“Does anyone think we would be in the Middle East if we really had energy independence?”, asked Joe Biden in 2006. Thirteen years later, the US has finally achieved this much sought-after energy independence. But today, thanks to a combination of the current President Biden’s terrible policies and a decades-old war on US energy production, Americans finally find themselves begging foreign nations for oil and gasoline.
The president’s courtship of Venezuela’s dictator Nicolás Maduro and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman are well documented, as are his patronizing sermons aimed at American companies. But what’s to come is even more embarrassing for the United States: almost certainly, President Biden will ask the Chinese Communist Party to revamp its refineries and ship oil refining products to the US. And we will be willing to pay dearly for them, probably excluding hundreds or thousands of tariffs, which help American industry compete with the cheap — and forced — labor of the Chinese.
While Americans rightly criticize the Biden administration’s refusal to expand domestic energy exploitation, this is only part of the problem. The other part is the dwindling capacity of our refining, which has dropped by around 5% in the last two years alone. We refine one million gallons less a day than before the pandemic — and at nearly triple the price, thanks to sudden post-covid demands.
The recent reduction in refining capacity helps explaining why gasoline costs nearly $5 a gallon, but doesn’t help explain why it occurred. The truth is, we’ve been on this trajectory for decades. More than half of US refineries have closed since 1977, which was the last time a major refinery went online.
This shouldn’t be surprising. Building refineries is capital intensive, and for decades the industry has been under assault from radical environmentalists, sympathetic politicians and increasingly fanatical investors in progressivism (woke). Readers don’t have to believe me. Listen to Chevron CEO Michael Wirth, who recently told the Washington Post: “I don’t think we’ll ever see a refinery built in this country again. As environmental policy tries to reduce the demand for these products, we won’t find companies to put billions and billions of dollars into it.”
While we were extinguishing our refining capacity to chase environmentalist daydreams , China was quick to position itself as the world’s leading oil refiner — a goal achieved in 2020.
At this time , China has a third of its refining capacity idle, as its economy suffers from the confinements and the problems in the production chain resulting from them. But Beijing could easily take a turn and start exporting refined products around the world, both to allies
President Biden is already preparing to speak with Xi Jinping about easing US tariffs on Chinese imports, something many in the Congress and the business world have been asking since when the president you were sworn in. Many senior members of the Biden administration are also keen to appease Beijing by lowering tariffs. It doesn’t take much foresight to see how refined oil can become part of the bargain.
Begging China for gasoline would be short-term, naive and disastrous for the US. It would be a strategic blow for Xi, who wants above all to demonstrate China’s superiority over the US. And it would dashed all hope of one day freeing itself from economic dependence on Beijing’s genocidal regime.
Don’t swallow the talk that it’s a short-term solution while we move away from fossil fuels. It’s the same talk that smothered US refining capacity. Furthermore, it ignores the fact that we already depend on China for renewable energy, including everything from solar panels to vehicle batteries. China controls 76% of global lithium-ion battery production. The US controls only 8%.
For a long time, Beijing followed a strategic plan to dominate crucial industries, and now the US is chasing it. Rather than bowing down to a Marxist regime determined to outmaneuver our country, we should focus on the domestic realm and welcome all American energy production, including oil and natural gas. If President Biden needs more resources and authority to keep current refineries running and speed up capacity building, he should ask Congress for help. But he should ask us, not the Chinese Communist Party.
MARCO RUBIO is a US Senator from Florida. He is vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.