President Trump has issued an executive order authorizing the completion of the Keystone XL- and Dakota Access pipelines. With a flourish and an “in your face” stare, President Trump reversed positions taken by President Obama. Should we care?
The XL pipeline is intended to bring Canadian tar sand oil to refineries on the US Gulf coast. The Dakota Access project in intended to relive dependency upon rail cars to bring North Dakota “fracked” shale oil to a variety of US refineries. Both projects were opposed by environmental groups and in the case of Dakota Access, native Americans protested the use of what they consider their land and in particularly disturbing their ancestral burial grounds.
President Trump campaigned on a jobs creation platform and said this executive order would create thousands of good paying jobs. Who can be against good paying jobs?
Authorizing the pipelines can best be described as a “non-issue issue”. To be sure concerns about the environment and native American rights are important and issues worthy of consideration. But keep in mind, there is no way importing oil is any better for the environment. And with proper planning (and maybe sharing a little of the oil’s value) with native Americans, all parties could have come to an understanding.
Overlooked so far in this discussion has been the demand for oil has dropped significantly in lock step with the decline of the world oil price. President Obama’s actions were symbolic at best. The builders of both projects were only mildly upset with President Obama’s actions. And yes, behind closed doors, they are only mildly pleased with President Trump’s reversal.
So, was President Trump’s executive order childish pay back? Was it theater? Or, could it have been part of a strategy to unleash US production and help depress world oil prices which would hurt Russia, Iran, and most of the Middle East?
The take away, IMO, completing XL and Dakota Access pipelines are like bullets that didn’t need to be used at this moment. Both represent legitimate global strategies aimed at hindering economic growth in unfriendly foreign powers. Shooting those bullets now, lessens if not negates, their strategic value.
And as for jobs, forget it. These two project represent modest temporary job increases which will not impact in any Rust Belt State. Hmmm.