Recent Op-Eds

A Tale of Two Pipelines

By Sen. John Thune

June 4, 2021

The recent Colonial Pipeline hack was a stark reminder of the importance of American energy independence and security. Americans should never have to question whether they will have reliable and affordable access to energy and fuel, but lines at gas pumps across the northeast hearkened back to the 1970s, when conflict in the Middle East resulted in serious shortages in the United States. 

Over the last several decades, Republicans have prioritized efforts to ensure that our country can rely almost entirely on North American energy sources instead of imports from overseas – and we’ve made great strides. But for America to maintain its competitive energy posture, we cannot hamstring industries that have helped reduce our dependency on foreign energy. Unfortunately, President Biden has already begun to do just that, starting when he halted construction of the job-creating Keystone XL pipeline on the first day of his presidency. 

The pipeline, which was already under construction, would have run through nine counties in South Dakota and brought economic growth to small towns like Philip and Murdo. Its cancellation will rob 11,000 Americans of good-paying jobs – all because of exaggerated concerns over the environmental impact and an unrealistic and costly agenda to end the use of fossil fuels.

Pipelines are the most environmentally responsible way of transporting oil, and even the Obama administration agreed that Keystone XL was the most environmentally sensitive approach compared to using rail or trucks. The project’s emissions would also be entirely offset with a $1.7 billion investment in renewable energy. President Biden’s decision to cancel this infrastructure project was shortsighted and entirely counterproductive. The oil in question needs to be transported whether Keystone XL is built or not, especially as consumer demand for fuel rebounds.  

Given President Biden’s firm position on the Keystone XL pipeline, I find it particularly troubling that he took a notably different position on a pipeline being built from Russia to Germany – the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. His administration recently decided not to sanction the builders of the Russian pipeline because, as the president said, “It’s almost completely finished.” Allowing the successful construction of Nord Stream 2 will make our European allies more dependent on Russia’s energy monopoly for their energy supplies and serve an economic blow to Ukraine as it fends off Russian aggression. The president has talked aggressively about countering Russian President Vladimir Putin and his destabilizing agenda, but now, with a chance to do something about halting construction of the pipeline, President Biden is taking the pressure off.

It’s a tale of two pipelines: our president has decided to allow the construction of Nord Stream 2, a Russian pipeline that will leave our European allies more vulnerable to Russia, and halted construction of Keystone XL, a pipeline that would create 11,000 American jobs and transport Canadian and American crude oil in the most environmentally safe way. Unfortunately, it feels like the president is picking Russia’s energy monopoly, to the detriment of America and South Dakota’s energy independence, and putting politics over practicality. 

It’s not just President Biden who is pushing these kinds of left-wing energy policies. I’ve spoken out against the Democrats’ $259 billion “Clean Energy for America Act” because of its expansive wish list of new government spending. I’ve argued that if we want to make meaningful, fiscally responsible investments in American energy, it will require a real “all-the-above” approach.

Since being elected to Congress, I have promoted the use of home-grown biofuels to help reduce carbon emissions from transportation, and many people may be surprised to learn that due to robust hydroelectric and wind energy, approximately 70 percent of South Dakota’s energy production is renewable. Still, President Biden and Democrats are wrong to increasingly minimize the critical role oil and natural gas play in ensuring affordable and reliable energy for all Americans.

While I’m a longtime advocate of clean energy and clean fuels, the fact of the matter is that our economy is still going to need traditional sources of energy – namely oil and natural gas – for a long time to come. I hope Democrats change course and work with Republicans on delivering affordable and reliable energy to consumers, creating and expanding good-paying jobs for American workers, and securing American energy independence – all while lowering our emissions.