Skip to content
Search

Latest Stories

Top Stories

As lawmakers unite in support of Ukraine, a disconnect looms over energy policies

Gas and oil prices

A driver unloads raw crude oil from his tanker to process into gas at Marathon Refinery in Salt Lake City.

George Frey/Getty Images

The ongoing war in Ukraine has contributed to rising gas and oil prices in the United States, with many Americans paying more than $5 per gallon at the pump. But with energy policy intertwined with national security and international relations – and political gamesmanship – there’s no simple way to bring down prices and fix the problems plaguing supply chains.

Federal leaders – Democrats and Republicans – have been heavily supportive of Ukraine, both financially and morally. But that same sense of unity and cooperation has not extended to the energy and inflation problems plaguing the United States.


Surging prices

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, and American and European governments responded with unprecedented sanctions, even though the European Union gets a third of its oil supplies and a quarter of its natural gas from Russia. In March, President Biden announced a ban on Russian oil and gas imports to the United States.

A week after the invasion began, U.S. crude oil and gas prices began to spike, before leveling off and then surging again.

While inflation may also be a factor, “There is really no room for doubt that Russia’s war on Ukraine raised the retail price of a gallon of gasoline by at least a dollar in the U.S. (and much more in Europe),” wrote Alan Reynolds, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

The U.S. response

David Ellis, senior vice president of policy, strategy and communications at the Energy Futures Initiative, explained that Biden is now using a three-pronged approach: maintaining unity within NATO, supporting the European Union’s transition away from Russian energy sources, and offering direct support to Ukraine.

“Given the circumstances there is not much more internationally that the Biden administration could have done,” he said, explaining that the issues go far beyond mere gas prices. Energy security is national security and therefore international security.”

Concerns regarding Russia’s dominance over the European oil and gas markets have been at the forefront of international debates for years. The 2015 G7 Summit, held a year after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, preemptively addressed the issue through reaffirmations of support for Ukraine’s ongoing efforts to reform its energy systems, reiterating that “energy should not be used as a means of political coercion or as a threat to security.”

According to Ellis, “what’s happening now with the European compact to ban Russian oil and gas is a delayed reaction to something that should have happened in 2014 when Russia took over Crimea.” Instead, members of the European Union continued to source oil and gas from Russia, even extending Russia’s dominance through the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was completed in 2021.

Now, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ellis says “There was a successful response but a delayed response to Russia’s aggression, and as a result people are feeling the pain here domestically. … [Although] there’s a lot of aggressive counteraction, it’s had a real impact on the cost of energy.”

Thus, the question remains of how to address consumers’ responses to increased prices on oil and gas products.

Incentivizing change

While politicians debate potential solutions, individuals do have some options to mitigate the effects of higher energy prices, according to Ellis: “The most important thing an American consumer can do is to ask [themselves] ‘What can I do to be more efficient in my consumer choices?’...Ultimately, reducing your own energy inefficiency will save you money in the long term.”

But the cost of switching to an electric vehicle or making other energy efficient choices and changes to one’s life may be prohibitive to those with lower incomes. This is why, Ellis explained, “there needs to be incentivized, unified, and sustainable policies to encourage people to make those choices.”

In the current political climate, where scoring political points outweighs policymaking, implementation of such incentives seems to be a long shot. However, Ellis said, “It’s important to note that there’s been bipartisan support for broadly defined energy innovation ... and there are great intentions about the energy transition.”

And the American public favors a shift away from fossil fuels.

But to get to a new energy policy, the nation will face some growing pains.

“Long range steps will be less contentious and shorter-range policy will continue to be contentious,” Ellis said. “It may be one step forward, one step back if you have administrations or houses of Congress change. Then you have short-term reversals in policy that will harm long-term goals.”

While a majority of Americans are dissatisfied with U.S. energy polices, we have yet to see any unity on the issue in Washington. One thing everyone should agree on, said Ellis, is “permanent understanding that energy security is national security and also economic security. Energy access for developing nations is growth.”

Read More

Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Don Bacon

Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Don Bacon won the "Life in Congress" award from the Congressional Management Foundation.

