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Harold Hutchison / July 7, 2020

Pipeline Pause Is a Big Win for Putin

Our failure to build the Atlantic pipeline weakens our energy independence.

One of the biggest reasons that the whole “Russia collusion” narrative never made much sense should have been obvious early on: President Donald Trump has, from almost the moment he took office, been working to deregulate American energy production, and that deregulation was detrimental to Russia’s bottom line.

As we have noted in the past, Vladimir Putin relies on oil and gas exports to strengthen Russian influence around the world. Indeed, roughly two years ago we watched Putin attempt geopolitical blackmail of Germany via natural gas.

The reason is very simple: Much of Putin’s leverage comes from being able to hold other countries hostage via natural gas. At the same time, oil and gas exports give Putin a very good source of hard currency. When oil and gas prices go up, Putin gets more cash to create havoc, make deals for technology, and pay for things like weapons development. When energy prices go down, Putin has to make tougher budget choices.

Putin knows this, and must also know that the fracking revolution gives the U.S. the ability to do on its own what it had to get the Saudis to do in the 1980s: send energy prices crashing by way of massive production. In the 1980s, it helped usher in the collapse of the Evil Empire.

That’s why the decision by Dominion Energy to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is so troubling. And this despite a decisive Supreme Court win, an activist judge’s ruling that the Dakota Access Pipeline be completely shut down, and another activist judge’s even broader ruling on Keystone. One can imagine some celebratory vodka being poured in Moscow. It certainly would have been money well spent, as Russia has supported anti-fracking movements in the past.

Thus, the goal of American energy independence has been dealt a setback — and worse, America’s geopolitical position is made that much more precarious. Remember: The price of energy determines the likelihood that Russia will be able to exert outsized influence over NATO or other American allies.

When it comes to energy, of course, the environment is also a consideration. Nobody wants pollution. But right now, our nation needs energy independence. It needs to have the means of producing oil and gas as well as the infrastructure for refining them and getting them to the end users. The recent court rulings and Dominion Energy’s decision are steps away from that goal, and President Trump — if he can win a second term — can get those pipelines built. Joe Biden certainly can’t.

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