Is Manchin right calling on Biden to restore Keystone XL pipeline?

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Fact Box

  • On November 23, 2021, Senator Joe Manchin called on President Biden, “to responsibly increase energy production here at home and to reverse course to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be built which would have provided our country with up to 900,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada, one of our closest allies.”
  • On November 23, 2021, President Biden announced the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve “to lower prices for Americans and address the mismatch between demand exiting the pandemic and supply.” The decision will be “taken in parallel” with other nations: China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom. 
  • According to the US Energy Information Administration, by November 15, 2021, the US gasoline retail price decreased to more than one cent to $3.40 a gallon, which is $1.29 higher than the previous year. 
  • Biden ended the 12 year battle over the Keystone XL pipeline after he decided to revoke the permit for construction his first day in office. In March 2017, President Trump announced approval of the presidential permit for the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline.

Noah (Yes)

Contrary to popular belief, the Keystone XL is not a new pipeline but rather an extension of an existing Keystone pipeline and could transport an additional 830,000 barrels of oil each day. For reference, the US consumes 18.19 million barrels of crude oil per day, and the Keystone XL would increase availability by 4.5%. While Canadian oil is slightly more difficult to refine, the US refineries are already capable of handling it, so the increased availability would decrease prices under market principles and reliance on Middle Eastern oil supplies. 

The Keystone XL would create 42,000, albeit temporary, jobs but would contribute $3.4 billion to the economy and strengthen trade relations between the US and Canada at a time when both countries are trying to pull their economies out from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This added economic benefit is needed when the House of Representatives has just passed a $2T spending bill.

Many Americans are concerned about the emissions added to the atmosphere by the pipeline. While the concern about environmental impact might be valid, ultimately, the added emissions are extremely small and would increase the amount by less than 1% of what is already emitted. Furthermore, it would significantly decrease the global price of oil due to increased supply and the historic sky-high gas prices we are seeing nationally today. WV Senator Manchin is right, “Historic inflation taxes and the lack of a comprehensive all-of-the-above energy policy pose a clear and present threat to America’s economic and energy security that can no longer be ignored.”

Tyler (No)

Senator Joe Manchin's decision to urge Joe Biden to restore the Keystone XL pipeline is unnecessary. After former president Trump completely abandoned environmental plans like the Clean Water Act and the Natural Environmental Safety Act, Biden promised to reposition the United States as a fighter for environmental safety. Prior to severing ties with the pipeline, the US was already mainly dependent on domestic oil. 2020 marked the first year that the United States actually exported more petroleum than they imported. From January 2019 until the pandemic, the United States steadily increased its crude oil production. 

The alternative Trans Mountain pipeline is expected to contribute to the US's supply. The pipeline that already serves most of Western Canada is expected to triple in capacity. The expansion is significant, with 7.4 billion CAD being allocated towards the pipeline expected to service the West Coast of the United States. While paired with the United States increase in domestic oil production, the development of the Trans Mountain pipeline provides no reason to continue using the Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline introduces a problem due to it being a different quality of oil. The Keystone Pipeline emits tar-sand oil, the world's dirtiest form of oil. It is three times more harmful to the environment than regular crude oil. Biden's commitment to cracking down on environmental regulations would be hypocritical if he didn't take steps like this. Although disasters like the pandemic have caused a minor halt in this production, it should not be abandoned.

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