Pipeline Worker Speaks Out on Biden’s Keystone XL Decision

The Billings Gazette today published an opinion piece from Jason Jernigan, a pipeline worker who was supposed to be working on the Keystone XL Pipeline right now. He notes he comes from a family of pipeline workers and has worked on hundreds of pipeline projects across the country including the Dakota Access Pipeline, Millennial Pipeline, Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, building a good-paying career for himself to support his family.

But with President Biden’s decision to cancel an essential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in the White House, Jernigan, and thousands of other pipeline workers, have to start over. The Biden Administration has vowed to help these folks, but Jernigan isn’t so sure:

As John Kerry stood up in the briefing room, he promised we would all be placed in new jobs as solar or wind technicians. I figured it was just a pipe dream. And, so far, I have been proven right. No one from the Biden administration has reached out to me, or anyone in Pipeliners Union 798 to offer us a new job, or give guidance on how we can train for one.

I was earning $53 an hour, a wage I’ve worked my entire life to reach. After researching solar power jobs, I found on average they are paid $17 an hour. That’s a $35 an hour pay cut. They are not good paying, as Kerry promised, but sadly many of us do not have a choice.

Jernigan calls on President Biden to reconsider his shortsighted decision on Keystone XL. Despite campaigning on creating jobs, he killed more than 11,000 on Day One. And while the Administration is claims to be focused on climate change and protecting the environment, blocking the construction of safe energy infrastructure like KXL runs the risk of contributing to potential environmental damages through riskier methods of transport like truck and train.

Renewables Appear to Be on The Rise, But Where are the Jobs?

E&E News today highlighted a report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) showing record-setting industry growth in 2020. Solar developers brought a record 19.2 gigawatts of power online, 43% more than in 2019, according to the report.

The article also notes, “Solar utility-scale projects thrived during the pandemic, sprouting up at a “historic” rate and accounting for close to three-fourths of the capacity growth, SEIA said. Even residential solar, which came to a standstill during state shutdowns in the first part of 2020, rebounded to grow its capacity by 11%.”

Continued growth of solar and other renewable energy sources is key to bolstering the U.S. “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that focuses on development of alternative energy while also recognizing the still-critical role of fossil fuels.

But it is also important to look at the jobs, and despite the significant growth in the renewable sector as reported, it doesn’t seem the employment opportunities are likewise growing:

Yet BW Research, which tracks renewable jobs, reported last month that wind and solar workforces were victims of the pandemic. The research firm said about 9% of the renewable power workforce — or more than 53,000 workers — was still out of work at the end of 2020.

That “decoupling” of renewable growth and workforce recovery likely resulted from gains in labor efficiency, meaning renewable companies are using fewer, more specialized workers for their installation, said Philip Jordan, vice president of BW Research.

“I’m 100% sure that, in five years, you’ll have fewer workers per megawatt than you have today. Because we’re consistently increasing labor efficiency,” he said in an interview last month.

This comes after President Biden’s promises to create millions of “clean energy” jobs with the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. On Day One, Biden cancelled a key permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, killing an estimated 11,000 good-paying middle-class jobs, and appears to be considering measures that could block additional infrastructure and reduce employment opportunities in the industry.

Despite the campaign promises, 1 job loss in the oil and gas industry does not mean 1 job gained in wind and solar. With the U.S. economy still recovering from the pandemic, it is important to keep our eye on the long-term impacts of such policies.

Don’t Run Out of Gas in Petaluma, CA

E&E News reported the City of Petaluma, CA unanimously recently banned the development of new gas stations and prohibited the expansion of any existing gas station, an unprecedented policy believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S.

While council members say the goal is to move away from fossil fuels and promote the use of environmentally-friendly fuel sources for residents, the ruling could make it much more difficult for residents to fuel their vehicles over the next few years – making them drive further away and wasting even more gas just to fill up.

While this is the first municipal ban on gas stations, it isn’t California’s first attempt at trying to block the use of fossil fuels. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has set a goal for the state to phase out the sale of gas cars by 2035, and many automakers are being forced to quit selling gas cars despite the fact that “analysts generally expect gasoline to propel a substantial portion of the nation’s cars for decades.”

The policy has unsurprisingly created concern, as E&E News notes:

James Allison, a spokesperson for the California Fuels & Convenience Alliance, called it “short-sighted and misguided” and said it punishes a key player in the transition to zero-emission transportation.

“Gas stations are the best situated industry to help guide a transition to a more diverse fueling landscape” and have been leaders in installing hydrogen pumps and EV chargers, he wrote in an email to E&E News. Allison declined to say whether his group was considering a legal challenge.

