Energy Inflation Isn’t An Accident, It’s A Planned Demolition
The West is experiencing its third energy crisis. The first, in 1973, was caused by the near-quintupling of the price of crude oil by Gulf oil producers in response to America’s support for Israel in the Yom Kippur war. Their action brought an end to what the French call the trente glorieuses — the unprecedented post–World War II economic expansion.
The second occurred at the end of the 1970s, when Iran’s Islamic revolution led to a more than doubling of oil prices. This again inflicted great economic hardship, but the policy response was far better. Inflation was purged at the cost of deep recession. Energy markets were permitted to function. High oil prices induced substitution effects, particularly in the power sector, and stimulated increased supply.
In the space of nine months, the oil price cratered from $30 a barrel in November 1985 to $10 a barrel in July 1986. It’s no wonder that the economic expansion that started under Ronald Reagan had such long legs.
This time is different. The third energy crisis was not sparked by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies or by Iranian ayatollahs. It was self-inflicted, a foreseeable outcome of policy choices made by the West: Germany’s disastrous Energiewende that empowered Vladimir Putin to launch an energy war against Europe; Britain’s self-regarding and self-destructive policy of “powering past coal” and its decision to ban fracking; and, as Joseph Toomey shows in a recent powerful essay, President Biden’s war on the American oil and gas industry.
Hostilities were declared during Joe Biden’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. “I guarantee you. We’re going to end fossil fuel,” candidate Biden told a climate activist in September 2019, words that the White House surely hopes get lost down a memory hole. Toomey’s paper has all the receipts, so there’s no
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