Brigham McCown: A Mismatch between Rhetoric and Reality

On a recent podcast of O’Connor and Company, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and former PHMSA administrator, Brigham McCown, talked at length about the administration’s actions, the European energy crisis and how we got here.

Regarding the Biden administration’s approach, McCown emphasizes that there is a “fascination” for some reason “to emulate Western Europe” in our energy policies. Unfortunately for Europe, the war in Ukraine has exposed their energy security, and caused exorbitant pricing for Europeans. President Biden and his agencies have made their plan to rush the transition to green energy abundantly clear, much like Europe, but the real question is what resources will offer reliable energy during that shift.

When asked about a story from the Netherlands—that exploration of an oil field is being blocked by the government—McCown notes that the Netherlands has a plethora of oil and natural gas reserves but is the subject of poor energy policy. Even though the Netherlands has been progressive in its transition to green energy, the country is still fairly reliant on fossil fuels for its energy production. McCown goes on to say that this is the type of policy our administration has brought to the U.S. but “it will not work at scale.”

Our government has taken the free market out of play, and intentionally “tried to tip the scales” towards one side of the energy equation via subsidies and public pressure. McCown illustrates this point by pointing out that the government is trying to force homes and buildings to switch over to electrical heating, even though it’s less efficient than gas. The weekend before the recording, McCown notes New England had to “lean on oil to generate 40% of its power,” describing this situation as a “mismatch between rhetoric and reality.” 

McCown is not against renewables. “It ought to be part of the mix, but it has to be realistic,” he says. Even if we were able to transition from energy derived from oil, the drilling would not stop. “Everything we touch, and use is from an oil-based product,” McCown says, noting the very asphalt on the streets is a product of the industry.

In transitioning from coal to natural gas, the U.S. has significantly reduced its greenhouse gas emissions. While green energy technology is promising and will be important to the diversification of our grid, our energy policies must reflect reasonable timelines.

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