Within hours of taking the job on Wednesday, President Joe Biden, with the momentary strokes of a pen, alienated two groups he promised to be friendly to union workers and America’s international allies.
Biden signed an executive order that revoked the March 2019 permit for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,179-mile project that was intended to deliver crude oil mined from western Canada to Nebraska, where it would be shipped south through an existing pipe to Houston.
Biden’s order said killing the pipeline was part of the effort “to prioritize both environmental justice and the creation of the well-paying union jobs.”
Yet according to a statement that TC Energy, the Canadian company that owns the pipeline, issued in October, Biden also just slayed thousands of American jobs, most of them unionized and paying an average of more than $145,000.
“When combined with additional 2021 contracts to be announced later, the total number of American union workers constructing Keystone XL in 2021 will exceed 8,000 and $900 million in gross wages,” TC Energy said in its press release said. “In total, Keystone XL is expected to employ more than 11,000 Americans in 2021, creating more than $1.6 billion in gross wages.”
Pipeline critics argued that the jobs figure was a mirage. They maintained that only a few dozen workers would be needed to maintain the pipeline once it was complete.
That’s likely true.
But one could also make that point about anything built by construction workers, unionized or not. Such jobs only last until the project is finished, and the workers must move on to the next one.
Biden for decades has held a reputation for being a blue-collar type. That’s not because he actually held a blue-collar job of any kind for any length of time. Rather, it’s because he knew how to stroke the egos of union leaders and cultivate their support.
But Biden has upset them with the pipeline decision.
“Pipeline construction has been a lifeline for many #LIUNA members across the country,” the Laborers’ International Union of North America said in a tweet. “The anticipated decision to cancel the #KeystonePipeline will kill thousands of good-paying #UNION jobs!”
“In revoking this permit, the Biden Administration has chosen to listen to the voices of fringe activists instead of union members and the American consumer on Day 1. Let me be very clear: When built with union labor by the men and women of the United Association, pipelines like Keystone XL remain the safest and most efficient modes of energy transportation in the world,” Mark McManus, president of the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters, said in a statement.
“Sadly, the Biden Administration has now put thousands of union workers out of work. For the average American family, it means energy costs will go up and communities will no longer see the local investments that come with pipeline construction.”
Teamsters President Jim Hoffa said in a statement, “The Teamsters strongly oppose yesterday’s decision, and we would urge the administration to reconsider it. This executive order doesn’t just affect U.S. Teamsters; it hurts our Canadian brothers and sisters as well who work on this project. It will reduce good-paying union jobs that allow workers to provide a middle-class standard of living to their families. America needs access to various forms of energy that can keep its economy running in the years ahead. This decision will hurt that effort.”
Speaking of Canadians, that nation’s liberal leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was unhappy with his American counterpart and kindred spirit.
“While we welcome the President’s commitment to fighting climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the President’s decision to fulfill his election campaign promise on Keystone XL,” Trudeau said in a press release.
That milquetoast reaction could be expected from Canada’s milquetoast leader. Other Canadian leaders weren’t so welcoming.
Media in Canada reported that when Trudeau discussed Biden’s move with provincial leaders in his nation, the meeting “got pretty heated,” as some who participated “want(ed) to go to war” with the U.S. over the pipeline’s cancellation.
Premier Jason Kenney of Alberta, where the pipeline originates, told reporters, “As friends and allies of the United States, we are deeply disturbed that one of President Biden’s first actions in office has been to rescind the presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline border crossing.’
“This is a gut punch for the Canadian and Alberta economies,” he said, adding that the decision was “an insult directed at the United States’ most important ally and trading partner on Day 1 of a new administration.”
“If the U.S. government refuses to open the door to a constructive and respectful dialogue about these issues, then it is clear that the government of Canada must impose meaningful trade and economic sanctions in response to defend our country’s economic interests,” Kenney said.
In 2017 Trudeau had said, “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there. The resource will be developed. Our job is to ensure that this is done responsibly, safely and sustainably.”
Apparently, the United States, under Joe Biden, will leave that oil there and put thousands of Americans out of work in the process.