Global warming has accelerated in the last decade and even this year there were already quite some heat waves. For example over a thousand people died this year on the traditional pilgrimage to Mecca in very high temperatures.

Democrats in the US have enacted quite a number of "green" laws in the last four years (see for example the "Inflation Reduction Act" of 2022 with investments and incentives to transition to cleaner sources of energy). If effective, one would expect to see a reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases in the US at least in the middle and long run.

On the other hand, the US oil production is very high at the moment, apparently the US is extracting more oil than any other country currently. This seems to at least partly invalidate the efforts that US Democrats took elsewhere.

Does it mean that the risks of climate change are still underestimated, even on the traditionally more environmentally protective left political side of the US?

Are US voters maybe behaving inconsistently there, for example being overly nostalgic about traditional combustion engine vehicles than in other countries (Norway, China, ...)?

Has the administration (including Biden) said something about why they deem a high oil production compatible with curbing greenhouse gas emissions?

Has the political opposition (Republicans) commented on what they would do differently and why?

Or are there maybe other important considerations favoring a high oil production?

A good answer would addresses US oil production and its impact on climate and stated climate goals of all participants.

  • Unless you've only read the headline that you've linked and not the full article, I don't quite see what's left to answer. Commented Jun 28 at 14:09
  • @gottrolledtoomuchthisweek Hmm. Let's edit the question.
    – Allure
    Commented Jun 28 at 14:27
  • I'm voting to reopen this question because climate is an important issue for some voters (e.g. ft.com/content/421a2055-0f42-46ba-8d26-b9e3e7462d15) so Biden's explanation for his seeming lack of action is important.
    – Allure
    Commented Jun 28 at 23:19
  • 1
    @NoDataDumpNoContribution There're a lot of questions now, but I think it's largely fine. Might consider removing some sub-questions like Are US voters maybe behaving inconsistently there, for example being overly nostalgic about traditional combustion engine vehicles than in other countries (Norway, China, ...)? -- US voters presumably don't have a say ever since Biden was elected four years ago, although some of them have clearly expressed concern about voting for Biden again given what happened.
    – Allure
    Commented Jun 29 at 10:07
  • 1
    Has the political opposition (Republicans) commented on what they would do differently and why? This sub-question also seems redundant, since Republicans (AFAIK) largely don't take climate change seriously; some of them might not even acknowledge anthropogenic climate-change.
    – Allure
    Commented Jun 29 at 10:08

3 Answers 3


Note:this answer was written when the Q was strictly what Biden said. If we include what other Democrats etc. said, an answer could get much longer. (In fact, the very piece linked by the OP has a lot of commentators doing Biden-explaining on this.)

From the piece you've linked:

For his part, Biden has said his top domestic priority is reducing prices for Americans, and the relief at the pump carries potential benefits for his 2024 prospects.

Doesn't give a direct quote though.

FWTW, a 2022 piece quotes him saying "I’m going to work like the devil to bring the price of gasoline down.”

As for the climate angle, he's also casting that from an economics perspective, often enough:

“When I think of climate...I think of jobs,” Biden said at an event with union members just before Earth Day this year.

[...] Biden hasn’t made his climate record a centerpiece of his bid for reelection. His campaign is more focused on reproductive rights, the economy and protecting democracy.

And yeah, in the [oft-lambasted] debate with Trump, he did say something like

Trump ‘want's to undo all that I’ve done’ for climate change.

So the [Biden campaign] pitch (on climate), like on many other issues, seems to be "Trump would be worse." FWTW, in the same debate Trump claimed that the US had the "best environmental numbers ever", under his presidency, of course. And yeah, Biden retorted that "I don't know where the hell he's been to think anything he says is true", albeit in a rather strained voice. But more to point here, Biden then claimed that he "passed the most extensive climate legislation in history." And that Trump didn't do "a damned thing" for the environment, exemplifying it with Trump having pulled out of Paris 'accord', which then [he/Biden] rejoined. So that's this election debate [on climate] in a nutshell.

  • FWTW, a 2022 piece quotes him saying "I’m going to work like the devil to bring the price of gasoline down.” Commented Jun 28 at 14:23
  • 2
    An interesting choice of words, since a mythical religious force of pure evil might be quite happy with increased fossil fuel production and the accompanying suffering.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jun 28 at 16:27
  • @Obie2.0 the analogy is that the devil has to work really hard to achieve anything, because they have an omnipotent adversary
    – Caleth
    Commented Jul 1 at 12:31

Partial answer to this subquestion.

Or are there maybe other important considerations favoring a high oil production?

Yes. Climate change is a serious and important consideration when evaluating how much oil should be produced. But it isn't the only one.

  1. Not producing oil domestically reduces the global supply of oil, driving up the price of oil, which hurts the U.S. economy and the pocketbooks of ordinary Americans. Note also, that if we want to increase the price of oil to discourage consumption, we can tax petroleum products more heavily, rather than giving the money from higher prices to foreign oil producers. Rising global oil prices lead to inflation that isn't due merely to expanding the money supply and in the worst case, can lead to "stagflation" (i.e. inflation combined with economic stagnation).

