- - Wednesday, January 20, 2021

“At this moment of profound crisis, we have the opportunity to build a more resilient, sustainable economy…”

“Create millions of good-paying union jobs.”

“Mobilize American ingenuity to build a modern infrastructure…”

While these promises from President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” platform may have served as great rhetoric on the campaign trail to win key votes in swing states, it seems the president is not as interested in actually achieving these goals once in the White House.

On Wednesday, Day One of his presidency, Mr. Biden cancelled a key permit for one of the largest shovel-ready, job-creating, economic-spurring infrastructure projects of our lifetime: the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Estimated to support 11,000 U.S. jobs in 2021 and generate $1.6 billion in gross wages, the $9 billion energy infrastructure project is well-positioned to be a lifeline to labor unions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, not to mention the state and local government coffers that stand to benefit from nearly $140 million in annual property tax revenues along the pipeline’s route.

The stakes extend beyond American borders, too. If completed, the project would transport 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska, and is intended to expand critical oil exports for Canada, which has the third-largest oil reserves in the world. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, whose province has made significant investments in the project, has said he hopes Mr. Biden will “show respect for Canada” and “at the very least talk to us” before making a decision on the pipeline’s cross-border permit. Increasing safe, reliable access to Canadian oil is critical to reducing American energy imports from the Middle East, subsequently diminishing the influence of unpredictable foreign regimes which are often not ideologically aligned with U.S. foreign policy goals.

But rather than acknowledge the timely economic benefits of the project, or the critical role it could play in bolstering U.S.-Canadian relations and strengthening American energy security and national security, President Biden has chosen to pander to the “Keep it in the Ground” activists and create even further division when political tensions have already reached an all-time high in Washington and across the country. As Mr. Biden himself as said, now is the time to come together as nation.

Ninety-one percent of the U.S. transportation sector was fueled by petroleum products. Beyond fueling personal vehicles, planes, and the entire supply chain, petroleum products are components of thousands of essential household items, and have played an outsized role in driving our response to the coronavirus pandemic – powering hospitals and ventilators and providing the feedstock for PPE like masks, gloves, sanitizer and even some medications.

The reality is obstructing Keystone XL won’t reduce the importance of crude oil and petroleum products or demand for fossil fuels. Instead, it will only increase reliance on the less safe and higher emissions-producing transport alternatives of truck and train. The U.S.’ more than 2.6 million miles of pipelines have a strong safety record and operate seamlessly around the clock, 365 days per year.

TC Energy, Keystone XL’s developer, has worked closely with regulators in both the U.S. and Canada to meet or exceed all regulatory requirements and safety guidelines. They are trying to work with President Biden, and have committed to use only renewable energy to operate the pipeline system, and eliminate all greenhouse-gas emissions from operations by 2030. This commitment is key to addressing environmental concerns while recognizing the still-critical role of crude oil and ensuring reliable access to the U.S.

As our nation looks forward and recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that American policymakers and regulators welcome investment in our infrastructure network, as well as the thousands of good-paying jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue and economic activity that come with it. Now is the time for logic and fact-based policymaking — not shortsighted, knee-jerk decisions intended to make bold political statement. 

• Craig Stevens, former senior adviser to U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, is the spokesman for Grow America’s Infrastructure Now (GAIN).

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