In advance of President Joe Biden’s announcement of new sanctions against Russian oil on March 8, Fox & Friends hit Fox News’ top four misleading and false narratives about the high cost of gas resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:
FALSE: Biden is discouraging U.S. oil production because he banned drilling on federal lands
In response to right-wing media’s relentless attack on Biden's climate and energy policies, including a moratorium on new oil and gas leases for federal property, the administration has pointed out on several occasions that U.S. fossil fuel companies have not tapped into the 9,000 existing leases they’ve stockpiled for drilling on U.S. public lands and waters.
During the March 8 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News correspondent Jacqui Heinrich attempted to dispel this reality by citing the president of the American Petroleum Institute, who claimed on Fox Business that “policies implemented by this administration, including a ban on development of federal lands and waters, is what is really, truly discouraging investment.”
As Mark Brownstein, an energy expert at the Environmental Defense Fund, points out: “At the end of 2020, more than half of the already-sold federal leases are sitting untapped by the domestic oil and gas industry because even at the recent global price spike of $100 a barrel, it’s not profitable for oil and gas companies to significantly ramp up production. The bottom line is that most investors lost money on U.S. oil and gas development over the last 10 years, and they’re not enthusiastic about losing more.”
But even without those untapped leases, U.S. oil production is at near-record levels.
The truth is we cannot drill our way out of this crisis. The best way to curb the power of oil-rich aggressors like Russia and become truly energy independent is to decarbonize our economies. As Center for Climate and Security Director Erin Sikorsky told the Los Angeles Times: “There’s been a lot of concern about dependence on Russian [natural] gas, and whether that inhibits countries’ ability to stand up to Russia. … The more that countries can wean themselves off oil and gas and move toward renewables, the more independence they have in terms of action.”
FALSE: The U.S. was energy independent before Biden
During a segment discussing the Ukraine crisis on the March 8 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed that “we used to be energy independent. Now we are dependent on countries like Russia, so we are funding this in a sense.”
The supposed decline of American energy independence is a popular Fox narrative to push for more U.S. oil and gas production. In reality, America has never truly been energy independent. Energy prices are determined by a global market, meaning the United States will never be free from oil and gas price fluctuations no matter how much oil it produces, and the prices of fossil fuel-based electricity have historically been wildly volatile. (Interestingly, imports of Russian oil actually increased under former President Donald Trump after rapidly declining during the Obama administration.)
FALSE: Canceling the Keystone pipeline made us dependent on Russian oil
Earhardt coupled her energy independence comments with another top Fox News talking point claiming that Biden's cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline is why we are now dependent on Russian oil.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): “Not only are we helping Ukraine, but we are also lining the pockets of Vladimir Putin, giving him so much money, making him wealthy, and we are funding what he is doing to these Ukrainians in a sense because we shut down – Joe Biden, day one, shuts down the Keystone pipeline, makes us dependent on Russia now for oil. You’re going to the gas tank in California and it’s costing you over $7 a gallon, a hundred bucks to fill up your car.
But even if Biden had not canceled it, the Keystone XL pipeline would have no impact on current gas prices and no role in how much crude we import from Russia. In fact, at the time Biden halted the project, only 8% of the XL pipeline had been built, and as PolitiFact noted last year, it “would have required years of construction and likely more legal challenges, so it couldn’t have solved today’s demand needs.” Furthermore, the tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, that would have been transported by the XL project still makes its way to market through the existing Keystone pipeline, which has been operating since 2010, and by rail and trucks.
FALSE: Biden’s administration deliberately raised the price of gas to push his climate agenda
In addition to pushing the well-worn narratives around “energy independence” and the Keystone XL pipeline, Fox News has also exploited the war in Ukraine to attack Biden’s climate policies.
In this case, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy suggested that the Biden administration is intentionally keeping gas prices high to advance his climate agenda, claiming that “the administration probably would like us to be paying $10 a gallon, so that people would drive cars less. It's all part of their very ambitious climate change and global warming policy.”
This narrative pushes the false assumption that U.S. presidents’ policies have a significant impact on the global oil markets that largely determine the price we pay at the pump. In fact, presidents and their policies have little effect on the price at the pump in the short term and even less impact on how gas is priced in the global market. It also ignores the fact that prices have been rebounding since economies across the globe began reopening from the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
But these facts have not stemmed Fox News’ attempts to tether Biden’s policies to rising gas prices.