“Everyone needs a fantasy.” – Andy Warhol
The origin of Santa Claus as a beacon of magical bounty in Western culture can be traced back to an 11th-century dispute over the skeletal remains of Nicholas of Bari, a 4th-century Greek Christian bishop from Myra (modern-day Demre), a coastal city in Turkey. Half of Saint Nicholas’ bones were removed by a group of Italian merchants and taken to a church in Bari, Italy, while the other half (the minor bones, as it were) reside in Venice after having been removed by Italian sailors during the Crusades. His hometown of Myra was left with but a humble portion of the man’s remains (whose reliquary, happily, manages to nonetheless produce a miraculous vial of myrrh, extracted every 6th of December). The bishop, posthumously canonized as Saint Nicholas, was revered for his generosity and protection, and his legacy continues to be cherished to this day.
The transformation of this notably generous religious figure into a portly man in a red costume bestowed with the power to traverse the globe delivering gifts to all good children in a single night is rather silly, but for those parents who celebrate Christmas, pretending he exists is a rite of passage. Dealing with the fallout when a child discovers they have been deceived can be challenging, especially when – as is typical – an older sibling is guilty of ending the charade. The early realization that authority figures aren’t always to be trusted is a tough but necessary lesson for developing minds.
While children can be excused for believing in physics-defying fantasies, there are legions of grown adults who bathe in similar delusions when it comes to energy policy. Specifically, there is a widespread belief among many otherwise rational people that humanity no longer needs fossil fuels, that we can stop relying on them soon without meaningful consequences to our way of life, and that our refusal to do so is a mere political choice. Given the intensity with which such dogmas are held, it is understandable that politicians have played along, assuring these intellectual adolescents that Rudolph’s nose is indeed shiny and red. Some might even say it glows.
Despite the passage of time and elections, to us, Joe Biden will always be the senator from Delaware who could be counted on to aggressively defend the corporate interests of DuPont, one of the world’s greatest environmental polluters. He is an old-school politician who understands the stakes inherent in the price of gasoline at the pump. We have long viewed the game of footsie he plays with radical environmentalists through a rather cynical lens, understanding that politics often requires tolerating the views of extremists within one’s camp long enough to survive the next election. Eventually, though, a child must be told that Santa isn’t ever coming down the chimney and that Dad has been eating the cookies left out all these years.
That day has come. On Monday, March 13, President Biden approved ConocoPhillips’ Willow drilling project in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve. For many in the professional environmental class, this approval marks the shattering admission that Biden doesn’t believe in Green Energy Santa™, and they can’t wrap their heads around it. Surely, Biden knows we are only a few years away from kicking our oil habit, right? For a representative example of this bewilderment-in-print, we turn to The Atlantic’s unironically titled article, “The Alaska Oil Project Will Be Obsolete Before It’s Finished” (emphasis added throughout):
“But the oil from the three drill sites approved today won’t begin to flow for six years. It won’t address any of our next-week, next-month, or next-year supply concerns. In fact, Willow probably won’t do much of anything. By the time it’s finished, the gap may already be largely bridged. The world might not have enough renewable energy to power everything by 2029, but we’ll have more than enough to keep the lights on without additional drilling.”
How important is the Willow oil project, and what does Biden’s approval portend for the oil and gas sector in the coming years? Let’s do some unwrapping.