Killing Keystone XL: Senseless American Carnage

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Wednesday, January 27, 2021


President Joe Biden wasted little time on his first day in office, signing a sweeping set of executive orders that ranged from mask mandates to re-entering the Paris Climate Accord. Receiving less attention, though, was an executive order formally revoking a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, an ongoing project to carry oil from Alberta, Canada, down through the United States into refineries in Texas. Construction has already begun on the 2,000-mile pipeline, with cross-border infrastructure already in place. Revoking this permit all but guarantees the death of the project, as well as 10,000 American jobs that it was set to sustain this year.

The move comes in the wake of a recent announcement by the president of the company behind the pipeline that it would invest $1.7 billion in solar, wind, and battery power to ensure that it operates exclusively using renewable energy. The amount of renewable energy that would be produced by Keystone would rival that of the world’s largest companies, such as Amazon and Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

Even before the recent overhauls to make the pipeline carbon-neutral, the impact that the expanded pipeline would have had is negligible. The Obama administration found, on five separate occasions, that it would have no material impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The New York Times in 2014 reported that “the added carbon emissions [from Keystone] would amount to less than 1 percent of the United States greenhouse gas emissions, an infinitesimal slice of the global total.” 

Killing the pipeline won’t reduce demand for oil, nor will it cease Canada’s production. Rather, it will simply force energy companies to rely upon less efficient and less reliable methods to transport it. While compared to the alternatives—namely, rail and roads—pipelines are the safest and most efficient way to transport crude, with more than 99.99% of oil moved arriving safely at its destination. One would be hard-pressed to find benefits from this executive order.

The downsides, however, are tragically all to clear. At a time when unemployment claims remain elevated, eliminating 10,000 high-paying jobs as one of your first actions as President seems to be rather tone-deaf. Having run on a platform of appealing to disaffected working-class voters, his first action in office seems to be a stab in the back to them.

Furthermore, it has led to a bizarre standoff with Canada: the province of Alberta invested more than $1 billion into the project so far and does not seem pleased with Biden. Premier Jason Kenney went on record as saying that “[t]he government of Canada must impose meaningful trade and economic sanctions in response to defend our country’s vital economic interests.” Should these efforts fail, he has vowed to take legal action under the new North American Trade Agreement. 

Having been a campaign promise on which Biden ran, the decision was not unexpected. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself weighed in on the matter, urging Biden not to revoke the permit on his first day. Canadian officials wanted time to make their case to the new administration to not kill the project.

Joe Biden just took the presidency. He has already personally signed off on killing 10,000 jobs, with no discernible benefit for American workers. We look set to be sued—by Canada. All of this was totally avoidable—it’s simply senseless American carnage.

Kyle Moran is a student at the University of Rhode Island, where he studies political science and history. Outside of class, he serves as Vice Chair for the College Republican Federation of Rhode Island and is both an avid skier and reader.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Kyle Moran

University of Rhode Island

Kyle Moran is a student at the University of Rhode Island, where he studies political science and history. Outside of class, he serves as Vice Chair for the College Republican Federation of Rhode Island and is both an avid skier and reader.

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