In his first State of the Union address, President Biden called on the country to embrace alternative energy, while promising to release emergency oil reserves to ease the price at the pump following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

President Biden

The president in an emotional address called on Americans to rally behind U.S.-led efforts as part of the NATO alliance to end Russia’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine. The 30-nation group was created after World War II to secure peace and stability in Europe. 

“Throughout our history we’ve learned this lesson when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression: they cause more chaos,” the president said. “They keep moving. And the costs and the threats to America and the world keep rising.”

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Russia’s latest attack on Ukraine “was premeditated and unprovoked,” President Biden said. President Vladimir Putin “rejected repeated efforts at diplomacy. He thought the West and NATO wouldn’t respond. And he thought he could divide us at home. Putin was wrong. We were ready…

“We are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. Putin is now isolated from the world more than ever. Together with our allies, we are right now enforcing powerful economic sanctions. We are cutting off Russia’s largest banks from the international financial system” and stopping its central bank “from defending the Russian ruble, making Putin’s $630 billion ‘war fund’ worthless. We are choking off Russia’s access to technology that will sap its economic strength and weaken its military for years to come.” 

‘Time Has Come to An End’ For Russian Oligarchs 

To that end, the president said to the “Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime” that their time has come to an end. The U.S. Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs. We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments and your private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.”

On Wednesday the Biden administration followed up by launching Task Force KleptoCapture to enforce the sanctions on Russian officials and oligarchs. Federal law enforcement officers from across the board are involved, including the FBI, Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, Marshals Service, Internal Revenue Service and Postal Inspection.

The target centers around “the crimes of Russian officials, government-aligned elites, and those who aid or conceal their unlawful conduct.” Said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, who is overseeing the task force, “Oligarchs be warned: we will use every tool to freeze and seize your criminal proceeds.”

The president also noted Tuesday that the United States has joined its allies in closing off American air space to all Russian flights. The country also has earmarked more than $1 billion in direct assistance to Ukraine.

“The Ukrainians are fighting back with pure courage. But the next few days, weeks, months, will be hard on them. Putin has unleashed violence and chaos.  But while he may make gains on the battlefield, he will pay a continuing high price over the long run.” 

As part of the effort, the president said the United States is working with 30 other countries to release 60 million bbl of oil from reserves around the world.

“America will lead that effort, releasing 30 million bbls from our own Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And we stand ready to do more if necessary, unified with our allies. These steps will help blunt gas prices here at home.”

Can America Build Back Better?

The president then segued, calling for support for the Build Back Better plan, which has stalled in the Senate. The plan, he said, will “create good jobs for millions of Americans, modernizing roads, airports, ports and waterways all across America. And we’ll do it all to withstand the devastating effects of the climate crisis and promote environmental justice. 

“We’ll build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, begin to replace poisonous lead pipes, so every child – and every American – has clean water to drink at home and at school, and provide affordable high-speed internet for every American – urban, suburban, rural and tribal communities.”

The president said 4,000 projects have already been announced. 

“Look around and you’ll see an amazing story,” he said. “The rebirth of the pride that comes from stamping products ‘Made In America.’ The revitalization of American manufacturing.   

Companies are choosing to build new factories here, when just a few years ago, they would have built them overseas.”

For example, Ford Motor Co. “is investing $11 billion to build electric vehicles, creating 11,000 jobs across the country.” General Motors “is making the largest investment in its history – $7 billion to build electric vehicles, creating 4,000 jobs in Michigan.”

The plan to fight inflation, the president said, “will lower your costs and lower the deficit.” 

The program would cut energy costs for families by an average of $500 per year by combating climate change, he added.

“Let’s provide investments and tax credits to weatherize your homes and businesses to be energy efficient and you get a tax credit….double America’s clean energy production in solar, wind and so much more.” 

The program would “lower the price of electric vehicles, saving you another $80 a month because you’ll never have to pay at the gas pump again,” the president said.

“We are the only nation on Earth that has always turned every crisis we have faced into an opportunity. The only nation that can be defined by a single word: possibilities.” 

Mixed Reaction

Reaction was mixed. Analysts with ClearView Energy Partners LLC called it a “light green” State of the Union.

