Map of Keystone Pipeline: President Joe Biden revoked its permit on his first day in office. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Map of Keystone Pipeline: A Brief Background
Map of Keystone Pipeline: The map above shows the Keystone Pipeline System that runs from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta to refineries in Illinois and Texas. The map also shows the pipeline running to oil tank farms and an oil pipeline distribution center in Cushing, Oklahoma. The pipeline system consists of Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III, the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project. As a new symbol of the climate change and fossil fuel battle, a fourth expansion segment, Phase IV, Keystone XL, did not receive necessary permits from then-President Barack Obama and the US federal government in 2015. In 2017, then-President Donald Trump took steps to permit the pipeline’s completion. Then, on January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden revoked the permit for the pipeline on his first day in office.
Map showing how the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the Keystone Pipeline, November 14, 2014: “No” votes are red; “Yes” votes are green. Credit: Fuzzybf, CC BY-SA 4.0.
Joe Biden Halts Keystone XL Pipeline Permit
Top story from the Associated Press: “Construction on the long-disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline halted Wednesday as incoming U.S. President Joe Biden revoked its permit on his first day in office. The 1,700-mile (2,735-kilometer) pipeline was planned to carry roughly 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.” Here’s what both sides say regarding Biden’s executive order:
Here’s What Conservatives Are Saying
Conservative outlets believe Biden’s decision will exacerbate climate issues. They also believe it destroys good-paying American jobs and makes the country more dependent on foreign energy suppliers.
Bryan Preston of PJ Media titled his article: “Biden Kills Thousands of Jobs, Hurts Environment, and Harms Relations With a Close Ally on His First Day in Office.”
Nicolas Loris of The Heritage Foundation says “The decision to revoke the Keystone XL permit [is] a poor economic and environmental decision.” Loris says, “The climate impact of the pipeline will be practically undetectable, as confirmed by the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency and State Department’s environmental impact assessment.” Loris argues that the decision actually harms our climate as it “will create more inefficient and riskier methods of transporting crude, whether that is more tankers from overseas or carrying Canadian crude by truck or rail.”
Loris also worries about job destruction. He says “The southern portion of the pipeline, which did not require President Obama’s approval, created nearly 5,000 jobs.” He asks: “At a time when economic growth and job creation are desperately needed, is the administration going to dismiss so many thousands of well-paying, shovel-ready construction jobs?”
Donald Trump signing the Presidential memoranda to advance Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline construction, January 24, 2017.
Here’s What Progressives Are Saying
Progressive outlets are generally happy about Biden’s decision, calling it a win for climate change, the economy, and the environment.
Although not directly related to Biden’s most recent decision, the Center for Biological Diversity says that “No matter how you look at it, Keystone XL would be bad for wildlife, especially endangered species.” They note that “Many imperiled species live along the 1,200-mile proposed pipeline’s path and in areas where tar sands oil is produced. If the pipeline is built, rare wildlife will be hurt and killed.”
Bill McKibben of the New Yorker says “Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone pipeline is a landmark in the climate fight.” Meanwhile, Brendan Smith of the Labor Network for Sustainability argues that the pipeline would “negatively impact national and local economies.” He says “Burning the recoverable tar sands oil will increase the earth’s temperature.” This would lead to more “extreme weather events” like Superstorm Sandy and “drought that affected 80% of US farmland.”
Finally, Nick Martin of the New Republic believes this order is just the start. He says “There is no shortage of other pipeline projects Biden and his Cabinet ought to consider canceling.”
An estimated crowd of 35,000–50,000 gathers near the Washington Monument in February 2013 to protest the Keystone XL pipeline and support action on climate change. Credit: Jmcdaid, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Flag This: Public Perception of the Pipeline Turns in 2017
Polling data surrounding the pipeline is fascinating. Most Americans actually favored the project for nearly the past decade. In March 2012, Gallup found that 57% of “Americans think the US government should approve of building the Keystone XL pipeline, while 29% think it should not.” In 2014, a USA TODAY poll found that roughly 56% said “they favor the northern leg of the billion-dollar, Canada-to-U.S. project and 41% oppose it.” In 2015, a CNN/ORC poll found that “57% are in favor of building the oil sands pipeline.”
The tide turns, however, in 2017. According to a Pew Research Center survey, “About four-in-ten (42%) favored building the Keystone XL pipeline, while 48% were opposed.” This poll was conducted Feb. 7-12, 2017 among 1,503 U.S. adults two weeks after former President Trump signed executive memos making it easier for TransCanada to construct the Keystone XL pipeline.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “While we welcome the President’s commitment to fight climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the President’s decision to fulfill his election campaign promise on Keystone XL.”
Interestingly, Biden’s first call with a foreign leader is with Trudeau today.
Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline hold a sit-in in the street next to the San Francisco Federal Building. Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.