While electric vehicles are a developing, more eco-friendly form of transportation, many Americans cannot yet afford to them. The average price of an electric car is $19,000 higher than the average gasoline-powered car.

Further, according to the EIA, petroleum products accounted for about 91% of the total U.S. transportation sector energy use in 2019. Total gasoline consumption accounted for approximately 58% of total energy consumption across the transportation sector. As much as environmentalists want to rapidly push forward on a renewable energy agenda, fossil fuels remain a vital component of the U.S. energy sector.

Before hurting consumers with kneejerk, short-sighted policies, perhaps it would be wise for local governments to consider the full impact of their decisions.

Former Energy Secretary: Biden Admin. Should Build on US Energy Progress

The Biden Administration has come out swinging against American oil and gas in the name of climate change. In week one, President Biden revoked a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and announced a ban on drilling leases on federal lands and waters. While environmental activists have lauded these actions and have urged the Administration to take a similar approach with energy policy and measures against other critical energy infrastructure, it comes with serious consequences for the U.S. economy as well as American national security and energy security interests.

Former U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette recently warned of the negative impacts caused by limiting American energy capabilities in a piece published in the Washington Examiner.

Regarding Biden’s Day One decision on KXL, Brouillette writes:

This singular decision eliminates thousands of jobs, jettisons a safe and environmentally friendly method of energy transportation, and reduces America’s energy security, as it will force many refineries in Texas and Louisiana to import more oil from the Middle East. In other words, Biden is pursuing the exact opposite of the strategy we used to avoid wars and bring energy independence.

Rather than undercutting American energy capabilities, Brouillette suggests that the Biden administration should “build on the progress made under the Trump administration if it wants to ensure a safe and prosperous future for all Americans.”

That starts with allowing the U.S. to continue producing energy and continue on the path towards energy independence. An “all-of-the-above” policy that leverages all energy resources – including oil and gas – is key to our energy and national security. Brouillette points to these gains, noting:

America is now the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. We are the second-largest producer of solar and wind energy. And in 2019, we produced the most energy from nuclear power in our nation’s history. Our world-leading production across all energy sources keeps costs down for families and businesses, creates jobs and supports communities, and provides the security of knowing the lights will come on when it gets dark.

Our incredible production, and the technology that facilitates it, allows us to export energy and expertise to countries around the world. That prevents the U.S. and our partners overseas from relying on precarious agreements with Russia or Middle Eastern nations while providing their citizens with precious energy reliability. And ultimately, our improved energy supply posture may reduce the need for current service members to be sent into harm’s way.

But with policies that limit American energy production and capabilities that progress could disappear. Brouillette argues:

But these benefits can only be achieved when pursued together. Remove one, or several, of these sources from the foundation of our national energy strategy, and the house crumbles. Reduce fossil energy production and we send our country back to the 1970s: fuel shortages and sky-high prices. Fail to build infrastructure, and energy cannot be delivered to consumers. Move too quickly in the direction of 100% renewable energy and we risk transporting blackouts to every corner of the nation.

There is widespread bipartisan support for renewable energy sources. But as the US makes this transition, it isn’t “everything or nothing.” The fuels or today are key to developing tomorrow’s resources. Now is not the time to turn our back on natural resources that have got us where we are today. The Biden Administration should consider this when establishing American energy policy throughout the next four years, prioritizing American economic growth and supporting our energy security and national security efforts.

Violent Pipeline Protestors Threaten Public Safety and Must Be Held Accountable

Freedom of speech and the right to protest are cornerstones of American democracy. But pipeline protests in recent years have continued to escalate, and it is important to point out that the Constitution does not protect the ability to violently protest.

Unfortunately, violence has become all too common at pipeline protests in recent years. For example, the Dakota Access Pipeline protests that took place in 2016 and 2017 resulted in more than 750 arrests. Protestors were arrested for throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at policesetting firesslaughtering livestockdischarging firearms at law enforcement, pepper spraying officersburning a bridge, terrorizing journalists, and repeatedly trespassing on private property.

More recently, a suspicious device thrown by a protestor at a construction site for Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota raised concern. While the device was later determined not to be explosive, the panic caused an evacuation of workers and 40 residences within a half-mile radius. Enbridge shut down neighboring pipelines in the area as a cautionary measure. These threats to public safety are inexcusable.

Chris Ventura, Midwest Regional Director for the Consumer Energy Alliance, recently highlighted unlawful and dangerous threats from pipeline protestors in a letter to the editor for The Columbus Dispatch:

“Too often, extremists have trespassed, sabotaged facilities, bullied innocent bystanders and placed the public and the environment at risk in the name of an immediate shift to renewables. In Ohio, take the protesters who recklessly entered a fenced-off construction area and began shoveling dirt back into a trench that had been dug for a pipeline, or the group that locked themselves in a van in Columbus and stopped in an intersection to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

Ventura goes on to highlight how pipeline project delays and cancellations can negatively impact local and state economies by putting a pause on job opportunities for workers and creating high energy costs for families and businesses by delaying access to affordable energy.

