Just a quick follow-up to Michael Walsh's post the other day about the tension between Joe Biden's pro-union rhetoric and the reality of his administration's green energy agenda. The New York Times (of all places) has an article which backs up his point with some pretty shocking numbers:
Accelerating the shift to wind and solar power is likely to create tens of thousands of construction jobs.... But those jobs typically pay far less than those in the fossil fuel industry... [A] standard solar project [employs] about 250 workers for just under a year. About one-third of the workers make $30 an hour or more; the other two-thirds have fewer skills and make hourly wages of less than $20. By contrast, the construction of a gas-powered electricity plant typically lasts two to three years and employs hundreds of skilled, unionized tradesmen — electricians, pipe-fitters and boilermakers — who make $75,000 a year or more, including benefits....
“When you’re talking about the transition to the new green economy, the first question has got to be how are people going to make a horizontal economic move,” said Sean McGarvey, the president of North America’s Building Trades Unions... “I can tell you that in the onshore wind and solar industry, for my members we’re talking in some cases a 75 percent pay cut and they’re losing benefits.” Jim Harrison, the director of renewable energy for the Utility Workers Union of America, said that it typically takes hundreds of workers to operate and maintain a nuclear or coal plant, several dozen at a gas plant — and about a dozen at a wind farm. Solar fields can often operate without a single worker on-site.
Is it any wonder that the Democrats -- with their increasingly radical cultural, economic, and environmental priorities -- have been bleeding private sector union support for years?
John Kerry in La-La-Land
"Climate czar" John Kerry made a particularly tin-eared comment recently which demonstrated how ignorant liberals are about the world outside of their utopian fantasies. Kerry was asked what he would say to oil and gas workers who would "see an end to their livelihoods" should the Biden administration's climate agenda be fully implemented. He responded, "What President Biden wants to do is make sure that those folks have better choices... That they can be the people to go to work to make the solar panels."
This was justly mocked as a modern-day rendering of the apocryphal Marie Antoinette quote, "Let them eat cake." But it's worth noting that there's something more shocking about Kerry's blockheadedness. Does he really not know how ridiculous it is that Green Energy jobs could replace the natural resource ones he wants to disappear?
The U.S. government subsidizes wind and solar power to the tune of $7 billion per year to make it even somewhat competitive with traditional energy sources. Even if the Biden administration doubled that, so-called renewables wouldn't come close to filling the gaping hole left by lost oil and gas jobs. In an editorial about green jobs, the New York Post offers a relevant anecdote:
[Andrew] Cuomo spent $950 million in public money to put up a solar plant in Buffalo. The first tenant, SolarCity, went bust; Elon Musk had to have Tesla take SolarCity over. Panasonic was lured in to help Tesla make a go of the plant, only to flee a year ago. With nearly a billion bucks down the drain, the project has never come close to offering the jobs once promised for it.
Pouring money into renewables isn't going to create the jobs they claim it will, and certainly not in Appalachia or the Rust Belt, which would be hit hard by a fracking ban.
Which is to say, whatever his intentions, Kerry's energy preferences don't amount to blue collar job creation, but to increased American investment in Chinese renewables in order to subsidize China's addiction to coal. Maybe if he came down off his private jet for awhile he'd realize how crazy that is.
But this is a bigger deal that you might think -- 22 percent of American oil production and 12 percent of natural gas extraction occurs on federal land. Those numbers go up precipitously when you look at some of our western states -- according to the American Petroleum Institute, federal land production accounts for well over 92 percent of Wyoming's production, half of New Mexico’s, 42 percent of Colorado's, and 63 percent of Utah's.
As those numbers make clear, a move against these leases will cause profound disruption in the natural resource industry. It will also have serious governmental repercussions. As Shawn Regan explains in a recent article entitled The Cost of Not Drilling: “revenues from energy development on federal land and in offshore waters are a major source of federal income, second only to tax revenue.”
Moreover, the revenue they generate is split between the federal government and the states, and it is in the latter where their loss will really be felt. Oil and gas revenue account for a full 20 percent of New Mexico’s budget, and much of the $150 million Wyoming receives in revenue from these leases annually are earmarked for K-12 education. A recent study by the University of Wyoming estimated that an extended lease moratorium could cost the states $1.6 billion per year on average.
