By M. Samuel Anderson / AWN
A Canada-based energy company, TC Energy Corp., is seeking $15 billion in damages from the U.S. government over President Biden’s executive order to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline project. In a July 2, 2021 statement, TC Energy announced that it:
. . . filed a Notice of Intent to initiate ‘a legacy North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) claim’ under the [newer] United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement [USMCA] to ‘recover economic damages resulting from the revocation of the Keystone XL Project’s Presidential Permit. TC Energy will be seeking to recover more than US$15 billion in damages that it has suffered as a result of the U.S. Government’s breach of its NAFTA obligations. The Notice of Intent was filed with the U.S. Department of State, Office of the Legal Adviser.’ “
Biden’s Keystone decision, hailed by his supporters, including many environmentalists, drew the ire of Republicans and industry groups. Twenty-one states have filed suit against the Biden administration, led by Texas and Montana, saying that because his decision involved interstate commerce, canceling the Keystone is constitutionally Congress’s call, not the president’s.
Critics, including the attorneys general of those states, maintain that tens of thousands of jobs were lost almost overnight by the pipeline’s cancellation. TC Energy said Biden’s revocation of the permit would directly lead to the layoff of thousands of union workers—who traditionally are a source of support for Democrats. The pipeline was slated to carry 830,000 barrels of oil per day from the Alberta oil sands to Nebraska. It had been delayed for over a decade amid opposition from environmentalists, Native Americans, and some landowners.
This writer, back in 2012, interviewed one of those landowners, Julia Trigg-Crawford of north Texas, who said then that landowners in the path of the Keystone XL or one of its offshoots were not always adequately compensated for agreeing to have the pipeline traverse their private property. She added that “eminent domain” laws that permit land takings for “public” use were liberally modified in favor of the private energy industry.
Plus, some landowners’ homes were flooded with raw sewage when pipeline workers engaged in reckless working habits. Some of the landowners also expressed environmental concerns, since the unrefined Alberta “tarsands” oil is thicker than usual and exerts a lot of heat and pressure as it goes through the pipeline.
Lest we forget, in the early days of the oil industry, including where the Rockefeller oil dynasty started in Pennsylvania, oil was transported in railroad tanks amid considerable risks. Today, pipeline supporters point out that hauling massive amounts of oil by rail creates a much larger “carbon footprint” than pipelines could create.
Indeed, Bloomberg News reported in February that Biden’s Jan. 20 decision to ban the pipeline has sparked renewed interest in transporting Canada’s crude oil to U.S. refineries by more carbon-intensive rail, while supplies from Mexico and Venezuela decline. Data show that Canada has been exporting an average of 129,727 barrels of oil per day by rail for the month of April 2021.
So, you’d think that the Biden administration would want to avoid a scenario by which the transportation of crude oil reverts to yesteryear’s heavy reliance on trains and the inevitably larger “carbon footprint” that will come along for the ride. True, Biden speaks of adopting an improved array of renewable energy sources—which is a worthy thing to pursue—but our reliance on oil will be with us for a while and degrading U.S.-Canada relations and spurring layoffs of good-paying jobs in both countries is not the answer.
All things considered, adopting a balanced mixture of technologies, rather than taking an all-oil or all-renewable approach, would be practical.
Adopting computers should never have meant ditching all the typewriters, yet we’ve become so computer-dependent that meat-packing plants and energy companies like Colonial are reportedly brought to a standstill when hacked with ransomware. Why are there no manual back-up systems?
Notably, Clara Ford, Henry’s wife, had an all-electric car back in 1914. And the super-quiet all-electric “EV-1” car made by GM could have soared in the mid-1990s but big oil is thought to have played a crafty role in its demise.
Furthermore, we could re-build passenger rail to a respectable or even superlative level, using various forms of energy to drive it, and, through it all, there’s no hardcore reason to retire gasoline usage altogether, although plant-based biodiesel fuels could play a larger role.
Bottom line: Establishing a sane, workable energy policy need not be a right-versus-left battle. As with the monetary system, we need an energy democracy, not a monopolistic system.