’t be turned on and off at will. Providers must be allowed to keep prices affordable for our most vulnerable populations before it becomes a crisis like is happening now. This means being realistic about where technology is and what’s actually possible for using “green” energy sources. It means allowing companies to invest in keeping energy supplies going, not hauling them before Congress to be chastised like villains for supposed sins against the climate.


Russian President Vlad Putin didn't come up with his demands on a whim. He gets aggressive when gas prices are high because he knows Europe can't really object. He counted on the fact that Europe will acquiesce because they have no other choice and American politicians will be too busy threatening our success stories to neutralize him by producing enough energy for itself and exporting gas to Europe.


Like food and military defense, energy is a vital strategic resource. It is a mistake to make America reliant on its geopolitical competitors for a strategic resource, and even worse to bully energy producers in the latest bad political theater production hosted by Congress.