It's worth noting that the initial lease freeze covered Native American tribal lands, but after some strenuous pushback -- the American Petroleum Institute quotes a letter from Utah’s Ute Indian tribe as saying “Your order is a direct attack on our economy, sovereignty, and our right to self-determination” -- an exemption was granted. This included the direction that “the Secretary of the Interior shall engage with Tribal authorities regarding the development and management of renewable and conventional energy resources on Tribal lands.”
To this the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board quips “States also have sovereign rights under the Constitution. Why isn’t the Administration engaging with them?”
A Greenie for Interior?
Tuned in politicos have been delighting in the Hindenburg-esque descent of hyper partisan Clinton-loyalist Neera Tanden’s nomination as head of the Office of Management and Budget. But another tense confirmation battle has been less commented upon. Congresswoman Deb Haaland was nominated by President Biden to serve as Secretary for the Interior. Haaland is a staunch environmentalist Green New Dealer and putting her in charge of that department would be bad news for the resource sector.
Haaland.... has taken radically anti-fossil-fuel positions throughout her political career. In 2016, prior to being elected to Congress, Haaland traveled to North Dakota to cook food for the protesters demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She stayed in the camps for four days that September. In May 2019, [she] told The Guardian, “I am wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public land.”
As you can imagine, Republican senators haven't been enthusiastic about Haaland's nomination. During her confirmation hearing, she had a tense confrontation with senators John Barrasso and Bill Cassidy -- both of whom are doctors -- over a social media post in which she asserted that "Republicans don't believe in science." After hammering her about Biden's Keystone XL termination, Cassidy pointed to a State Department scientific survey which held that "building the pipeline lowers greenhouse gas emissions,” and voiced his concern that, under Haaland, the Interior department would “be guided by a prejudice against fossil fuel [and not] guided by science.”
In any event, if Haaland's nomination goes the way of Tanden's, maybe Biden will start thinking more strategically about how to get through appointments with the senate we actually have. No more partisan bomb throwers perhaps. Maybe he could even cut out the middle man and just ask Manchin to make the appointment for him. Worse things could happen.
Who Misses the Energy Crisis? Joe Biden Does
The regulatory and policy changes of the Trump Administrationled to unparalleled job growth and national prosperity. We suffered throughthedark Carter years of interrupted energy supplies, higher fuel costs, and long lines at gas stations, at the mercy of oil rich Middle Eastern countries and emerged in daylight to the Trump created energy independence we had sought for decades.
Now the Biden administration has rapidly signaled that it intends to undo those policies, impoverish us, jeopardize our security, increase energy costs, end millions of jobs, strip poor states of needed tax revenue, and hand China yet more economic gains at our expense.
John Kerry, owner of private planes, a substantial auto fleet, and two yachts was ludicrously named our “Energy Czar” and even he admits these policies will not reduce emissions. How effective these policies and programs will be depends on how much pushback there will be against this turnabout, but there are signs thatjudicial and congressional challenges are already underway, and much of these actions were undertaken just to pay off the ill-informed greenies and not for any environmental benefit.
The country's in the very best of hands.
In the short time he’s been Commander in Chief, Biden has taken some 42 executive actions, including signing at least 24 executive orders. Most are so ludicrously unrealistic, I assumed former bartender Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez drafted them, and indeed AOC is delighted, saying they are just like the Green New Deal she’s been promoting. A great many of these will limit energy production and our domestic industrial base.
They will also increase consumer costs on everything, at a time when the China virus-related income and employment losses are being felt, particularly among the least wealthy, working class Americans who had begun to prosper during the early Trump years.
The most significant of these acts are rejoining the Paris climate agreement, pausing new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending comprehensive review and reconsideration of such permitting and leasing practices, killing the Keystone XL project, and tossing out the cost-benefit analysis for regulatory actions. These actions and orders will face significant challenges. I predict a bonanza for energy lawyers is in the making.
