White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki invoked an oft-repeated Democratic talking point about oil and gas exploration last week. In the course of defending the Biden administration's refusal to issue new oil and gas leases on federal land, Psaki said that there are over 9,000 unused leases already. So, why issue new ones?

You might be fooled into thinking this is a valid point, but only if you know nothing about the energy industry, in which I have worked for 23 years.

An existing lease means nothing if you cannot get surface agreements in place or pipelines close by enough to move the oil and gas. A new lease may be more promising for short-term production than an existing lease. But whenever this issue comes up, Democrats try to make it sound like companies are just sitting on permits, irrationally doing nothing, and therefore no new ones ought to be issued.

In short, this is misdirection — a deliberate effort to mislead the public with a falsehood that sounds plausible.

Psaki's other solution to the problem of high gas prices, renewables, is simply impractical. Renewables are a very long way from replacing our oil and gas needs. They cannot be useful in the immediate crisis caused by a moral imperative to boycott Russian commerce. It should also be pointed out that renewable technology requires oil and gas to produce its components anyway.

Vladimir Putin is evil. His unconscionable actions in Ukraine have caused the price of gas to rise in the last two weeks. But Putin didn't cause the price of gas to rise to its already-high levels of early February — that was President Joe Biden's fault. He really needs to stop scapegoating Putin — and my industry, for that matter — for his own failures.

Biden was a U.S. senator during the energy crisis of the 1970s. He should already know that heavy reliance on foreign adversaries for energy is costly and dangerous. Today, America finds itself at a turning point. Will we pursue a path that creates good-paying jobs, strengthens the economy, and strengthens national security? Or will we virtue-signal on climate change and pursue a path of short-term “Band-Aids” that keep prices high and give oil-rich dictators unjustified leverage over us?

In 2021, the United States imported 245 million barrels of oil and petroleum products from Russia. Given that petro-dollars are a major source of funding for Putin's regime, this means that billions of American consumers' dollars went to fund this current invasion of Ukraine. The White House recently took the appropriate measure of banning U.S. imports of Russian oil, but U.S. officials are now turning to Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to find oil. But there is no need — the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of oil. It is unconscionable that this president would further jeopardize our national security by asking oil-rich dictators for help when we can help ourselves, and do it in a way that is more efficient and better for the planet.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 32 out of 50 states produce oil. Texas alone accounts for 43% of total production; North Dakota, 10.4%; my state of Colorado comes in at fifth place, with 4.0%. Those three states alone can produce about 2.37 billion barrels of oil annually. But federal data show that in President Biden’s first year in office, U.S. energy production fell under 2019 and 2020 levels.

Domestic energy production can easily make up for the loss of Russian oil, and then some. But in his 2020 campaign, Joe Biden promised that he would put an end to fossil fuels. After getting elected, he issued an executive order that revoked permits to build the Keystone XL pipeline. He then issued a slew of executive actions to halt new oil and natural gas leases on public lands. And today, as gas prices skyrocket to record highs, the administration focuses on “Band-Aid” solutions such as releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and investigating oil and gas companies for unsubstantiated claims of price-gouging.

President Biden's radical domestic energy agenda has been clear from the start. Still, with Putin's war sending gas prices even higher and imperiling his legacy, Biden is now casting blame toward everyone but himself for the failure to produce more. He scapegoats Putin, Donald Trump, the coronavirus, and even the oil and gas industry itself.

Maybe he ought to look in the mirror.

Jan Kulmann, mayor of Thornton, Colorado, has worked in the energy industry for 23 years. She is running for the U.S. House in Colorado's 8th District.