As we wind through the final day of the first (and hopefully, LAST!) term of the Donald Trump Presidency, I have come across some good news from President-Elect Biden’s campaign. Despite the Trump agenda of the past 3 years (basically a fire sale on the commons for the purpose of drilling. A fitting metaphor with much of the commons either on fire, or already burned up) AND Biden’s past corporate affiliations, his administration plans on cancelling the permit of the Keystone XL pipeline.
To put it another way, it looks like the protests at Standing Rock may not have been a waste of time & energy for all attendees, after all. To be fair, they already won a legal victory in 2018 after a federal judge ordered a new sweeping environmental assessment of the project. Nonetheless, cancelling the permit to built makes the protests a success.
The words “Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit” were reportedly listed on a briefing note shared by the Biden transition team with U.S. stakeholders as part of a roundup of Biden’s planned day one executive actions. CTV News also reviewed the briefing documents, and a source familiar with Biden’s thinking told Reuters that the President-elect is planning to cancel the pipeline as one of his first acts.
“The Biden administration halting the Keystone XL pipeline is a momentous sign that he is listening, taking action and making good on his promises to people and the planet,” Kendall Mackey, 350.org Keep It In the Ground campaign manager, said in response to the news. “This decision to halt the Keystone XL pipeline on day one in office sets a precedent that all permitting decisions must pass a climate test and respect Indigenous rights.”
It appears that I was mistaken in my initial assumption of Keystone XL = Dakota Access. In which case, yes . . . keep up the opposition. Because your pleas are no longer falling on deaf ears.
The Keystone XL pipeline was first announced in 2005, CBC News reported. The pipeline is being built to carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day, stretching about 1,200 miles from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska. From there it would connect with the original Keystone pipeline that carries oil to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.
The pipeline has long been opposed by environmental and Indigenous groups, who are concerned about its climate impacts and the potential for leaks to harm wildlife and pollute drinking water, CTV News reported. Protests prompted the Obama administration to rescind the permit in 2015, but President Donald Trump reversed this decision with an executive order in early 2017.
Biden’s decision to once again rescind the permit is not surprising. His advisers have said in the past that he would move to block it again, according to HuffPost. Biden’s campaign has vocally opposed the pipeline since May, according to CTV News.
Even if this is a move to solidify the Obama/Biden presidential legacies in the eyes of voters, I’ll take it. It’s an opening for leverage on the other 2 (and future) pipeline projects!
Though this is generally considered to be good news by many, it’s rattling cages in areas of Canada that stood to benefit from the pipeline. To no one’s surprise, really.
The news has sparked opposition in Canada.
“I am deeply concerned by reports that the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden may repeal the Presidential permit for the Keystone XL border crossing next week,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in a Twitter statement. “Doing so would kill jobs on both sides of the border, weaken the critically important Canada-U.S. relationship and undermine U.S. national security by making the United States more dependent on OPEC oil imports in the future.”
Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., said the country still stood behind the pipeline and that it fit within Canada’s climate plans, CBC News reported.
“The Government of Canada continues to support the Keystone XL project and the benefits that it will bring to both Canada and the United States,” Hillman said.
Naturally, Jason Kenny was caught flat-footed by this proposed re-instated action by the US. However, this reaction is something that Canadians outside of the bitumen delusion bubble (which is rampant in the western provinces) have come to expect. Alberta, in particular, has always hedged most of its economic bets on its petroleum sector. This HAS been a successful strategy when the global price for a barrel of oil was high enough to offset the costs of processing the bitumen into something usable. However, the dark side of the strategy always reared its head with the dive of global oil prices. People would be thrown out of work, and the most vulnerable in the oil royalty dependant provinces suffered budget cuts in areas like healthcare and education. The problem often only being made worse by conservative governments attempting to reverse the decline by offering tax incentives for corporations to come to Alberta.
While I have written my predictions for the Alberta oil sector before, what matters more here is the lacking of benefits that Keystone XL (and any pipeline) would bring to anyone outside of its construction crew, and (later) it’s suppliers and owners. Though the pipeline indeed provides temporary construction jobs, it will only create 35 permanent jobs after construction is completed.
A State Department report on the pipeline that was issued under the Obama administration found that there would be 3,900 direct construction jobs if it was built over one year, or 1,950 if the work was spread over two years.
Once the pipeline opens it would require only 35 full-time permanent jobs to run it, and 15 full-time temporary jobs, according to the state department report. TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, does not dispute those numbers.
The company and other supporters argue that the pipeline would create jobs indirectly for companies that sell products and services used to build the pipeline. The State Department report estimates that there would be a total of 42,000 indirect jobs created, with a total of $2 billion in wages. That comes to an average of about about $47,000 in wages per job.
TransCanada also pointed out that there would be benefits beyond the jobs and wages, including “significant property tax revenues, as well as sales and use and other tax revenues, to counties and states along the proposed project route.”
Notice that most of the sweet selling numbers involve the construction of the pipeline. There is a temporary gold rush, but once it’s over, the only beneficiaries seem to be the local governments that will be collecting taxation from the footprint of the pipeline.
Leaving little thought to the farmers, water users and anyone else downstream of a future potential breach in the pipeline. Given how companies are stingy with maintenance and replacement of ageing infrastructure as it is (and we have not even seen a large dive in the price of oil yet!), a completed Keystone XL isn’t something to look forward to for anyone that likes benzene free waterways.
Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada, urged Canadians to follow suit and move away from the pipeline, which he likened to “beating [a] dead horse,” CBC News reported.
“The Biden administration offers us a fresh start on addressing the climate crisis with a willing partner, so let’s not blow it by pushing pipelines,” Stewart said.
We now live in an era where even the oil barons of old can not ignore the direction of both public sentiment and innovation. To quote Elizabeth May, the former leader of Canada’s Green Party, Oil is Dead. While the overall future of petroleum is infinite (since few substances can, or will, replace it for things like plastics and other everyday needs), petroleum as an energy source has numbered days. Though the status quo of today’s daily oil usage may have 2 or 3 decades left, that’s hardly a long-term bet for a region. And if all this region can produce is sub-standard tar which needs to be cooked into a usable product, the tarsands will come to its day of reckoning long before the rest of the oil industry eventually stabilizes into a new normal.
So, again, I agree. Assuming Biden follows his word, this is a good chance for Canada to try something outside of the box of obsolete resource extraction. While dwellers of the Western provinces won’t want to accept that their easy way of life is gone (and never was sustainable, to begin with!), we HAVE to find a new way. Before it’s too late.