Last year, President Trump offered these leases in Alaska and California. Winning bidders were challenged in Alaska and a federal court refused to halt them determining they were authorized by federal law. It’s hard to see how the government can rescind those leases without compensation to the winning leaseholders. (Of course, they can imposestrictures or delay permittingbut the companies involved have enough practice in such matters to navigate the lengthy and costly regulatory process for which consumers ultimately will bear the price).
It’s of no small matter that West Virginia senator Joe Manchin was just named by senator Chuck Schumer to head the Senate Energy and National Resource Council. As a senator from a coal-producing state, he is unlikely to share the same distaste for fossil fuels as the New Yorker Ocasio-Cortez. Schumer felt compelled to give Manchin this important committee assignment because of his own slim majority and concerns that Manchin might be considering crossing the aisle. I expect Manchin to provide some check on the Green New Deal nonsense.
Aside from the existing judicial constraints and the likely role of senator Manchin, there are a number of Congressional opponents on both sides of the aisles to contend with. Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Yvette Harrell (R-NM.) are demanding that Biden rescind the moratorium on drilling and leasing activities on federal land. Democrats Vincent Gonzales (D-Tex.), Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.), Lizzie Fletcher (D-Tex.), Marc Veasey (D-Tex.) demand the order be rescinded, noting it would devastate New Mexico, spike fuel costs, cost as many as one million jobs and decrease U.S. GDP by $700 billion, reduce critical energy supplies, weaken national security and embroil the Interior department in litigation for failure to meet statutory requirements to hold lease sales.
It’s not only energy producers and distributors involved, of course: aside from direct energy jobs, a moratorium on coastal extractions would cost the high paying jobs in water management and coastal restoration, as Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana pointed out. Six state attorneys general are threatening a lawsuit over the moratorium -- they represent West Virginia, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, and Texas.
President Trump withdrew us from the Paris agreement, which had beenentered into by President Obama without Congressional approval. It’s a ludicrous globalist folly which if followed (which Europe has not actually been doing) only would impoverish the U.S. and the rest of the Western industrial countries while leaving China and India to spew carbon emissions unchecked, with the result that there will be no diminution of these, even assuming they have a deleterious impact on climate (a debated proposition).
Acting under that agreement, Obama imposed a number of regulations on power plants and oil and gas production and delivery. These rules never took effect because they were either tied up in court or repealed and replaced by the Trump administration or dismissed by the courts as unlawful. Under the Trump EPA, final rules cost-benefit analyses must be conducted for all future rules. The Biden administration appears intent to scrap this requirement under the rubric “Modernizing Regulatory Review," but I don’t foresee that regulatory requirements can be altered without a lengthy procedure.
Even if they succeed at that, they have another hurdle to overcome. The Trump EPA locked in for five years current ozone and particulate matter standards and to alter these standards under the existing EPA rule there must be independent peer review of the pivotal science and identify the research the agency relied on to make the rule. The incoming administration may, in sum, institute new rules, but it can expect significant challenges along the way to enforcement. And you can expect that companies which have long lead times and have expended great sums and effort to comply with the existing regulations are not likely to easily and without challenge accept more stringent ones.
Retour a Paris?
It certainly will not help sell the Agreement when Green Czar Kerry dismisses the job losses that will follow by saying “those folks[can have] better choices,” adding, “they can make solar panels.” It’s condescending and, of course, it ignores that these panels are almost all manufactured in China (about 60 percent of the supply chain and three-quarters of the material used to make solar cells). It also grossly exaggerates the number of jobs available in installationof solar panels or maintenance of windmills. In 2019 there were 7,000 wind turbine technicians and 12,000 solar installers, a far cry from the thousands involved in conventional fuel production and distribution.
Facts are for little people -- bean counters -- not big thinkers like Kerry and Ocasio-Cortez. As if the "czar" hadn’t said enough to scotch the deal, he added the U.S. had to “pay through the nose and lose jobs to ensure other countries reduce their emissions.” Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) has introduced a bill to block reentry into the Paris agreement until it receives Senate confirmation. She already has eleven GOP cosponsors.