  2. It also turns out the oil prices are particularly politically sensitive and could cause elected officials to not be re-elected if they rise, ending the ability of the incumbents in office to pass good policies (from an environmental perspective) in the future. This is particularly a concern in a Democratic party administration, as the Democratic party is willing to do more to address climate change, on balance, than the Republican party is willing to do. One of the costs of living in a democracy is that you can't act more boldly that the public will tolerate when your actions will cause economic pain to voters.

  3. The U.S. government doesn't have complete control over oil production in the U.S., at least in the short term. The U.S. has not nationalized the oil and gas industry. Many mineral rights are owned by private parties that have gained the legal right to utilize those mineral rights and taking that away would require the government to fully compensate the property owners for the economic value of the oil revenues lost as a result. Likewise, many U.S. government owned mineral rights are subject to oil and gas leases that the U.S. cannot unilaterally terminate without, again, fully compensating the oil and gas leaseholders.

  4. Domestic production of oil gives the U.S. energy independence. If the U.S. needs oil but doesn't produce what it needs, other countries that do produce oil that the U.S. needs could use that leverage to gain other things that it wants from the U.S.

  5. Demand for oil is caused largely by transportation fuel demand and heating oil demand. Unless we are going to let Americans in the places where heating oil is used (mostly the Northeast) freeze in the winter, or want people to not be able to drive their vehicles, we need to get oil from someplace until the infrastructure driving demand for oil can be replaced with something else (like electric vehicles and heat pumps). Reducing demand for oil can't be done overnight. It will take decades.

  6. The U.S. has set climate change goals. But there is more than one way to achieve them. A sensible environmental policy looks at the different options to reduce pollution that leads to climate change and makers a cost-benefit analysis regarding which approaches provide the greatest benefit to the environment at the lowest cost. Ending domestic production of oil (which is at least better regulated than foreign production of oil regarding issues like burning off methane) may not be the optimal choice.

  7. Oil prices constantly fluctuate. Establishing oil supply reserves provides a way to buffer those globally driven market fluctuations so that a natural disaster or war in an oil producing region doesn't produce a sudden economic shock.

  8. While it is a relatively small factor, when the oil is produced pursuant to a lease of U.S. government owned mineral rights, that produces revenue for the U.S. government. When leases are terminated prospectively when they expire, or are simply not entered into in the first place, that reduces U.S. government revenue that must be paid for with reduced government spending, increased tax revenues, or by increasing the national debt. The $4 billion a year or so that this generates is tiny compared to the overall federal budget. But $4 billion is still real money.


I work in climate policy (in the context of electrical power but the same principles apply).

Yes, ceteris paribus, oil production is counterproductive to progress mitigating climate change. Ceteris, however, are never paribus.

Oil production is a major driver of economic activity in the United States, and has a lengthy history of receiving numerous forms of support from the Federal Government for strategic reasons. In particular, "gas pump prices," are a common political talking point as a proxy for 'energy prices recognizable to, and faced directly by, individual voters.' They are considered highly salient to voters.

Gas Prices, Like All Prices, Are Functions of Supply and Demand

When most people think of policies that reduce prices, increase of supply is commonly the go-to assumption but it is not the only means by which prices can be mitigated; reduction of demand has downward effects on price as well. Moreover, reduction of demand for fossil-fuels has the simultaneous double-benefit of applying downward pressure on gas prices and reducing gross GHG emissions.

The US Gov't Doesn't Control How Much Oil Gets Produced

The volume of oil production in the US is not something the government has meaningful direct control of, it's the result of decisions made by owners of the relevant property rights to pump the oil. Prices inform those decisions and so a successful effort to reduce demand would also trigger a concomitant reduction in oil production to prevent prices from collapsing due to oversupply.

There Are Climate Mitigation Strategies That Do Not Require We Stop Emitting GHGs

Direct removal of GHGs from the atmosphere as a discrete process allows for the mitigation of Climate Change without requiring that emission of those GHGs cease - so long as the direct removal efforts are achieving greater gross removal rates (and thus a net positive removal rate). One of the Biden Administration's stated climate goals (from the link provided in the question) is "Scale up carbon removal" which describes precisely this type of activity.

TL;DR - While oil production is the precursor to GHG emissions, it is not the direct cause, and short-run discrepancies between oil production as a leading indicator of future emissions and stated goals for climate mitigation is expectable and normal (despite being unhelpful when all is said and done).

Oil production serves as a leading indicator of GHG emissions because presumably that oil will eventually be burned in some fashion. Changes in oil production however are trailing indicators of how successful climate mitigation policies are because as demand for fossil fuels fall, producers will be unable to sell inventory as quickly and so we would expect production rates to decline. Wildly successful climate mitigation efforts would cause that decline to be quite swift and sudden, but no one that I'm aware of has ever seriously accused the United States of being wildly successful in efforts to mitigate climate change.

For thee above reasons, the levels of US oil production remaining high does not necessarily support a conclusion that the US voter takes climate change less seriously than elsewhere. (There's plenty of other evidence to support such, but this is not part of it.)

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