President Joe Biden is blocking the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline by withdrawing the federal government’s approval of the project, but doing so is bad for America and the environment.
The Keystone XL pipeline might be the most carefully examined pipeline in U.S. history. Initially proposed almost 15 years ago, the 1,200-mile pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily from Canada to Nebraska, where it would be transferred to other pipelines for shipment to refineries and export terminals on the Gulf of Mexico.
The vast majority of the pipeline did not need federal approval and has been built or connected in segments stretching from the Gulf Coast of Texas to the Midwest.
The U.S. State Department had to sign off on a segment of the pipeline delivering oil from Canada to Nebraska. In 2011, after reviewing 15,500 pages of documents and environmental impact statements, President Barack Obama’s State Department determined the Keystone XL could be developed safely, was in the national interest, and would have no impact on greenhouse gas emissions or climate change.
The State Department and outside analyses also showed, during construction and the life of its operations, that the Keystone XL pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs and reduce U.S. energy costs.
Despite its economic virtues, Obama rejected the science and directed the State Department to do another analysis. It did so and came to the same conclusion in 2014. Still, Obama rejected the pipeline. So much for following the science.
As a candidate for president, Donald Trump promised to reverse Obama’s Keystone XL rejection in order to reduce U.S. reliance on oil imported from hostile foreign countries. Just two months after being sworn in as president, Trump directed the State Department to approve Keystone XL.
In June 2017, after once again reviewing its impact on the environment and climate, the State Department approved the permit to build small remaining portions of the international pipeline. By September 2019, Nebraska regulators had also given the pipeline the final approval needed to begin construction.
The Keystone XL pipeline is in America’s long-term geopolitical and economic interest. It will create thousands of jobs directly and indirectly. And after the oil is refined on the U.S. Gulf Coast, it can either be used domestically or shipped overseas, reducing America’s trade deficit while shoring up international alliances by reducing friendly countries’ reliance on energy from America’s geopolitical foes, including Russia, Iran and Venezuela.
Conversely, by withdrawing the Keystone XL permits at this late stage, the Biden administration is telling the Canadian government—which has publicly urged the administration not to cancel the pipeline—industry and state governments that you cannot rely on the U.S. government to keep its commitments.
Canceling the Keystone XL pipeline would also be bad for the environment. Canadian oil will still be extracted and shipped, but it would have to be transported by truck and by rail, methods that result in far more oil spills each year than pipelines.
A study by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research found from 2005 to 2009, shipping oil by roads or rail caused about 30 more injuries requiring hospitalization as pipelines. And a study by the Fraser Institute showed from 2003 to 2013, pipelines experienced fewer spills, spilling less oil per million barrels of oil transported than did rail or truck. Fraser also found 99% of pipeline spills did no damage to the environment.
Finishing the Keystone XL pipeline is in America’s geopolitical, economic and environmental interests. As such, Biden should reconsider his stance and support its completion.