I expect more will join her and I wouldn’t be surprised if a constitutional challenge in court will follow any further effort to rejoin the Agreement. It’s a treaty by any fair reading and the Constitution compels treaties be affirmed by two-thirds of the Senate (Article II, section 2). The question is, will the Democrats care?
I am writing to express my support of responsible energy infrastructure development, including of oil and natural gas pipelines. Pipelines continue to be our safest mode to transport our oil and natural gas resources, and they support thousands of high paying, American union jobs. To that end, I encourage you to reconsider your decision to revoke the cross border permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and to take into account the potential impact of any further action to safety, jobs, and energy security.
Manchin goes on to argue that increasing our environmentally safe pipeline infrastructure (which, he explains, have "a 99.999% safety record," much better than oil shipped by rail or highway) should be at the very heart of Biden's "Build Back Better" economic recovery plan, because it keeps "Americans working while strengthening North American economic and energy security." Indeed, the great benefit of Keystone XL and other pipeline projects is that they "maintain that energy security through strategic relationships with our allies rather than increasing reliance on OPEC nations and Russia."
This intervention is notable. The last of the Blue Dog Democrats, Manchin represents the now-heavily Republican (and resource heavy) state of West Virginia. A former governor of that state, Manchin's margins of victory have shrunk in each of his senate races, and in 2018 he only won by about three percentage points. His next election will come during a presidential year, and in 2020 the Republican presidential candidate carried West Virginia by almost forty points. If he wants to be reelected, he will have to start getting some results.
Aware of the above realities, minority leader Mitch McConnell is no doubt courting Manchin heavily, in the hopes that he will cross the aisle and a 50-50 senate will be controlled by the GOP once more. Will letting Manchin keep the Energy committee chairmanship (over ranking Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming) be enough? Maybe giving him the Interior subcommittee (over Alaska's Lisa Murkowski) as well? Both seem doable.
At the same time, there is something to be said for being a senator from the president's own party. The real possibility that he could flip (as Jim Jeffords did in 2001, moving from the GOP to Independent and voting with the Democrats, thus ending the tie) makes him the most important senator for the White House's hopes of implementing some form of the new president's agenda, and he knows it. Manchin has already been throwing his weight around, vowing that he will not be the fiftieth vote in favor of "the Green New Deal or socialism," giving McConnell his word that he won't let his party nuke the filibuster, and voicing his opposition to further $2,000 stimulus checks for all Americans.
Still, if Biden wants to keep Manchin on his side, he'd better give him a few substantive wins that he can point to back home. Because if not, Biden's unmerited triumph in Georgia (which saw Republican own goals turn the senate blue) will have been wasted. Taking Manchin's letter seriously would be a good place to start, if not with Keystone, perhaps with other, less conspicuous pipeline projects going forward.
If not, well, he'd look pretty good in a red jersey.
Trouble in the Land of Enchantment
Throughout the 2020 presidential campaign, candidate Joe Biden was rarely left on his own to articulate his economic plan for recovering the pandemic-wounded economy. He and his surrogates so routinely punted on details of his vision for recovery that one might have mistaken them for the 2020 offensive line of the Dallas Cowboys…or worse, the Chargers. Those who voted for him presumed that any Biden plan would include job creation since jobs are foundational to any economic recovery... but even more so after a summer of BLM building-burning and pandemic-driven lock downs.
Oil and gas industry workers were particularly fretful about how a Biden administration would "Build Back Better" when Democrat hostility has underpinned every reference to their industry. They knew well that their industry would bear the brunt of whatever plan the administration eventually conjured up. After all, Biden had promised to end fracking during the second debate…a moment of inadvertent candor that created a momentary panic within his campaign.
By popular demand!
Within days of taking office, it was not job creation that illuminated his path to recovery. Instead, he presented a plan for cutting jobs…. lots of them. President Biden signed an executive order canceling construction of the XL Pipeline. Almost immediately 11,000 direct jobs are on the chopping block for elimination, with an estimated 60,000 additional indirect jobs that will potentially be eliminated. These are well-paying, blue collar jobs. The kind of jobs that represent real economic impact.
