Texarkana Gazette

Will the president swap Keystone for renewables?


Environmen­tal activists a decade ago made the Keystone XL pipeline into a symbol of Big Oil and tailpipe pollution. By killing federal permits for the project on his very first day in office, President Joe Biden on Jan. 20 made the Keystone pipeline a fresh symbol of the Democrats’ drive to eliminate fossil fuels.

In reality, the Keystone pipeline is hardly relevant to Biden’s goal of reducing pollution. Killing the project does not remove a single car from the road or add even one solar panel to the grid. While it sets the tone for a more environmen­tally minded administra­tion, whether Biden achieves any reduction in pollution will depend on a strategy to build opportunit­ies for conservati­on and renewable energy.

The reason we’ve supported the Keystone project is that a modern pipeline is safer and more efficient than our aging oil infrastruc­ture or, much worse, moving oil by rail. Further, a pipeline is important to global politics, local workforce and energy prices. A pipeline from Canada to the U.S. would likely mean the U.S. would consume more oil from its neighbor ally, one more way that geopolitic­al power might shift from the Middle East and Russia to North America. Canadian oil field workers gain job security; pipeline welders get a multiyear project. More of the U.S. oil market pricing involves Canadian issues rather than OPEC issues.

At the same time, Biden’s vision of building the U.S. renewables industry in terms of energy consumed, infrastruc­ture built and jobs created, is worth keeping an open mind about. It will be important to closely observe whether Biden is swapping Keystone for renewable energy, infrastruc­ture and jobs, or whether he is swapping a modern oil pipeline for aging oil infrastruc­ture.

Our hope is that the decision to nix the Keystone pipeline is followed up by smart initiative­s that drive us to a more energy efficient country in ways that are affordable for all Americans. This past year, for example, we all saw the benefits of driving less.

What stopped the gangbuster growth of the U.S. oil industry last year was not the regulatory misfortune­s of the Keystone pipeline. What sent oil companies into existentia­l shock was drivers, that is, all of us, staying home because of COVID-19. And if Biden does not offer policies to reduce the use of fossil fuels, then as COVID fades, oil will soon flow again, with or without Keystone.

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