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Jim Murchie – Un-American Activities

Un-American Activities – Where is Senator Joe McCarthy When You Need Him?

By now many have heard the comments made by Amos Hochstein, the U.S. State Department’s senior energy security adviser in an interview with the Financial Times:

“I think that the idea that financiers would tell companies in the United States not to increase production and to buy back shares and increase dividends when the profits are at all-time highs is outrageous…. It is not only un-American, it is so unfair to the American public.”

So, is anything that doesn’t grow U.S. oil and gas production un-American? On the campaign trail, Biden promised to imprison oil company execs: “… put them in jail, I am not joking about this.” (12/29/19 town hall meeting in Peterborough, NH – Daily Mail), And…“no more drilling on federal lands.” And of course…. “no more fracking.” (3/15/20 presidential debate on CNN – Politifact).

So, was Biden being un-American on the campaign trail? Is the governor of New York un-American for banning fracking even though a sizable portion of the Marcellus shale is in that State? And there was a time when some advocated for higher oil prices to encourage conservation and renewables. Was that un-American?

While the U.S. government was set up with checks and balances encouraging different factions to challenge each other, I don’t think the Founding Fathers were contemplating presidents that challenge what they said just months earlier…or for some, minutes earlier.

And poor Joe Biden, getting slammed recently by French President Macron for selling LNG to Europe at the market price rather than cost (Bloomberg). I guess that makes American LNG exporters “un-French.”

Give Hochstein credit though for identifying the “financiers” (yours truly) and not the management teams for the stingy allocation of cash flow to capital spending. As I said in my post last month; “If the public has an interest in more production of oil and gas…. then policy makers should figure out how to incentivize private investors to loosen the purse strings…” Questioning investors’ patriotism and threatening them with a windfall profits tax probably won’t do it. Those investors also vaguely remember that only recently they were being told to divest all fossil fuel investments to deprive the industry of capital.

While the energy transition is, well, transitioning, government policies around the world are doing an about face as they shift their focus from the “E” in ESG to the “S.” That about face is happening at break-neck speed.

As it turns out, a lot of Americans just don’t seem to like it when dirty conventional energy companies are cleaning up. But that doesn’t make them un-American.

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