Then, days later, it happened again. The Biden administration announced another executive order that will cause further economic destruction. The order directs the Department of the Interior to suspend new oil and natural gas leasing on public lands and offshore waters, concurrent with a comprehensive review of the federal oil and gas program. According to the press release, the order "will help restore balance on public lands and waters, create jobs, and provide a path to align the management of America’s public lands and waters with our nation’s climate, conservation, and clean energy goals.”
Together these orders portend negative economic implications, reverse positive environmental trends and weaken national security by negatively affecting energy security of the U.S., an achievement of the Trump administration that unquestionably changed the geo-political landscape.
At the state level, the implications are grave. Wells on federal and trust lands account for about 20 percent of the nation’s oil production, and less of its gas output. However, the companies that own these leases pay taxes, based on production. These fees help fund millions of dollars of the budgets of a number of western states and Indian tribes including Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico where the federal lands are located. Of those states perhaps New Mexico and the Ute Indian tribe will be most negatively impacted by the second of these two Executive Orders.
New Mexico hardest hit?
According to the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) new analysis, there will be profound negative consequences for New Mexico if a ban on federal leasing and public lands takes effect. New Mexico, which accounts for 57 percent of federal onshore oil production and 31 percent of onshore natural gas production, is projected to lose more than 62,000 jobs by 2022 and more thereafter, This represents more than five percent of all the jobs in the state by 2030. With nearly 40 percent of the state’s budget funded by natural gas and oil production, a ban puts at risk more than $1 billion of federal revenue sharing which helps support New Mexico’s entire budget. New Mexico voters chose candidate Biden to be President Biden. If the oil and gas industry were a nose, the voters of New Mexico just cut it off to spite its own face.
Because of the Biden administration’s attack on U.S. energy production, the implications are also environmentally detrimental. Currently, the U.S. is a net exporter of energy. This was achieved by oil and gas extraction from shale. Natural gas has proven the driver of unprecedented lower emission levels. In fact, the levels have been so low, the Americans led emissions reductions when compared to the bloviating bunch of dooms day Paris Climate Accord signatories.
By removing the ability for the U.S. to produce domestic energy, two things occur. First, the use of coal, which had been on the decline in the U.S. will not end up being retired, as is the current plan. Next, coal generation, according to the API’s analysis, will initially increase by 6 percent under a permit ban, and will continue to increase by 15 percent in 2030. As a result, CO2 emissions will increase by an average of 58 MMT and will continue rising, ultimately representing a 5.5 percent increase by 2030.
Finally, there are the national economic impacts of the proposed permit ban. Immediately following implementation of the federal leasing restrictions, U.S. economic growth will slow. Lower U.S. energy production and higher energy prices will reduce GDP by a cumulative $0.7 trillion according to the API analysis.
It is clear that the Biden administration does not value U.S. economic superiority, nor the impact a strong economy has on our citizens. Instead, the administration seeks to weaken the country by undermining the most foundational element to innovation and economic vitality -- inexpensive and abundant energy, delivered by those working in the oil and gas industry.
Whether it's due to the political and financial debts President Biden and his family and many in the administration have to China, the influence of contributors and environmental extremists, or even more sinister motivations, doesn't matter. As an industry, we must defend our country against the madness of unmaking America. We must engage in the arena of ideas, engage in our state legislators to push back against these attacks and ensure it we drive our own narrative. There is not “someone else” who will do it for us. We must do it on behalf of this great country… to save our industry and save our county.
Gaia's Minions Won't Stop with Keystone
One theory as to why Team Biden killed the Keystone XL pipeline on Day One of his presidency is that the project had garnered so much notoriety. Keystone, the reasoning goes, had become a cause célèbre for the environmentalist left, and the Biden administration had to throw them a bone by terminating it, but that doing so doesn't give us a window into how he will actually govern over the next four years. No doubt this is what leaders of the various unions who endorsed Biden are currently telling themselves.
There is an obvious flaw in this reasoning. If Biden is willing to quash a major pipeline project like Keystone (midway through construction and at the cost of damaging America's relation with our ally, Canada) simply because environmentalists have succeeded in making the pipeline infamous, what's to stop them from making other pipeline projects similarly well known and with the same object in mind?
