U.S. POLITICS

On Canceling Keystone.

President Biden's climate posturing over Keystone comes at the expense of American livelihoods.

Joe Biden signed an executive order, and thousands of jobs disappeared. In a more philosophical article, we should determine if the President, or any person, should even have such power in a country that ostensibly espouses free markets, but this is not that article. In flyover states, President Biden’s decision actively grew the list of the unemployed at a time of high unemployment and economic hardship. I’d like to ask him: why?

They’re real Americans who, on January 19th, had a job, but are now living out the kitchen table conversation, wondering how to move forward.

Every election cycle, we see a standard political ad on TV. It’s a boilerplate attack ad using actors pretending to be a married couple. They are at the kitchen table. It’s nighttime, we assume the kids are asleep, and scattered around them are stacks of papers and envelopes. Probably bills. The husband holds one up, and they look at each other despondently, shaking their heads. The wife puts her head in her hand, and the husband places a consoling hand on her shoulder. We’re meant to feel their despair and empathize. This could be you. Then, a voiceover, either the angry male baritone or the heartfelt female alto, menaces “…and when times are so tough, so-and-so candidate supports a plan that punishes families already struggling to make ends meet.” The message: my opponent will cause you pain.

That ad must work because a version of it is reborn every election. And there is an incontrovertible truth to it: American families do worry about finances. A Capitol One survey shows that 77% of Americans say it’s their top concern. Now, more so than ever before; COVID-19 lockdowns had closed nearly 100,000 businesses by last fall, a number which has likely gone up. Unemployment, though on the decline, is still at 6.7%, meaning nearly 11 million Americans are without work. The $600 check from the latest stimulus relief plan is a mere bandaid on an ax wound.

Now there’s an additional 11,000 of those caricatured in political ads, but they aren’t actors. They’re real Americans who, on January 19th, had a job, but are now living out the kitchen table conversation, wondering how to move forward.

I talked to one gentleman on the phone. His name is Lynn. He’s a 52-year-old man who has been a welder since he graduated high school. He makes (made?) a good living, provided for his wife and children, and sent his oldest to college. He supports his local community and hosts the men’s bible study at his home. He was sent home with no new prospects. He is that American in that all-to-familiar political ad. And the candidate who won did this to him… did this to all of them.

Why would the man who campaigned on “good-paying union jobs” eliminate thousands of them, and on his first day in office no less? Why would the man who campaigned on “build back better” stop the construction of something so important to our economy? Why would the man who talks about “critical infrastructure” cancel a fairly routine infrastructure project?

Well, the answer is simple. He’s not a man. He’s a politician.

Keystone XL Pipeline construction.

Keystone XL Pipeline construction.

REAL AND DEEPLY HUMAN CONSEQUENCES

I’m referring to President Biden’s Executive Order to eliminate the Keystone Pipeline, and though my favorite High School English teacher is concerned I buried this too deep in the article, I felt I had to set the stage because this decision didn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s not some ethereal edict like Biden’s order to emphasize race in our federal government. It’s not flowery rhetoric like a misquoted and misunderstood St. Augustine line about unity added to an inaugural address. The Keystone decision has real and deeply human consequences, and neither the President nor the media seem to care.

I’m looking for the same compassion for the thousands of energy workers who were given a pink slip by the President of all Americans.

In 2019, Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez famously staged a photo-op outside a Texas detention center, where she doubled over in tears and distress. (The event was later parodied by conservative activist Candace Owens, mocking Cortez for her designer clothes and expensive jewelry.) Immigration policies, Cortez’s body language expressed, are deeply human. And so they are.

Our new Vice President, when she was still attacking then fellow candidate-Biden as a racist, attacked his record on busing policies with the line “that girl was me.” So profound (and planned) was that line her campaign even sold tee-shirts (before she suspended her campaign before the Iowa caucus, of course, but that’s the subject of another article). Race issues, her stage performance said, are deeply human. And so they are.

Now, I’m looking for the same compassion for the thousands of energy workers who were given a pink slip by the President of all Americans. I’m looking for the photo ops. I’m looking for the media camera crews racing to places like Nebraska and South Dakota to interview distraught families.

Unfortunately, their plight doesn’t garner such liberal sympathy.

