In wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration is refusing to cut its reliance on foreign oil and gas despite plenty of reserves available here at home. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, reserves of U.S. crude oil and leases stand at 38.2 billion barrels as of 2020. 

However, President Biden and Press Secretary Jen Psaki insist it’s the oil and gas industry’s fault for not producing more energy. Adding insult to injury, Congressional progressives want Biden to declare a climate emergency and immediately phase out fossil fuels under the guise of energy security. 

On March 7, for example, Psaki said the following in an exchange with Fox News reporter Peter Doocy:

“Let me give you the facts here & I know that can be inconvenient, but…they’re important…There are 9,000 approved…permits…not being used,” she said. 

Peter Doocy: “Would President Biden rescind his executive order that halts new oil & natural gas leases on public lands?”

Jen Psaki: “Well, 90% of them have been on private lands…[T]here are 9,000 unused approved drilling permits, so I would suggest you ask the oil companies…”

False. Completely make believe.

President Biden is correct that over 9,000—9,173—Applications for Permit to Drill (APDs) were approved for drilling, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) December 2021 APD Status Report. But that same report found that 4,621 APDs remain pending approval. And as Junk Science’s Steve Milloy highlighted in a twitter thread, the 9,000 unused leases would actually mean that the utilization rate is at a historic high. 

Further, Psaki fails to make a clear distinction between the permitting process and the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) leasing program. Despite holding leases, oil and gas companies can’t turn on drilling operations overnight.

The American Petroleum Institute, a trade association representing the natural gas and oil industry, called Psaki’s claim about unused leases a “red herring” — “a smokescreen for energy policies that have had a hamstringing effect on the world’s leading producer of natural gas and oil.” 

That’s because it’s one thing to have access to leases; it’s another to obtain permits to drill on federal oil and gas lands. 

After a lease is obtained, a permit is needed to explore for oil and gas. This process could take upwards of ten years due to regulatory roadblocks and red tape stemming from the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and National Historic Preservation Act. And frequently environmental groups take oil and gas companies to court, preventing them from acting on the lease in question.

The issue is much more complicated that the Biden administration would lead you to believe. In claiming that the oil and gas industry is at fault for unused leases, they’re citing a misleading statistic to shirk responsibility for high gas prices and shift the blame to anyone but themselves.