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Daniel Fine weighs in on incoming Biden administration, energy and pandemic


Daniel Fine  |  Energy

The San Juan Basin, the Four Corners and New Mexico at the end of the Year of Pandemic await the arrival of vaccines for the general public and voting in Georgia. The first is a matter of months and the second in a week. 

The Biden-Harris transition closes with the swearing-in ceremony and a new president over the Federal Republic of the United States. Georgia’s run-off Senate election decides the future of his Administration. It also determines the short and long-term future of the Republican Party.

President Joe Biden will have no Republican buffer against his program of progressive political change if Georgia chooses the Democrats. 

The paper ballot enigma and Republican division over the electoral outcome for president as well as a 1,400 difference in the stimulus checks per the qualified between Republican Party (conservatives) and Democratic Party (progressives) are in play. Meanwhile President Donald Trump can offer himself now or in the future as having made and led a populist Republican Party.

It would be surprising if Georgia does not elect two Democratic Party senators.

With that the Senate must vote on Interior Secretary-Designee Deb Haaland. If there is a status quo Senate or a Republican Party majority, she would still win and become Secretary of the Interior with control of the 94% of federal lands in and around the San Juan Basin, San Juan County and much of the Four Corners, as well as federal lands in the Permian Basin.

With Sen. John Barasso, R-Wyoming, taking over as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the oil and gas industry would oppose Haaland and lose because Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, at least would not vote against the first Native American from among tribal leaders in the history of “Manifest Destiny” America.

Opposition thereafter for the oil and gas industry would confront a program of environmental justice and an economy with clean energy. This would change the independent and smaller industry argument on cost and technology denial into what BP and Shell are preparing for as a struggle to sustain the social license for oil and gas production itself.

As Secretary of Interior, Haaland will have much to do with the principal action of President Biden in an infrastructure investment not seen in scale and scope since the Roosevelt and Eisenhower administrations.

The Biden Administration will not support the progressives call to ban the process and its components in fracking and horizontal drilling. This is a fait accompli in American technology or “Petro-physics.” He will not risk the revival of foreign oil imports as Republican opposition would threaten should a “ban” momentum resume.

The Four Corners would transition to shared economic development with the Navajo Nation. This follows the Department of Transportation “BUILD” Grant of $2 million to the Navajo Nation and San Juan County (with the Four Corners Economic Development) to design and construct a rail spur between Gallup and Shiprock.

Herein lies the basis of a regional economy that is based on Navajo Nation and non-Navajo city and economy political power holding. This requires structural change from Window Rock and Santa Fe which is more fundamental than “opportunity zones.” The pandemic among the Navajo has changed history. The “Black Death” (1347-1350) of Europe ended feudalism and serfdom.

There is a recovery in oil prices in the five years to 2025. With  business activity normalized and OPEC-Russia able to balance supply and demand of world oil, this writer expects an WTI in a range of $52 to $58 to begin in the second quarter of 2021 and extend to the first quarter of 2024. For those who look backward and see a “new normal” of higher prices, at $75 per barrel WTI renewables or electric vehicles would win over combustion engines.

Dr. Daniel Fine is the associate director of New Mexico Tech’s Center for Energy Policy and the State of New Mexico Natural Gas Export Coordinator. The opinions expressed are his own.