Daines Criticizes Biden Chief Economist Nominee Claims that Administration has “Top Track Record” on Energy Production

U.S. SENATE – Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, today criticized Jared Bernstein, nominee to be Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, for his claim at the administration has a “top track record” on domestic energy production. Under questioning from Daines about the unsustainability of the administration’s climate policies. Bernstein claimed the administration is in pro-oil and pro-natural gas, a claim that Daines said was “laughable.”

Click HERE to watch the exchange.

Senator Daines: “Thank you. I been watching this hearing today, was just curious coming back about the Keystone Pipeline Dr. Bernstein. You refuse to say whether you recommend shutting down the Keystone pipeline or not. Please clarify you don’t recall or you’ll make a recommendation. What are your thoughts? And by the way, the Keystone Pipeline enters Montana first. Million barrels a day of oil from Canada. Huge creation of jobs. $80 million a year of tax revenues to impoverished counties in eastern Montana, a gut punch to so many families in Montana. Here’s a chance for you to clarify your position on it.”

Dr. Bernstein: “So, two things Senator, and thank you for the question. First of all, I do not recall being part of that decision. And secondly, I think it’s important to recognize…”

Senator Daines: “If you would have had been part of the decision, what would your recommendation have been.”

Dr. Bernstein: “I can’t speculate on that.”

Senator Daines: “What do you think about it now, should we reopen it?”

Dr. Bernstein: “This was my second point. Senator respectfully, I think the important point here is the domestic production of traditional forms of energy and under which our administration has the top track record of any presidential administration on record, 11.6million barrels a day, considerably higher than the previous administration, higher than any other administration on record. As we also plot a course to more renewable…”

Senator Daines: “So, you are incredibly pro-oil and pro-natural gas. More, more and more. Is that right?”

Dr. Jared Bernstein: “Yes, as one step of a two-step and critically important second step process. Which is, traditional sources of energy must be accessible and affordable in today’s America and we must continue doing everything we can to build on the success of our administration in achieving that goal. As we plot a course to more renewables over the longer term, and there you see some of our legislation, which I think has been instrumental in that goal.”

Senator Daines: “So, if we need more, more oil right now, as you just said, why shouldn’t we permit the Keystone XL Pipeline?”

Dr. Bernstein: “The Keystone Pipeline doesn’t create more oil. It transports oil from one place to another.”

Senator Daines: “In the least carbon way possible because a pipeline, the pipeline generates a lot less carbon than by rail or by truck, so why not use a pipeline?”

Dr. Bernstein: “So again, Senator, I’m happy if confirmed to get in to, the Keystone Pipeline does not produce more oil. The Biden administration produces more oil.”

Senator Daines: “It’s laughable to think that the Biden Administration is somehow pro-oil and pro-natural gas and pro-coal, when the world is going to need 50 percent more energy in the next 25 years. My concern is not about adding more renewable energy to portfolio. My concern is about using as a replacement strategy of traditional sources of energy. You don’t burn your existing bridges until the new bridges are built. It’s very dangerous. I spent time talking to the Europeans right now about what it means to shut down baseload power of nuclear, of coal, to watch the Lithuanians have to shut down a nuclear plant, because the EU said that you can’t follow the same green hallucination that your administration is pursuing.”

Dr. Bernstein: “Obviously, we disagree with the hallucination characterization, but I think that when it comes to the first step of this two-step process, you and I probably have a lot to talk about and hopefully agree on. I mean, the President approved the Willow Project, which I suspect you very much support, that will produce 180,000 barrels per day.” 

Senator Daines: “That’s cherry-picking. It’s laughable, to see how they’re taken a few small examples to somehow try to cover up a very radical green agenda. Let me ask you this. In 2019, you mocked $60-barrel oil as ‘totally inconsistent with sustainable growth’, I’m quoting you, ‘and a threat to climate change.’ You also expressed support for the Green New Deal and the job-killing policies it would impose because the Green New Deal publicly promotes, ‘social justice’ and ‘health care’ while ‘plotting a complete destruction of traditional energy sources.’ Do you still believe that low oil prices, which my farmers and ranchers need and my low-income Montanans, benefit from or inconsistent from economic goals and a threat to enacting a radical green new policy and it’s important because of the position you’re looking to be appointed to?”

Dr. Bernstein: “Thank you for the question, Senator. It’s an important one and yes, I would hope that the spirit of my comments and you know, I very much disagree that there’s anything cherry-picked here. I have a table here that I’m happy to share with you that shows 1,000s of barrels per day pumped by…”

Senator Daines: “Have you ever asked the producers, we brought the producers in here right now and asked them if it’s this pro-oil or not?”

Dr. Bernstein: “Our large, publicly traded oil producers have made $36 billion in profits in the fourth quarter of 2022, $162 billion over the full year. That is by far a record. So, I think I’m telling you a story where oil companies are more profitable in there and pumping more oil than ever on U.S. grounds, as we plot a course to more renewable energy.”

Senator Daines: “In your op-ed you said ‘what’s not to like about $60-barrel oil? Well, there’s the fact that it’s melting the planet.’ You said, ‘that’s hyperbole meant to get your attention, but the fact is that cheap oil is totally inconsistent with sustainable growth.’ I thoroughly reject that notion. Try to explain that to hardworking Montanans and Americans who want to see lower cost energy.”

Dr. Bernstein: “I think the point of that writing, which I, as you read it back to me, sometimes the context gets lost. The point of that writing was supposed to be we need to do two things at once. We need to walk and chew gum. Walk, in this case, means affordable, accessible and a traditional energy sources for Americans.”

Senator Daines: “Wait a minute, walking and chewing gum. You say ‘cheap oil is totally inconsistent with sustainable growth.’ I wouldn’t call that a balanced…”

Dr. Bernstein: “Well, I think that is inconsistent with the points that I’ve been trying to make here today where I’ve been telling you that under President Biden we have a very strong record with oil companies, highly profitable. We’re pumping more barrels per day than ever, as we plot a course to more renewable energy. So, I think we have to do both. I hope I conveyed that in my piece. And if I didn’t, I asked you…”

Senator Daines: “And now to come to the EPA that’s going to require that nearly two-thirds of vehicles are electric by 2032. I wouldn’t exactly call a friendly balance.”

Dr. Bernstein: “That’s the chew gum part of the equation. I think we have to make sure that we have affordable, accessible, traditional sources of energy in the present and in the years to come while we plot a course to, yes, electric vehicles, charging stations and the kinds of investments that we make in the Inflation Reduction Act and other pieces of legislation.”