Hannity Versus Newsom On Energy Independence

Following last week’s Republican debate, conservative Fox News host Sean Hannity and California Gov. Gavin Newsom discussed some comments Mike Pence made on energy independence. Pence said that when Donald Trump was president, “We achieved energy independence. We became a net exporter of energy for the first time in 75 years.” Pence went on to claim that we lost our energy independence under President Biden.

I addressed this previously in Debunking Mike Pence’s Misleading Energy Ad. Newsom echoed the points I made in that article, saying, “We are more energy independent today” under President Joe Biden.

PolitiFact subsequently weighed in on the conversation, saying:

“What Newsom’s, Hannity’s, and Pence’s claims all share is the mistaken belief that the U.S. is genuinely energy independent. Although the U.S. has moved toward energy independence in some ways, it still depends on international crude oil for key elements of its energy needs, making the country’s energy market sensitive to overseas developments in energy, trade and foreign policy.”

As a brief digression, the point I have previously made is that it depends on how you are defining energy independence. It’s always important to establish those terms. As I pointed out in the previous article:

“If energy independence is defined to be ‘We don’t import any energy’, then we haven’t been energy independent in at least 70 years. We haven’t even been close, because we import a lot of oil that gets refined and then reexported as finished products.

But if Pence defines the phrase to mean ‘We produce more energy than we consume’, then we were more energy independent in 2022 than we been in at least 70 years.”

PolitiFact is correct in that we aren’t truly energy independent, but we do now produce more energy than we consume. That is the only definition of energy independence that qualifies during the Trump Administration.

Now let’s review what Hannity and Newsom actually said. I will inject my comments in between in italics as “RR:…”.

Hannity: “(Trump) made the country energy independent for the first time in 75 years.”

RR: Trump didn’t make us energy independent; hydraulic fracturing (i.e., fracking) did. By Definition 2 — which is we produce more energy than we use — we started on that trajectory in 2008. If you looked at a graphic without a date, you wouldn’t be able to identify any “Trump effect” on the chart. But you would see a big change in 2008, which began a trend toward energy independence that continues to this day.

Newsom: “We are more energy independent today. Look that up. It’s a fact.”

RR: By Definition 2, Newsom is correct. U.S. excess energy production has increased since Biden took over and will almost certainly set a new record this year.

Hannity: “That’s false. (President) Joe Biden has unilaterally disarmed.”

RR: Hannity makes two statements here. The first one — in which he contradicts Newsom’s prior statement — is wrong. The second has some elements of truth, in that Biden hasn’t exactly been pro-oil. Nevertheless…

Newsom: “We are more energy independent today under Biden. Pence doesn’t know that. Your audience doesn’t know that. More domestic oil production than any time in history, we’re on pace for this year. That’s a fact. You guys keep making that up.”

RR: Newsom is correct. U.S. natural gas production set new all-time highs in 2021 and 2022. U.S. oil production set a new all-time high in 2022 when condensates and natural gas liquids (NGLs) are included (which end up feeding into refineries), and the U.S. is currently on a record pace for just crude oil production in 2023. The previous annual record was 12.3 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2019, and thus far in 2023 the average is over 12.7 million bpd. It would take a total collapse in production in the final three months of the year to prevent a new all-time high this year.

Hannity: “No we don’t make it up. We were energy independent and now we’re not.”

RR: Hannity, who once quoted me on his show to support a point he was making, is dead wrong here. Next time he says this, someone needs to ask him how he is defining energy independence.

Incidentally, here’s a screenshot of Hannity quoting me. Hannity was using it to argue that Trump massively decreased carbon emissions. But the data I was quoting in 2017 would have been through the end of 2016, before Trump entered office.

Carbon emissions quote on Hannity.
Sean Hannity Quoting a 2017 Forbes Article of Mine. ROBERT RAPIER VIA FOX NEWS

Newsom: “We are energy independent. Net energy exporters.”

Hannity: “ANWR (the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, federal land where oil drilling is limited). Go there. Look at all the other restrictions.”

RR: Hannity is correct that there have been energy restrictions under Biden. Nevertheless, as shown above, the U.S. is still producing oil and gas in record amounts.

Newsom: “5.94 quads. It’s the highest margin of net energy export in American history, under the Biden administration.”

RR: Again, Newsom is correct here. He is citing a number I also cited in my May 2023 Forbes article U.S. Energy Independence Soars To Highest Level In Over 70 Years. And that margin will almost certainly grow this year. This will complicate Republican efforts to run against Biden’s energy record. On the one hand, Biden has put energy restrictions in place. But the bottom line is the U.S. is still setting energy production records.

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