The best bosses in an unusual work environment: Capitol Hill

Fitch is the president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation and a former congressional staffer.

Our nation’s capital is known for many things — but good management practices are not among them. Stories regularly surface of bizarre tales of harassment and abuse by members of Congress. An Instagram feed a few years ago unearthed dozens of stories by staff outing less-than-desirable managers and members for their bad practices. But what about the good leaders and good managers?

Like any profession, Congress actually has quite a few exemplary office leaders. And the beneficiaries of these role models are not just their staff — it’s also their constituents. When a congressional office can retain great talent, sometimes over decades, the quality of the final legislative product or constituent service rises immensely.

Keep ReadingShow less
Rep. Gus Bilirakis and Rep. Ayanna Pressley

Rep. Gus Bilirakis and Rep. Ayanna Pressley won the Congressional Management Foundation's Democracy Award for Constituent Accountability and Accessibility.

Official portraits

Some leaders don’t want to be held accountable. These two expect it.

Fitch is president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation and a former congressional staffer.

There is probably no more important concept in the compact between elected officials and those who elect them than accountability. One of the founding principles of American democracy is that members of Congress are ultimately accountable to their constituents, both politically and morally. Most members of Congress get this, but how they demonstrate and implement that concept varies. The two winners of the Congressional Management Foundation’s Democracy Award for Constituent Accountability and Accessibility clearly understand and excel at this concept.

Keep ReadingShow less
Woman speaking at a microphone

Rep. Lucy McBath is the first lawmaker from Georgia to win a Democracy Awarrd.

Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Surprise: Some great public servants are actually members of Congress

Fitch is the president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation and a former congressional staffer.

TheCongressional Management Foundation today announced the winners of the seventh annual Democracy Awards, CMF’s program recognizing non-legislative achievement and performance in congressional offices and by members of Congress. Two members of Congress, one Democrat and one Republican, are recognized in four categories related to their work in Congress.

Americans usually only hear about Congress when something goes wrong. The Democracy Awards shines a light on Congress when it does something right. These members of Congress and their staff deserve recognition for their work to improve accountability in government, modernize their work environments and serve their constituents.

Keep ReadingShow less

Can George Washington inspire Biden to greatness?

Clancy is co-founder of Citizen Connect and board member of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund. Citizen Connect is an initiative of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, which also operates The Fulcrum.

King George III reputedly said George Washington was the greatest man in the world for voluntarily relinquishing power. The indisputable fact is that Washington’s action remains remarkable in human history. And he actually did it at least two times.

On Dec. 23, 1783, Washington resigned his commission as commander of the Continental Army and returned to Mount Vernon. He did it again when he declined to run for a third term as president by publishing his Farewell Address on Sept. 19, 1796. In June 1799 Washington was yet again urged to run for president and declined.

His reasoning on each occasion was a complex mix of the personal and political, but the bedrock was an unwavering commitment to put the good of the nation above personal gain and the factions that would ultimately become our toxic party system.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joe Biden at the debate

After his disastrous peformance at the debate, President Biden needs to exit the race, writes Breslin.

Kyle Mazza/Anadolu via Getty Images

Getting into the highest offices is hard. Getting out is harder.

Breslin is the Joseph C. Palamountain Jr. Chair of Political Science at Skidmore College and author of “A Constitution for the Living: Imagining How Five Generations of Americans Would Rewrite the Nation’s Fundamental Law.”

This is the latest in “A Republic, if we can keep it,” a series to assist American citizens on the bumpy road ahead this election year. By highlighting components, principles and stories of the Constitution, Breslin hopes to remind us that the American political experiment remains, in the words of Alexander Hamilton, the “most interesting in the world.”

Getting into America’s highest political offices is hard. Getting out is harder.

President Joe Biden’s disastrous debate performance has intensified calls for him to step aside. Not even 24 hours after his poor showing, The New York Times took the extraordinary and unprecedented position that the sitting president should immediately pass the torch to a more energetic and electable candidate. “The greatest public service Mr. Biden can now perform,” the editorial board declared, “is to announce that he will not continue to run for re-election.”

Keep ReadingShow less