by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Democrats thrilled when President Obama vowed to govern by means of “a pen and a phone.” Now President Trump has inherited those instruments of communication and is putting them to excellent use clearing the way for the development of U.S. energy infrastructure.
The issue involves two important pipelines: The Keystone XL pipeline, which would run oil from Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Gulf coast, and the Dakota Access pipeline, which would connect the Bakken shale with petroleum facilities in Illinois. Keystone was locked up by bureaucratic opposition for years while the Obama administration pretended to think about approving it (in the end, it put a halt to the project), while the Dakota project was the subject of a briefer though no less intense effort to prevent its construction, with the Army Corps of Engineers calling off the original plan after protests and rioting from environmentalists and Indian tribes.
Trump’s executive orders would fast-track approval of both projects. The president also demands (with no obvious legal authority) that the projects be completed using steel manufactured in the United States.
Some political context is in order: The specific objections to Keystone and Dakota were never particularly persuasive, but they are, in the greater scheme of things, almost entirely beside the point: The environmentalist movement is dedicated to stopping all development of infrastructure for oil, natural gas, coal, and other ordinary sources of energy, categorically. The complaints about culturally sensitive Indian lands deployed against Dakota have also been drummed up as weapons against other projects, including coal-export depots on the West Coast, just as the arguments against Keystone have been used to prevent pipeline development in the rest of the country. When the pipelines are blocked, then the environmentalists fight against other means of transporting fuel, such as trains. If ExxonMobil were reduced to using pack animals to move barrels of oil between well and refinery, there would be an animal-rights case filed to stop it. The Left simply objects to the development of energy infrastructure per se. And that, politically, is what this is all about.