Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made the world understand that western countries cannot be dependent on autocratic nations for oil, Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-1) said Thursday in an interview on Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s “Maine Calling” radio show.
“It has dramatically made the world understand that we cannot be dependent on foreign oil to have brutal dictators like Russia,” Pingree said. “We have to speed up our timing on energy independence.”
Pingree, who is seeking an eighth term in the U.S. Congress, has been a staunch opponent of domestic oil and natural gas production, including backing several bills that would block drilling for hydrocarbons in the Arctic, in the Atlantic ocean, and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Pingree’s website currently touts the congresswoman’s co-sponsorship of H.R. 544, a bill to prohibit new or renewed leases for oil and natural gas production in Arctic Ocean, and H.R. 3116, a bill that would ban oil and natural gas drilling along most of America’s Atlantic coastline.
Pingree also supports H.R. 2184, a bill that would end all subsidies to oil and natural gas companies.
Partisan fights over energy production and climate change have intensified this year, as American policy and geopolitical conflicts have combined to severely increase the price of gas and oil in the United States. In Maine, the average price per gallon of Number 2 heating oil was $4.40 in September, while the average cost of a gallon of diesel fuel in the state today is $4.93.
Pingree is not the only Democratic elected official who is talking about energy independence while backing strong restrictions on domestic energy production.
President Joe Biden’s administration has recently embraced a public message geared toward energy independence, despite his long record of hampering domestic energy production to appease environmental goals and activists.
“We need to be less dependent on OPEC+ and foreign producers of resources like oil,” White House spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday on Fox News.
Biden opposed new gas and oil drilling as a candidate in 2020, stating that, if he were elected, there would be “no more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling including offshore, no ability for the oil industry to continue drilling. Period. Ends.”
Pingree’s press office did not respond to an email inquiring whether her recent insistence on the importance of American energy independence means she’s changed her mind about blocking domestic energy exploration and production.
However, in response to the war in Ukraine, Pingree has joined fellow congressional democrats in supporting H.R. 7439, “Energy Security and Independence Act of 2022.”
That bill would invest taxpayer dollars into “renewable energy, electric transportation, and energy efficiency,” according to Pingree’s website.
New federal rule-making from the federal Department of Interior (DOI) may accomplish prohibitions on new leases for oil and natural gas exploration without the need for the congressional action Pingree has backed.
On Thursday, the comment period for DOI’s proposed 5-year plan for oil and natural gas drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans closed. The rule, if approved, would severely restrict domestic oil and gas production by limiting new leases in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
The American Petroleum Institute (API), an organization representing the interests of the oil and natural gas industry, has urged the Biden administration to reverse course on plans to limit oil and gas exploration on federal lands.
“The U.S. is now a global leader in both energy production and emissions reductions, thanks to the innovation and vitality of the U.S. oil and natural gas industry,” said API’s Cole Ramsey.
“The ability of U.S. producers to provide more oil and natural gas supplies to the world market has also changed geopolitical dynamics for the better, resulting in greater energy security for the U.S. and its allies, in addition to global environmental benefits.
“Given the current global circumstances, rarely has a strong offshore leasing program been more essential to our energy security,” he said.
(This article will be updated if Rep. Chellie Pingree’s press office responds to our request for comment.)