Killing the XL Pipeline is Not the Way to Build Back Better | Citizens Against Government Waste

Killing the XL Pipeline is Not the Way to Build Back Better

The WasteWatcher

President Biden’s campaign promise was to “Build Back Better.”  He declared he has “more respect for the working women and men who get up every day to build and sustain this country, or more confidence that they can meet the challenges we face.”  Yet, on his first day in office and with the stroke of his pen, he signed Executive Order(EO) “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.”  Section 6 of the EO, revoked the March 2019 permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The action immediately laid off thousands of employees according to TC Energy Corporation and the  “decision would overturn an unprecedented, comprehensive regulatory process that lasted more than a decade and repeatedly concluded the pipeline would transport much needed energy in an environmentally responsible way while enhancing North American energy security.”  In addition to the layoffs, the action would “negatively impact ground-breaking industry commitments to use new renewable energy as well as historic equity partnerships with Indigenous communities.”  The Keystone XL website stated that the project would have supported “nearly 60,000 direct, indirect and induced employment opportunities, generating billions of dollars in new personal income for U.S. and Canadian workers and their families.”

The Keystone XL had announced as recently as October 2020, that TC Energy Corporation had “awarded more than US $1.6 billion worth of contracts to six major American union contractors to execute pipeline construction across 800 miles in three states in the U.S. on the Keystone XL Pipeline in 2021.”  Six contractors would have been responsible for hiring more than 7,000 union workers in 2021, with a focus on hiring local workers and businesses.  These contracts would have been combined with additional contracts awarded in 2021, leading to more than 11,000 jobs and $900 million in gross wages by the end of 2021.  

The Keystone XL would have allowed “responsibly produced Canadian oil to be safely transported into the United States from many producers who have set their own net zero emissions goals” and that the “Canadian Oil Sands producers have cut emissions intensity by 21 percent in recent years and they are expected to fall another 27 percent by 2030.”  Furthermore, the Keystone XL would have strengthened “the economic and security ties between the U.S. and Canada, America’s closest ally and most important energy trading partner.  Canada has implemented a comprehensive national sustainability strategy to carefully develop its energy resources as the country transitions to a lower-carbon economy.”

The January 20 NY Post reported that Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau was “disappointed” that President Biden revoked the permit and said, “While we welcome the President’s commitment to fight climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the President’s decision to fulfill his election campaign promise on Keystone XL” and he noted that “Canada is the single-largest supplier of energy to the United States, contributing to U.S. energy security and economic competitiveness, and supporting thousands of jobs on both sides of the border.”

The Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was not so demure in his response.  He said President Biden’s decision was a “gut punch” for U.S-Canadian trade and that it was “an insult directed at the United States’ most important ally and trading partner.”  Kenney was planning to call on Prime Minister Trudeau to sit down with President Biden and work something out, and if that fails, to impose trade and economic sanctions.  However, it has been reported that Trudeau is resigned to live with the decision.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a confirmation hearing on January 21 for Mayor Pete Buttigieg to be Transportation Secretary.  The department is responsible for overseeing all transportation systems, including pipelines.  He was asked by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Ak.) what he thought about the decision by President Biden that put thousands of union trade workers out of work in revoking the XL pipeline permit.  Buttigieg said, “I believe that the president's climate vision will create more jobs on net and I think it's going to be very important to work with him and work with Congress to make sure that we can deliver on that promise too, that on net, more good paying union jobs will be created in the context of the climate and infrastructure work that we have before us than has been impacted by other decisions.”

This response is the usual broken window theory that has been promoted by green energy aficionados for many years.  Destroy the fossil fuel industry and replace it with heavy government investment in green energy and viola, create thousands of new, clean energy jobs. During the Obama administration, President Obama said that the U.S. would “invest $15 billion a year over the next decade in renewable energy, creating five million new green jobs that pay well, can't be outsourced and help end our dependence on foreign oil."  The new jobs will be building wind turbines, solar power plants, electric cars and so forth.

This is essentially the Green New Deal legislation that was introduced in 2019, a government boondoggle costing anywhere from $52 to $93 trillion over ten years.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) discussed the problem with government promotion of green energy, like solar and wind power, in a January 2020 WasteWatcher blog.  These types of energy production are very inefficient compared to the energy produced by fossil fuels.  CAGW highlighted in the blog a December 2019 Heartland Institute analysis by Paul Driessen, “Protecting the Environment from the New Green Deal” that demonstrated the problems with green energy.  For example, if solar cells replaced all the energy produced by fossil fuel and nuclear power, it would take 18.7 billion panels and a land mass the size of New York and Vermont combined.

The fact is, the oil that Canada is producing that would have been delivered via the pipeline will simply be transported by another method.  It could come to the U.S. by train, which is riskier than moving it by pipelines, or the Canadians could sell the oil to another country, including some whose refining processes are not as enviromentally cautious as ours.  This action will also send negative incentives for future investment in large industrial projects important to the U.S.

In addition to stopping the XL pipeline, The Hill reported on January 21 the Biden administration has also temporarily blocked new oil drilling on public lands, reversing Trump administration policies that helped promote U.S. energy production.  Acting Department of Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega signed the order, which also froze current leases so they could be reviewed.  But should Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), who has been nominated to be the department secretary, be confirmed by the Senate, she could sign a permanent ban.

This would be unfortunate and dangerous.  According to the Energy Department, the U.S. was on track to be the largest oil and natural gas exporter by 2022.  If the Biden administration should permanently ban the federal leases to oil drilling, combined with shutting down the XL pipeline, we will be traveling backwards to the 1970s and 1980s, driving the U.S. to being more reliant on oil from unfriendly countries once again.

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