In one of the first actions taken by the new administration, President Joe Biden halted production of the Keystone XL pipeline via executive order. Many environmental activists in both America and Canada claim the shutdown was a huge victory. Even so, the shutdown of the pipeline will end up hurting American workers in the oil industry.
In 2008, the Keystone pipeline was first proposed by the TransCanada Corporation and ConocoPhillips. The finished pipeline would span from Alberta, Canada, all the way to Texas and Louisiana. Thousands of oil industry jobs were estimated to be created by the construction of the pipeline. These jobs would provide a nice boost to the oil industry in a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder to find work.
The proposal for the new pipeline has been under constant scrutiny for the harm some scientists and government officials claim will come from the pipeline. Many of the points brought up by the scientists for why Keystone should be shut down should be taken seriously. The question is whether the benefits of building the pipeline are worth the consequences.
A primary concern for scientists and environmental activists is the preservation of the oil sands and ecosystem in Alberta. Due to the construction of the Keystone pipeline, 830,000 barrels of oil per day will be sent from these oil sands to refineries in the southern part of the United States. Because of the high amount of construction needed to build the facilities, many activists claim there will be great destruction of the ecosystem in certain parts of Alberta. Protecting this diverse ecosystem is something that should always be considered. Despite this, the Candian government has decided the benefits of Keystone outweigh the costs. If the Biden Administration were to change its course in regard to the pipeline, then America could see many of the same economic benefits as Canada.
One of the benefits from the Keystone XL Pipeline centers on the number of jobs it would create, although the specific number is in dispute. The lower estimates for jobs created is around 3,900 while the higher estimate is around 28,000. The reality is that by shutting down construction of the pipeline, jobs in general are being lost. In the current economic instability of COVID-19, any source of good paying jobs should be kept on the table, not cut.
Another one of the benefits the Keystone XL Pipeline provides is the ability for the United States to be energy independent. With the volatile nature of Middle Eastern politics, having an oil pipeline right here at home could help to decrease our reliance on oil from the Middle East. For example, in 1973, many of the Middle Eastern countries in OPEC put an oil embargo on the United States. The embargo drastically increased oil prices and severely hurt the American economy. With the Keystone pipeline, we can have a much more secure way of getting oil to the country without having to rely on historically unstable countries.
During the Obama Administration many news outlets (such as Vox) claimed the Keystone pipeline was less important due to the lowering prices of oil. However, this could not be further from the truth. Even though oil prices are even lower than when Vox initially formulated the theory, that does not mean prices won’t rebound in the near future. Having a stable source of oil is crucial to rebuilding our economy back from COVID-19. If for some reason oil prices were to rise drastically, it would severely hurt working class families who can barely afford gas in the present.
I would hope Biden and his administration take another look at the Keystone XL Pipeline. As we have seen, the benefits of this pipeline outweigh the costs of construction, and the time to take jobs off the table is certainly not in the midst of a pandemic. Keystone will help secure America a stable source of oil and jobs that can be used to build our economy back stronger than ever in the near future.
Bryce Robinson is a business administration sophomore and opinion writer for The Battalion.