“For a leader who issued an executive order on his eighth day in office declaring ‘the climate crisis at the center of United States foreign policy and national security, President Joe Biden’s first formal State of the Union speech seemed, in our view, a bit light on clean energy transition.” The speech outlined part of the Build Back Better Act, “but it may not have appreciably improved the bill’s prospects, in our view.”

The Interstate Natural Gas Association (INGAA) said the president missed an opportunity to push for expanding gas infrastructure. 

President Biden “spoke about ‘investing in America,’ ‘growing the workforce’ and ‘building the economy,’” said INGAA CEO Amy Andryszak. However, he “missed the opportunity to acknowledge the value of natural gas, and the infrastructure that safely moves it from where it is produced to where it is consumed, and the role it plays in global energy security and the road to economic prosperity…

“Our industry’s ability to support Europe during this crisis is no accident,” Andryszak said. “It was enabled by American innovation and federal and state policies that supported natural gas infrastructure investment. To continue to help Europe now and secure our energy future, we need a predictable and reliable permitting framework which will allow for the continued development of needed natural gas infrastructure.”

Before the address, American Petroleum Institute (API) CEO Mike Sommers, in a letter to Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and other administration officials, outlined steps that key regulatory agencies could take to ensure long-term U.S. energy leadership and security. 

“Recent developments illustrate the importance of the government working collaboratively with industry to ensure U.S. energy and economic security, as well as that of our allies in Europe and around the world,” Sommers said. “Now more than ever, the administration should speak clearly and without equivocation that the United States will be a reliable producer and supplier of oil and natural gas to our allies around the world both now and in the future.”

API members “commend the administration’s focus on addressing climate change and share the goal of reducing emissions across the economy, but we cannot let that objective detract from the clear and present need for continued responsible investment in oil and natural gas development.”

Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association President Ed Longanecker said global nations and the oil and gas producers were “uniting against Russia’s aggressions. We now need decisive leadership and action from policy leaders in Washington, DC, to help stabilize world energy markets by supporting domestic oil and natural gas production, energy infrastructure and expanded exports of crude oil and LNG…

“The decision to release additional reserves from America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve is not a long-term solution to address rising energy prices or geopolitical conflicts.” 

Energy Workforce & Technology Council CEO Leslie Beyer said, “I agree with President Biden and our need to optimize reliance on domestic resources, but that must also include energy resources. If we provide a fair playing field for our energy sector and encourage more investment in U.S. energy infrastructure, exploration and innovation, the American energy workforce will create even more good paying jobs, optimize U.S. energy independence and provide exports to our allies so no one has to rely on Russia for their energy resources.”

Nationwide business group Environmental Entrepreneurs, or E2, said President Biden had “underscored the importance of federal investments to help blunt” high commodity prices and create a stronger economy “powered by clean energy and electric vehicles and built by the strong hands of American workers. Congress needs to approve clean energy tax credits and other investments  – now. There’s simply no time left to waste.”

Meanwhile, Alaska’s Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy said, “The best thing this country can do right now is start producing more energy. We’ve got to open up the spigot on oil, gas, nuclear and renewables – hydro, solar, wind and geothermal projects.

“We need the federal government to sanction the Russians, not America, on energy production,” Dunleavy said. The federal agencies with jurisdiction over permitting and licensing processes should be called upon “to view this as an emergency and to reverse course on procedural fault-finding decisions in order to streamline key projects as quickly as possible.

“Let’s get the Keystone Pipeline going and its projected 830,000 b/d of oil…Let’s get the Alaska Gasline built.”

Dunleavy said the state had provided almost 50 years of uninterrupted liquefied natural gas deliveries from Alaska to Japan, “and we can do so again with a pipeline from the North Slope that is already permitted and has federal loan guarantees.

“Alaska has billions of barrels of oil and trillions of feet of natural gas, and we produce it cleaner than virtually any other place on the planet.”

The Alaska governor also wants the administration to restore the suspended oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and “support, not hinder in federal court,” the Willow oil project led by ConocoPhillips.

 “Before this war, our country was fast-tracking renewable projects and was canceling oil and gas projects,” Dunleavy said. “We should fast-track both, traditional energy sources and renewables. We should not exclude any project that would help make us energy independent.

If we act now and return to sizable projects for development, our friends in Asia and Europe should be able to sleep better knowing they can depend on us rather than be at the mercy of dictators.”