These unlawful incidents have caused at least 13 states to take action. NCSL reported since 2018,  Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia have all passed laws that either criminalize unlawful entry to critical infrastructure facilities or enhance the penalties associated with those offenses.

Freedom of speech does not equate to spreading violence and destroying property in the name of environmental activism. There is a time and place to debate the merits of American energy policy and infrastructure development, but violent actions at constructions sites isn’t it. Protestors should consider peaceful, lawful, and collaborative tactics in pursuing a future of renewable energy. 

Op-ed: Hollywood’s attack on the Dakota Access Pipeline is high-flying hypocrisy

The Washington Times featured an op-ed from GAIN spokesman Craig Stevens in which he discusses the hypocrisy a group of Hollywood actors demonstrated in a letter to President Biden urging him to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline. The stars called for DAPL’s shut down in the name of climate change, despite their own lavish travel habits made possible by oil and gas:

“The signers are some of the most frequent patrons of the private jet industry—a form of travel that emits about 40 times as much carbon per passenger as commercial flights. Yet, cutting back on their private jet travel doesn’t appear to be part of their agenda. These silver screen personalities want to have their jet fuel and kill it too.”

Stevens also highlights the many benefits infrastructure projects like DAPL and the broader energy industry provide to the economy and hardworking Americans:

“The U.S. oil and gas industry supports over 10 million American jobs and creates about eight percent of our nation’s GDP. While those jobs might not afford the private travel Hollywood’s elite enjoy, these are good paying jobs that are creating growth across every sector of our economy and every corner of our country. That reality should not be lost on the Biden administration as it seeks to foster recovery to help Americans who are out of work and facing lost wages and business closures in the wake of the global pandemic.”

Approximately 7,400 direct, indirect, and induced jobs would be lost if a DAPL shutdown were to occur, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Not only do pipeline projects help provide job opportunities for many, but they are also the safest form of transportation for oil and gas. Last week, an explosion occurred in Texas when a semi-truck collided with a train carrying gasoline and coal. The accident raised concern among many, including North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak:

“It is concerning to think that we’re going to have to go back to the less desirable, less safe, less environmentally sound way of transporting crude oil if Dakota Access is shut down. I hope that’s not the case.”

Fedorchak noted before the operation of the DAPL, 14 fully loaded trains would depart from North Dakota every day. This creates a heightened risk across Iowa, Illinois, and North Dakota. But not the sunny, luxury Beverly Hills neighborhood in California. Perhaps Hollywood celebrities should consider that before cheering for the shutdown of a pipeline in another state.

Interior Secretary Nominee on DAPL: “If something shuts down then jobs can be lost”

Fox Business reported President Biden’s nominee for interior secretary, New Mexico Rep. Debra Haaland, conceded during her confirmation hearing that shutting down the Dakota Access Pipeline would cost jobs.

During the hearing, North Dakota Senator John Hoeven raised concern regarding the impact of a DAPL shutdown and economic consequences that would come to the state and the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (MHA) Nation, who ships much of their production through DAPL and receives tax revenue from its operation.

Hoeven pointed out the tribes ship 300,000 bpd through the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the oil they produce represents about 90 percent of their revenue – revenue that helps fund education, healthcare, infrastructure, and other essential services.

Biden is facing calls from Democratic politicians and celebrities to shutter DAPL, despite its safe operation and critical role in strengthening the US economy and our energy security. DAPL transports up to 570,000 bpd from the Bakken oilfields of North Dakota to an energy hub in southern Illinois.

On his first day in office, Biden revoked a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta to Nebraska, and sustained more than 11,000 jobs in 2021.

Before blocking new pipeline construction and shuttering existing infrastructure, it is important President Biden and those calling for these policies consider the long-term impact of these shortsighted policies.

11 Retired Flag Officers Sign Letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Importance of American Energy

11 retired flag officers representing all four branches under the Department of Defense recently sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin outlining the critical need for the ongoing development and transportation of U.S. energy resources.

In the letter, the former senior military leaders encourage Secretary Austin to “leverage our nation’s abundant natural resources, including domestic oil and gas production and energy exports, to reassert the United States’ leadership on the global stage, strengthen our military capabilities, and further reduce our dependence on foreign suppliers and vulnerable global supply chains.”

