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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox joined two dozen other Republican governors across the country calling on President Joe Biden to "restore American energy independence" as consumers suffocate under the weight of escalating prices at the pump and fuel increases to heat their homes.
The demand comes as Russia continues to wage war against Ukraine, even shelling Europe's largest nuclear power plant.
"As governors, we call on President Biden to reverse his policies and restore America's energy independence for our citizens as well as our allies abroad," a statement released Friday said.
"By removing his bans on new oil and gas development on federal lands, building the Keystone XL pipeline, and reinstating regulatory reforms to streamline energy permitting, we can protect our national energy security and sell to our friends rather than buy from our enemies — specifically Russia."
"Family budgets have already been stretched thin following record inflation," the statement continued. "People in our states cannot afford another spike at the gas pump, and our allies cannot afford to be held hostage by Putin's tyranny and aggression."
On his first day in office, Biden signed executive orders stopping any new federal leases for oil and gas and shutting down construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The 2,151-mile pipeline would have had the capacity to convey 803,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the western oil fields of Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. Less than 10% of the $8 billion project had been built when Biden pulled it.
Last month, the Biden administration missed a court-ordered deadline to resume quarterly onshore and offshore oil and gas lease sales.
"The oil and natural gas on federal public lands belong to the American people and could help the nation lower energy prices. Instead, the president lobbies Russia and OPEC to boost their production while constraining American producers. As a result, gas prices remain high and the president makes empty promises," said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance representing independent oil and gas producers in Utah and other Western states.
Since Monday, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has increased by 11 cents to $3.72, according to AAA, and prices are expected to climb further. In San Francisco, the price per gallon topped $5.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States imported from Russia a little more than 20 million barrels of crude and refined products a month on average in 2021 or about 8% of U.S. liquid fuel imports.
If we decide not to be buying more Russian oil, we're going to have to come up with some oil of our own. So that means our oil producers here have to be able to drill more wells in the Uintah Basin as well as across the country. We need more oil.
–Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah
Those imports in the face of such naked Russian aggression against Ukraine have led to calls to cease relying on a hostile actor for any energy, which is central to Russia's economy.
"If we decide not to be buying more Russian oil, we're going to have to come up with some oil of our own. So that means our oil producers here have to be able to drill more wells in the Uintah Basin as well as across the country. We need more oil," Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said in a call with reporters Wednesday.
"I would have completed the Keystone pipeline. I think it was a huge mistake on the president's part not to do so. That's back on the agenda list, but that would take a while for that to kick back in," Romney continued.
"But all these things have impact on Utah and on the nation so those are things which I think the administration is going to have to consider."
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, has also called on the United States to stop buying Russian oil to help fund the war against Ukraine.
Environmental groups and conservation organizations say the importation of Russian oil into the United States is just another example of why this country needs to wean itself off fossil fuel. They also contend kickstarting the Keystone XL pipeline or resuming the issuance of federal leases would make little difference in U.S. energy supplies and are not making prices increase. Instead, they point to profit motives of "big oil" companies and overall instability in the global market.
Aside from Cox, signatories to the statement include: Govs. Brad Little, Idaho; Kay Ivey, Alabama; Mike Dunleavy, Alaska; Doug Ducey, Arizona; Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas; Ron DeSantis, Florida; Brian Kemp, Georgia; Eric Holcomb, Indiana; Kim Reynolds, Iowa; Larry Hogan, Maryland; Tate Reeves, Mississippi; Mike Parson, Missouri; Greg Gianforte, Montana; Pete Ricketts, Nebraska; Chris Sununu, New Hampshire; Doug Burgum, North Dakota; Kevin Stitt, Oklahoma; Henry McMaster, South Carolina; Kristi Noem, South Dakota; Bill Lee, Tennessee; Greg Abbott, Texas; Glenn Youngkin, Virginia; Jim Justice, West Virginia, and Mark Gordon, Wyoming.
Contributing: Dennis Romboy