Ex-Energy Sec. Brouillette: Biden's pipeline problem goes from bad to worse with Nord Stream 2 vs. Keystone
Biden's team must be asked why the interests of Russia, France and Germany have taken precedence over U.S. jobs and America’s national security?
Just two months into the Biden presidency and we are witnessing a remarkable juxtaposition on the issue of energy security that could have profound and serious implications both at home and abroad.
It was almost two years ago, on March 29, 2019, that then-President Trump signed an executive order granting final permission for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. A decade-long project in the making, it has been one of the most studied infrastructure projects in U.S. history supporting thousands of good-paying union jobs and strengthening our country’s security by ensuring the reliable and safe delivery of energy to the American people.
Importantly, it is also a project that has enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Montana’s Democratic Senator Jon Tester noted “it has the potential to support thousands of good-paying jobs, increase tax revenue into local communities, and support a safer, more efficient alternative to transporting fossil fuel by truck or railroad.”
Democratic Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Joe Manchin, also stated that pipelines “undergo a rigorous permitting process” and that policymakers should “not let politics drive the decisions on the development and operation of our nation’s vital energy infrastructure.”
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Nine months after signing the Keystone executive order, on December 20, 2019, President Trump also signed into law S.1790, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. Among many provisions and with strong bipartisan support, it included the imposition of targeted sanctions on those involved in constructing Russia's Nord Stream 2 (NS2).
In the words of New Hampshire’s Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who worked with Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on this provision, the imposition of sanctions on those who work to advance NS2 would send “an unmistakable, bipartisan message from Congress to Vladimir Putin that the United States will not sit idly by while the Kremlin seeks to further spread its malign influence.”
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As with the observations of Senators Tester and Manchin on Keystone, Senators Shaheen and Cruz were correct on their analysis of NS2. If allowed to be completed, this new pipeline would double the amount of natural gas Russia transports directly to Europe and hand an enormous geopolitical victory to Vladimir Putin. It would solidify Russia’s dominance over Europe’s natural gas markets, at the expense of the United States and other countries, and by purposely bypassing Ukraine and Poland, make it easier for Russia to potentially to shut off gas supplies to Eastern Europe.
Yet fast forward two years, and what a remarkable role reversal we are seeing today on the domestic and world stages.
On his very first day in office, President Biden issued an executive order cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline and eliminating the prospect of thousands of American union jobs.
At the same time, despite recent vague rhetorical threats from Secretary of State Antony Blinken against those who are working on the pipeline, the president has thus far refused to impose the congressionally-mandated, bipartisan sanctions.
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In other words, under the new administration’s policies, Putin’s pipeline has been allowed to move forward without serious consequence, but a well-studied, economically important pipeline that would greatly benefit the people of the United States and Canada cannot. Or to put it into starker terms, the Biden administration is seemingly more worried about upsetting diplomatic relationships in Berlin and Paris versus upholding their commitment to “build back better,” protecting good-paying American jobs, and standing up to Russian aggression.
As these 40 senators point out in a letter to the Biden administration, not imposing NS2 sanctions allows “President Putin to gain a stranglehold over Europe’s gas supplies and increase its geopolitical leverage.”
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At the same time, the Biden administration is jeopardizing U.S. jobs, energy security, and environmental progress by hindering critical infrastructure development domestically. These decisions only serve to increase America’s reliance on energy from OPEC nations and Russia, which is produced with lower environmental standards and increases our vulnerability to their geopolitical manipulations.
It’s time we ask this administration why the interests of Russia, France and Germany have taken precedence over U.S. jobs and America’s national security. And will their deference to Putin’s oligarchs and Middle East monarchies continue as they consider calls by environmental activists to cancel additional American energy infrastructure?
This administration is allowing American energy leadership to diminish by the day.
Will the new president change his current course, or will we continue to see “America first” replaced with “America last”?
Dan R. Brouillette served as the United States Secretary of Energy from 2019 to 2021.