Photo by John Kakuk on Unsplash
President-elect Joe Biden reportedly plans to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit on his first day in office. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) first reported the news on Sunday after a briefing from Biden’s transition team surfaced. Biden said months ago that he planned on canceling the pipeline. Many who support the pipeline project hoped his position would change. The pipeline project has the support of the Canadian government and its people.
"The Government of Canada continues to support the Keystone XL project and the benefits that it will bring to both Canada and the United States." "Not only has the project itself changed significantly since it was first proposed, but Canada's oilsands production has also changed significantly. Per-barrel oilsands GHG emissions have dropped 31 percent since 2000, and innovation will continue to drive progress." -Kirsten Hillman, Canadian Ambassador to the U.S.A.
As expected, progressive and democratic supporters support the move. Former presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) responded via Twitter: "The Keystone pipeline is & always has been a disaster. I'm delighted that Joe Biden will cancel the Keystone permit on his first day in office. With all of the major crises facing America, we must never lose sight of the most existential threat facing our planet: climate change."
The Keystone XL Pipeline project has faced opposition from Native Americans and environmentalists alike. A district judge in Montana had ruled against the pipeline, effectively canceling the permit.
The TC Energy company had sued the U.S. Government before President Donald J. Trump was elected, in an effort to get the project going. TC Energy had dropped the lawsuit after President Trump took office. It remains to be seen if the company will reopen its suit against the government. It will most likely depend on investors.
U.S. district court judge Brian Morris, in Great Falls, rejected a tribe's request for a temporary halt to construction on Oct. 16. Judge Morris rejected the tribes’ request for a temporary hold on the construction of the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline in northern Montana.
The court will consider whether President Trump had the authority to approve construction at the border, and will not stop progress on the section crossing the border (1.2-mile section) until a decision is made.
Morris reportedly rejected the stay of construction in part due to the presidential permit not encroaching on tribal lands. The permit only applies to the 1.2-mile crossing at the border, not the whole pipeline, as the tribe in South Dakota and Montana claimed. The dismissal leaves Judge Morris to decide if the president overstepped his authority in issuing the permit.
Stopping construction of the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, which would connect Alberta's oil fields to the US. Gulf Coast signals a shift in policy. The Trump administration has been pro-energy and provided an atmosphere where businesses could thrive. It also made the United States energy self-sufficient for the first time in modern history. Energy cost had decreased and as consumers had more money to spend the economy soared.
The shift in policy is coming with the Biden-Harris administration to take the helm this week for the U.S. government. Gasoline prices are expected to increase at least 20 cents per gallon over 2020 prices. Experts cite the reason for the lower prices in 2020 being a lower demand due to the pandemic. They expect prices to escalate in 2021 and demand increases with the recovery after the pandemic.
As energy costs, in general, are expected to increase under the Democratic guidance, no one has a crystal ball to know what the ramifications will actually be when the time comes. There are many variables to consider.
The green new deal and carbon emissions
As the Biden-Harris administration rejoins the Paris Climate Accord, we can expect more changes in dealing with industry and energy. We can expect taxes to increase on polluters and the coal industry to be shut down once again. Coal country in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Southwestern Virginia will undoubtedly see the most impact, though most of these areas have not been able to recover from policies from the 1990s which severely hampered the coal industry and closed many to close and/or file for bankruptcy.
Many scientists, conservationists, and environmentalists have speculated as to whether a massive planting of trees could offset climate change. Could we reduce the severity of global climate change by planting a trillion trees? Could they remove excess carbon from our atmosphere?
In a November 7, 2019 article published online by NASA, examining the viability of planting trees to offset climate change, they discuss the proposal and relevant research. A recent study published in the journal Science searched for the answer by estimating the potential to reforest lands as a means to combat climate change. They found Earth could support an additional 2.2 billion acres of forests. In planting half a trillion trees, the authors predict capturing about 205 gigatons of carbon. That reduces atmospheric carbon by about 25 percent!
Obviously, the study attracted worldwide attention and quite a bit of skepticism from other scientists. A senior scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Sassan Saatchi, thinks the concept is solid and has merit, but it would be a substitute for decreasing fossil fuel emissions.
Saatchi says their conclusions on tree restoration aren’t that different from the recommendations made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2018, which suggested that 950 million hectares (2.3 billion acres) of new forests could help limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5-degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2050. However, he says, “the devil is in the details.”
Many Unanswered Questions
Before a global forest restoration effort is undertaken, Saatchi says, numerous questions must first be addressed to assess the concept’s feasibility, scientific soundness, cost-efficiency, risks, and other considerations. “We need to understand not only whether it’s possible to do such a thing, but whether we should do it,” he says.
There are many variables to address. Will deforestation be required to meet food demands? How long will reforestation actually take? There are many unknowns with such seemingly simple solutions.