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Wicker: Cutting energy access will slow economic recovery

It has been almost a full year since the coronavirus first disrupted our economy and changed daily life as we know it. In addition to the mounting death toll, millions of Americans have suffered job losses, and entire industries have been pushed to the brink. Federal relief has provided a critical short-term lift to many families and businesses, but Americans now need a full and sustainable recovery.

I had hoped President Biden would make good on his pledge to work with Republicans and lower barriers for job creators. Unfortunately, his recent actions against the energy sector have shut the doors of opportunity for thousands of Americans at the worst possible time.

Biden targets oil and gas workers

President Biden’s early actions have taken a huge toll on American energy jobs. On his first day in office, the President revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, effectively ending a project that would have supported up to 11,000 jobs and boosted our national oil supply. Mr. Biden justified his decision by citing our current “climate crisis,” even though the pipeline would have minimal impact on the environment. Ironically, canceling the pipeline will likely lead to greater pollution because more Canadian oil will have to be transported by diesel-powered rail.

The President continued his attack on American energy by ordering a pause on all new oil and natural gas leases from federal lands and waters. This means energy producers will not be able to obtain drilling rights in federally-controlled areas for the foreseeable future, creating uncertainty for our domestic energy supply.

Our nation depends on these federal leases as a major source of energy and economic growth. In 2019, federal leases accounted for 22 percent of American oil and 12 percent of U.S. natural gas production, with much of this output coming from wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

These offshore projects support 20,000 Mississippi jobs and have a positive ripple effect across our economy. They also produce millions of dollars for conservation and hurricane protection efforts along the coast. If these royalties decline, there will not be enough money for these critical projects.

President Biden should reconsider his hostility toward oil and gas producers. I fear that his actions will weaken our recovery by driving up energy costs and needlessly shutting many Americans out of the workforce. These policies could also undermine America’s energy independence at a time when our adversaries are looking to exploit weaknesses.

Republicans defend American energy

Republicans have sprung into action to defend America’s energy sector. I have joined 25 other senators to request a meeting with President Biden to share our concerns about how his decisions will affect working Americans. The President needs to know that our energy independence and thousands of American livelihoods are at risk.

I am also co-sponsoring legislation authored by Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., which would ensure American energy producers can continue to access critical energy reservoirs in the Gulf of Mexico.

In addition, I am backing legislation that would prohibit the President from blocking federal oil and gas leases without congressional approval. I will continue doing everything in my power to protect our nation’s energy resources and the thousands of Mississippi jobs they support.

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