President Joe Biden’s first day in office wasn’t a good omen for the fossil fuels industry and, perhaps, the states whose economies rely on it.
Biden on Wednesday rescinded federal permits for the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that was equally hindered by the Obama administration but which had gained momentum under President Donald Trump.
Keystone already has pipe in the ground, transporting oil from Canada’s tar sands region in Alberta refineries in Texas and Illinois. The existing Keystone pipe runs directly south through North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. Don’t confuse it with the Enbridge Line 3 replacement project that’s now getting started and will carry oil through a portion of North Dakota and across Minnesota to Superior, Wis. – that’s an entirely different route owned by a different company.
This new phase of the Keystone project would diagonally cross eastern Montana, western South Dakota and central Nebraska.
President Obama used his veto power to block Keystone’s Phase 4 in 2015, saying the project runs contrary to the nation’s interests. Trump then green-lit Phase 4 shortly after he took office. Keystone, and fossil fuels generally, became an issue in the weeks prior to the November election.
Trump also claimed Biden was against fracking, the process used by drillers to extract oil from the Bakken formation in western North Dakota. Biden hedged his response, but Kamala Harris later said: “Let’s be really clear about this. Joe Biden is not going to ban fracking. He is going to deal with oil subsidies. What Joe was talking about was banning subsidies but he will not ban fracking in America.”
If the new president is against new oil projects, that’s not good for North Dakota. If he changes his mind on fracking, it would be devastating.
Really, Biden’s halt of the Keystone project is not a surprise. He said he would do it; whether he believes it’s a true effort at environmental improvement or a gesture to appease his most left-leaning supporters is a matter of debate.
While we do believe in global warming, we also believe pipelines are the best way to transport the oil that will continue to be harvested from places like Alberta and western North Dakota. As we have written so many times before, thousands of miles of pipelines already exist, transporting oil across the nation each day. New, modern pipelines like the Enbridge Line 3 and the Keystone would simply be part of a network currently in place.
According to Keystone numbers, the $9 billion Keystone Phase 4 project would sustain more than 10,000 jobs this year alone. If accurate, that’s some serious economic development.
Our neighbor to the north, Canada, had hoped for some time to make a case in favor of the Keystone project. The decision to move ahead without that conversation is unfortunate; Roland Paris, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s foreign policy adviser, calls it a “rough start” to the new relationship. It’s not necessarily the alliance-building approach Biden promised.
Yes, Biden pledged to block the Keystone project, but what’s alarming is the speed at which he did it. It’s quite a message.