The letter comes after the Biden Administration’s latest policies to limit American energy production and capabilities, such as blocking the construction of new energy infrastructure and banning oil and gas development on federal lands and waters. While the Administration has declared climate change an existential threat to national security, the officers argue these policies are “equally a threat to national security and military readiness” and that “Meeting our challenges tomorrow will be impossible if we forfeit America’s energy advantages today.”

Increased domestic oil and gas production has allowed the U.S. to reduce reliance on foreign energy sources, and “offset mounting threats from China, Russia, and other maligned nations while strengthening our international partnerships.”

The letter also points out the importance of traditional energy products in fueling the U.S. military, concluding:

The U.S. military is dependent on fossil fuels and the transition to alternative fuels – an essential, strategic initiative – cannot offset that reality in the near term. While our military steadily makes this transition, and, for example, leads the commercial market in lithium ion battery research and development, banning natural gas and oil leases on federal lands and dismantling our nation’s pipeline network will only risk our military capabilities and readiness, now and in the immediate future.

Michigan Governor Declares Energy Emergency after Attempting to Block Pipeline

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over the weekend declared a state of energy emergency to ensure adequate delivery of propane during the nationwide cold snap, according to the Detroit News. The executive order exempts motor carriers and drivers who transport propane and heating oil from compliance with maximum weekly driving and on-duty limits. The order took effect on Saturday and will remain in effect through Sunday, Feb. 28.

The energy emergency declaration ironically comes after Whitmer’s December announcement ordering the shutdown of Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac, which supplies propane to about 15,000 households in the Upper Peninsula.

According to Enbridge, Line 5 supplies 65% of propane demand in the Upper Peninsula, and 55% of Michigan’s statewide propane needs. Overall, Line 5 transports up to 540,000 barrels per day (bpd) of light crude oil, light synthetic crude, and natural gas liquids (NGLs), which are refined into propane.

The ongoing energy emergency makes Whitmer’s anti-pipeline policy even more concerning. Michigan State Rep. Greg Markkanen criticized the Governor, noting “The governor should know a thing or two about energy emergencies. She’s in the process of creating one for people and businesses in the Upper Peninsula by not having a sufficient plan in place of Line 5 being offline. Having to issue this order – on top of events we have seen around the country recently – should be a dose of reality for the governor. Top-notch energy infrastructure is critical to lives and livelihoods in our area of the state. We need to protect and strengthen this infrastructure by constructing the tunnel which will house this vital pipeline.”

Unfortunately, anti-energy sentiment has become all too common in Democratic politics. On his first day in office, President Biden revoked a key permit for the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline. Now activists are calling on him to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has safely operated for more than three and a half years. Biden also recently banned drilling leases on federal lands and waters, a hit to high oil-producing states with large swaths of public land, like New Mexico and Wyoming.

It is paramount that elected officials consider the unintended impacts of their misguided policies. Shutting down safe pipelines and limiting U.S. oil and gas production doesn’t reduce the importance of traditional energy fuels. Instead, it only increases American dependence on foreign energy sources, and on alternative transport methods that less safe and less efficient compared to pipelines.

New Study from GAIA Reveals Recycling Facilities can create jobs and boost economies

E&E News reported recycling and reuse facilities can create new job opportunities and boost economies around the world, according to a study from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). The study found that recycling creates more than 50 times as many job opportunities as landfills or incinerator plants. Recycling plants utilize labor and technology to sort waste from soil, dust, or organics from materials that can be repurposed into new items. The study details how recycling plants can help create more jobs in model cities around the world:

“The results show that recycling, remanufacturing, and composting alone can create thousands of new jobs across the model cities. Job growth in the high recovery rate scenario is particularly dramatic in cities with low current recycling rates and where the semi-mechanized recycling figure is used. The results further vary based on the total amount of waste collected by each city. Cities with lower collection rates could see even greater job gains as municipal waste services are expanded. And while a transition to the high recovery rate scenario would lead to fewer jobs in landfill and incineration, the analysis shows that anywhere from 10-60 jobs in composting, recycling, and remanufacturing are created for every job lost in disposal.”

The study reveals that a transition from traditional waste centers to an increase in recycling facilities would create more job opportunities in the recycling, composting, and remanufacturing sectors. To note, repair jobs could create 200 times as many jobs as would be provided by landfills or incinerators while remanufacturing jobs could create almost 30 times as many jobs as landfills and incinerators. “Zero waste systems” as the study calls it, have massive potential to improve economies around the world. The processes of remanufacturing and composting promote minimal waste and help repurpose materials for other important uses. Speaking of the benefits of these types of jobs, science and policy director at GAIA Dr. Neil Tangri said:

“With the world still reeling from the pandemic, job creation is a top priority. Zero waste offers a strategy to create good jobs and reduce pollution, without breaking the bank. It’s a triple win for the economy, the environment, and the city.”