Thursday marks one year since President Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in the White House. With the Executive Order revoking the pipeline’s cross-border permit, thousands of skilled union workers were instantaneously laid off, billions of dollars in economic impact for local communities lost, and American energy security put at risk for political gain.
Despite the fact pipelines are the safest and most efficient way to transport energy, Keystone XL was canceled without a proper review. With rising gas prices and inflation across the country at an all-time high, now is not the time to restrict critical infrastructure projects and energy development in the United States.
The irony in President Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline is the false premise that it will somehow help the administration reach their climate goals. Transporting energy products by pipeline is far safer compared to rail or truck, methods that produce higher carbon emissions, environmental risks, and other safety hazards.
With his current policies in place, President Biden runs the risk of contributing to potential environmental damages if Keystone XL and other pipelines continue to be halted. Blocking pipelines will not reduce demand for America’s energy supply and the consequence will result in further dependence on adversarial nations to fuel our energy needs, thereby jeopardizing the U.S.’ energy security.
It’s hard to understand the justification behind the Biden administration’s decision to support Nord Stream 2 in Russia as tensions continue to escalate with Ukraine, while canceling the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States. The Biden administration recently helped defeat a Congressional effort to sanction the pipeline project, which would strengthen Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hand, while undermining security in the Ukraine.
Nord Stream 2 and Keystone XL are vastly different projects, with vastly different goals. As NordStream 2 currently awaits final approval from German and European officials, it will eventually bypass Ukraine and Poland, resulting in Putin’s continued leverage over Europe. In contrast, if Keystone XL were to be completed, it would have utilized the natural resources we have here in North America to deliver reliable and affordable energy to millions of U.S. consumers, thus increasing our country’s energy security and strengthening the economy.
Now that President Biden’s infrastructure package is signed into law, he should build on this momentum and support strengthening pipeline infrastructure, instead of ceding our energy security to adversarial nations.
On the campaign trail, President Biden promised to create jobs and support labor unions, however, his administration is doing the exact opposite, leaving generations of skilled workers struggling to find their next paycheck as the Keystone XL project would have created 11,000 jobs.
You don’t need to take my word for it. Jason Jernigan, a pipeline worker in Arkansas affiliated with Pipeliners Union 798, wrote last year that Biden "essentially signed my pink slip… I was planning to begin work in March, laying pipes across an 80-mile spread in Montana. Now at age 45, I have to start all over."
Neal Crabtree, another pipeline worker scheduled to work on Keystone, publicly shared similar sentiments: "Common sense says we don't need to be putting American workers out of a job right now. Common sense says this pipeline needs to be built. But common sense seems to be lacking in some of the early days of the decisions of this administration."
To make matters worse, promises made to displaced pipeliners to facilitate a transition to careers in renewable energy, largely remain a pipedream. Many workers have instead settled for entry-level positions with entry-level pay to make ends meet – despite having built successful careers in U.S. energy infrastructure development.
As if the campaign-promise cancelation of Keystone XL wasn’t enough, environmental and anti-pipeline extremists have called on President Biden to cancel other critical pipelines like Line 3, Line 5, and Dakota Access (DAPL). However, unlike Keystone XL, these projects have safely operated for years, playing a vital role in the U.S. economy and energy security.
DAPL, for example, has safely transported crude oil from the Bakken in North Dakota to the Midwest for more than 4.5 years without incident. Despite having followed all the rules and receiving all necessary permits from local, state, and federal regulators, DAPL has been subject to vigilante protests, overreach from activist courts, baseless lawsuits, and regulatory uncertainty. Fortunately, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rightfully allowed DAPL to remain in operation while performing additional environmental review – a decision that acknowledges the pipeline’s impressive safety record and high regulatory standard.
While the oil and gas industry has provided families across the country with a reliable source of income, it has also become the cornerstone of American infrastructure and economy on a much larger scale.
If the Biden administration realizes the importance of transporting energy through pipelines, not only will laborers have a career to pursue again, but our country will be able to regain the economic and environmental benefits that we experienced during my tenure as Secretary of Energy.
A year into his administration, President Biden has failed to acknowledge the real consequences of his attack on America’s energy security. His administration’s misguided policies must be reexamined, and hopefully reversed as a result of bipartisan discussions, as our national security and energy security are at risk.
In order to correct our nation’s dangerous trajectory, the Biden administration must stop punishing American industry and its workers, and instead prioritize investment in critical infrastructure that supports the reliable, safe, and affordable delivery of American energy to consumers.
Rick Perry is the former governor of Texas and 14th Secretary of Energy.