Well, it seems as if that is exactly what they're doing. Last week, we discussed a victory for Enbridge Line 5, which moves 540,000 barrels of Canadian petroleum products per day from Wisconsin. to Sarnia, Ont. Gretchen Whitmer has declared war on Line 5, and is both trying to halt its operation, on the grounds that it is a danger to the Straits of Mackinac, and trying to stop the construction on a tunnel under those straits whose object is to make its operation safer. Michigan's department of energy has, nevertheless, granted a construction permit to build the tunnel.
Gov. Whitmer's war goes on, however, and the possibility that she'll succeed has started to make Canadians nervous. Trudeau's minister of natural resources, Seamus O'Regan (a committed environmentalist), and Ontario's Conservative Premier Doug Ford have both put out statements in support of Line 5. Conservative leader Erin O'Toole recently wrote an op-ed defending it. Why would a Liberal Minister set out to defend a pipeline alongside Conservative politicians? Because, beyond the jobs it supports, Line 5 supplies about half of the petroleum needs of Ontario and Quebec! Losing it would be a disaster for Canada, and even Trudeaupian Liberals know it.
The honorably lady "from" Minnesota.
And now another front in this war has developed. Ilhan Omar, the hard-left congressional representative from Minnesota, has appealed directly to Joe Biden to kill Enbridge Line 3, which transports those same petroleum products from Alberta to Wisconsin, crossing through the congresswoman's home state. In an open letter (of course), Omar said "I joined millions of Americans celebrating your announcement to withdraw permits for the Keystone XL pipeline." She asks Biden to do the same to Line 3, currently in the process of being replaced with a larger pipe. She continues, "Under even the best-case scenarios for climate change, we cannot afford to build more fossil fuel infrastructure.”
If Team Biden really is operating under the assumption that killing Keystone has bought them some environmentalist good will, and that they don't have to sacrifice any more pipelines or jobs on the alter of Mother Gaia, they're in for a rude awakening. Mother Gaia's minions are insatiable. And their chief weapon is publicity.
Joe Biden's Climate Nirvana -- and Ours
Since Washington was locked down on inauguration day, President Joe Biden was free to spend his first day in office signing stacks of Executive Orders rather than attending the more traditional inaugural parades and balls. The object of these orders was, of course, to undo as much as possible everything the outgoing president, Donald Trump, had accomplished over the past four years.
Executive actions on climate and energy unsurprisingly dominated the first day’s to-do list. Since getting the U.S. out of the Paris climate treaty was Trump’s most consequential deregulatory action, it was fitting that Biden’s first signature was on a letter notifying the U.N. that America would be rejoining it.
Next, he signed a lengthy executive order that, among much else, canceled the permit for the mostly-completed Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from Alberta’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries. Canceling Keystone immediately threw up to 11,000 well-paid construction workers out of their jobs. The trades union leaders who had endorsed Biden expressed their outrage, but the fact is that most of their members voted for Trump.
You got what you voted for, America.
Biden also ordered all government departments “to immediately commence work to confront the climate crisis,” and directed that all deregulatory actions on fossil fuel energy use and production taken by the Trump administration be reviewed with an eye to suspending and rescinding them.
The order re-instated the application of the “social cost of carbon” (an entirely speculative and largely fanciful cost estimate of the impact of adding one ton of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere) in regulatory decision-making and abolished Trump reforms aimed at speeding up the environmental permitting processes that are routinely used to delay politically incorrect energy and natural resources projects to death. For example, major hardrock mining projects that take two to four years to permit in Canada or Australia routinely take over ten years in the U.S.
On January 27 the White House held a "Climate Day," which included a major speech by the new president. It began, "Today is 'Climate Day' at the White House and—which means that today is 'Jobs Day' at the White House." The speech focused on two selling points aimed at two uneasy partners in the Democratic Party coalition—trades unions and the Woke left.
It turns out that addressing the climate crisis requires creating “millions of good-paying union jobs” in building the new green infrastructure. One imagines that these jobs will be much better than those created by the free market because they will be guaranteed and subsidized by government.
