Moving forward with Keystone XL pipeline is in the U.S. national interest
Column written by Rep. Don Bacon (NE-02) and RMSP CEO Sarah Chamberlain and published in the Omaha World-Herald on March 10, 2021.
The Keystone XL Pipeline debate has become a microcosm of everything wrong in Washington today. Like so many critical issues, it has been governed by policy that values rhetoric over facts. What should be a decision best informed by climate scientists and economic experts has instead been hijacked by extremists from both sides, who see it as either a symbol of support for the entire fossil fuel industry or the beginning of the end of the world, depending on which side you’re on.
Once you get past the rhetoric, though, the proper course of action becomes clear.
Keystone XL expands an existing pipeline that carries Canadian crude oil into the United States. The expansion would allow crude oil brought in by truck and rail to be more safely transported via pipeline from the Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.
This pipeline directly travels through Nebraska and affects our economy, energy sector, and the livelihoods of so many. On Jan. 20, President Biden issued an executive order rescinding the project’s border-crossing permit. The decision was a gut punch not only to good-paying union jobs but also to small businesses along the route.
Biden based his decision in part on an Obama administration review that advocated for the United States to focus on “the development of a clean energy economy, which would in turn create good jobs.” He cited U.S. “national interest” in letting other countries see America moving away from fossil fuels. But the truth is that the State Department’s environmental impact report said the pipeline expansion would not have a serious or even substantial impact on greenhouse-gas emissions.
Killing Keystone won’t keep fossil fuels in the ground; they will still be transported into the United States. An array of environmental experts and groups agree that transporting oil through a pipeline is safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly than other means of energy transportation. Canada, the world’s fourth-largest oil exporter, sells most of its oil to the United States. Without a pipeline, we could be forced to buy more oil from adversarial states like Russia and Venezuela, even as we move our energy usage toward clean sources. U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the ranking Republican member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, says we don’t need to be killing jobs in the midst of a pandemic for policy decisions that are misdirected at best. Like many of us, she believes we need realistic, all-of-the-above energy solutions that address climate-change risks and keep control of our energy future from China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia without hampering our economy.
She supports H.B. 684 — the Keystone XL Pipeline Construction and Jobs Preservation Act — as do I. The fact that the bill’s 125 sponsors are all Republican shows how partisan politics has kept Democrats from reaching across the aisle on an issue in which the facts are so clear.
One reason Republicans did well in downstream races in 2020 was this issue. We need to win only a few swing districts to retake control of Congress, and challenging Democrats on energy policies is a likely 2022 strategy. It is not hyperbole to say that H.B. 684 will save energy and construction jobs; protect U.S. national security; keep energy costs low; and promote American-led energy innovation. Oil’s next price boom will scramble industry and political priorities, and we’ll all see that President Biden’s decision was more more controversial than it appears today as it pushes us toward less stable trading partners for oil.
Moderate Republicans can provide President Biden with an alternative to aligning with extremists on the left by passing good legislation that preserves jobs and still benefits the environment.