In his confirmation hearing, Secretary of Transportation nominee Pete Buttigieg was pressed by Sen. Ted Cruz about the cancellation of Keystone (since pipeline oversight falls under the DOT’s purview). What about the immediate elimination of 1,200 jobs plus another 11,000 scheduled jobs, Cruz pressed, “what do you say to those workers whose jobs have just been eliminated by presidential edict?” Buttigieg replied, “I think the most important thing is to make sure that we make good on the promise of the President’s climate vision,” later adding, “We are very eager to see those workers continue to be employed in good-paying union jobs even if they might be different ones.” Not a word of compassion. Not a drop of remorse. One who could be so aloof, indifferent, and stupid in such a detached and inhumane answer is not a man. He’s a politician.

Maybe the pipeline workers should identify as transgender athletes. Then they’d have a champion in the White House.

It’s unsurprising Mayor Pete couldn’t spare a drop of kindness for thousands of unemployed. They are from the part of the country where the electoral college interferes with the popular vote. (Eliminating that, he said in 2019, is his top priority.) Mayor Pete doesn’t want these folks even to have a voice in Washington, D.C., so why should he waste precious camera time concerned they don’t have a job?

Maybe I could arrange a call between Mr. Buttigeig and the welder Lynn. Then the future secretary could learn a thing or two about work, dignity, respect. Maybe even Christian charity.

There’s something so fundamentally ordinary and expected of these rural, working-class, red-state workers that they are conveniently forgotten. The great anger growing in this country is that such decisions are celebrated or reported as nonchalantly as the weather. Biden probably doesn’t know any pipeline workers in Kansas, and even if he did, they probably didn’t vote for him. Really, who cares about the heartland? Most of the media is based on two cities: New York and Washington, D.C., and the plight of rural America is quite boring.

Keystone XL Pipeline.

Keystone XL Pipeline.

“SCIENCE” OVER AMERICAN LIVELIHOODS

Many people have lost their jobs recently. The COVID-19 lockdowns have destroyed entire industries like restaurants and bars, but the leaders who impose these mandates say it’s for good reason: SCIENCE. And you must believe in science. You cannot question science. It’s also SCIENCE that says shut down the pipeline. CLIMATE SCIENCE. Pipelines are bad for the earth.

We’re entering a period in America where dissent is not tolerated and any view which does not conform to the prevailing liberal view…

The oil, which would have been transported 1200 miles from Canada to the Texas gulf coast for refining (and then nationwide distribution and put on tankers for worldwide sale) through the Keystone pipeline, will now be transported by rail or truck. Is that better for the earth? Which has fewer emissions: a truck or a pipeline?

Now, President Biden and team will say, it’s not that pipelines are bad. It’s that fossil fuels are bad. Ok, gotcha. So tell me, the raw materials which go into the manufacturing of “good” products (like wind turbines and solar panels and electric car batteries) are, what? Is the oil and gas and their myriad products, predominantly plastics, which are used to make a wind turbine better than the oil and gas which is used for gas and electricity?

When I mention these things, either online, in debates, or in the media, normally it ends with some accusation of climate and science (CLIMATE SCIENCE) denial. At that point, I know the conversation is over. When you resort to name-calling, you are out of ammo and just want the other person to shut up. “Racist” and “nazi” and “white supremacist” are other words used in that tactic.

We’re entering a period in America where dissent is not tolerated and any view which does not conform to the prevailing liberal view—as espoused by the Biden Administration, the tech industry, Hollywood, etc.—is labeled “extremist” and therefore “dangerous.” I say welcome to the fascists’ party. “The science is settled” were the words meant to end dissent on climate issues long before “the election is over” became the words meant to tell you to shut up and accept the Biden win. Chuck Todd, moderator of NBC’s Meet The Press, famously hosted a show dedicated to climate issues in which he said no outside opinions would even be considered. Why? SCIENCE!

If Keystone was canceled for climate change, how many more victims of climate change are on the horizon? This is just the beginning of an energy agenda that will hurt us on so many levels. It will weaken our economy and cost us both opportunity and revenue. It will hurt our national security as America will forgo domestic energy and become reliant on imports. It will do nothing for the environment.

But it’s also deeply human. It’s families in parts of America that people like Joe Biden claim to care about every time there’s an election. It’s rural communities from whom was stripped, not just a job, not just independence, but also dignity and hope. It’s towns where opioids and suicide are the way out for someone who does not know how to go forward.

There aren’t enough of them to mount a political challenge to fight. They aren’t sophisticated enough to garner national interest. They aren’t minority enough to even spark decent press. And now they wait to be employed again. Soon-to-be Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he’s “eager” for it. He’s not nearly as eager as Lynn is.

What do they do in the meantime? President Joe Biden does not know, nor does he care. He’s too busy fighting for the soul of the nation. Just ask him.

Written By:

Daniel Turner is the founder and executive director of Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. Contact him at daniel@powerthefuture.com and follow him on Twitter.