At a press conference after Biden’s speech, John Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate, was asked about people losing their jobs in fossil fuel industries as a result of the administration’s agenda. Kerry’s reply was predictably tone deaf:
What President Biden wants to do is make sure those folks have better choices, that they have alternatives, that they can be the people to go to work to make the solar panels.
Implied, but unacknowledged, was the fact that they first have to lose their jobs in order to access these "better choices."
Hitting Kerry in a bad place.
For the woke left, Biden offered something called "environmental justice." While it’s not clear exactly what the term means, the intended audience is a broad one:
With this executive order, environmental justice will be at the center of all we do addressing the disproportionate health and environmental and economic impacts on communities of color—so-called “fenceline communities”—especially those communities — brown, black, Native American, poor whites.
Several specific decisions were also announced during Climate Day, including a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and offshore areas (which account for nearly one-quarter of U.S. oil production).
In addition to these announcements, there was much speculation in the media about other planned actions. Most notably, the New York Timesreported that the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) was planning to take three to ten billion dollars out of their reserves meant for dealing with disasters such as hurricanes and spend it on preparing for the impacts of "climate change." Possible projects include constructing sea walls to safeguard against rising sea levels (the current rate is between 7 and 14 inches per century).
All this activity requires a lot of new high-level staffing at the White House as well. In addition to Kerry, Gina McCarthy, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Obama and then president of a major environmental pressure group (the Natural Resources Defense Council, which had $173 million in income in 2018), has been named National Climate Advisor, with the same rank as the National Security Advisor.
McCarthy will be head of the White House Climate Policy Office and also oversee a National Climate Task Force. When Biden introduced McCarthy near the beginning of his Climate Day speech, he off-handedly let the cat out of the bag, saying “And Gina—you run everything, Gina."
The next step may be to declare a National Climate Emergency and invoke a wide range of special emergency authorities given to the president by Congress. This would allow the president to commandeer large parts of the economy not currently under government control.
It’s going to be a long, long way to climate nirvana, but we can next look forward to an undoubtedly scintillating international Climate Leaders’ Summit hosted by the United States. The White House has scheduled the summit for Earth Day, April 22, which appropriately would be the 151st birthday of Vladimir Lenin, the patron saint of national economic overhauls. No word, yet, on whether that's intentional.
Enbridge Line 5 Lives! (For Now)
Some unexpected good news: Michigan's Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has approved construction of an underground tunnel to house a replacement for Enbridge Line 5 which transports roughly 540,000 barrels of petroleum products per day from Superior, Wis., to refineries in Sarnia, Ont.
This is surprising because the general expectation was that Joe Biden's decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline extension is just an opening salvo in the new administration's war on energy. After all, there is no obvious limiting principle to Biden's rationale for killing Keystone. The pipeline had failed no environmental review, and TC Energy, which owns the pipeline, has satisfactorily responded to every legitimate concern of governments and environmentalist groups on both sides of the border.
What Keystone XL would do is facilitate the safe transport of fossil fuels, and that is what made it a target. This was clearly articulated in Biden's executive order, which offered no justification for revoking Keystone's construction permit beyond the necessity to "prioritize the development of a clean energy economy." If that's the governing logic, no pipelines are safe.
Enbridge Line 5 seemed the next theater of conflict because, as Joan Sammon discussed in a recent piece, there's already an ongoing crusade against it, spearheaded by Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer. Here's the background, as described by Sammon:
Whitmer, a Democrat, took legal action against Canadian pipeline operator, Enbridge, revoking a 67-year old-easement to extend an approximately four mile underwater section of the pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac.
Whitmer's argument is that the section of pipeline which runs underwater between Michigan and Ontario would endanger the Great Lakes should it leak, and thus she must act. The pipeline, which has been in operation since 1953, has never had a significant leak; indeed, Enbridge had already preemptively addressed this problem, planning a new section of pipe to be laid beneath the riverbed with the object of safeguarding the straits.
Construction approval has been slow, in part because of the change in administration in Michigan -- initial approval for the project had been granted by former governor Rick Snyder, a Republican. But following the 2018 election subsequent permits have to be granted by Whitmer appointees.
The Canadian position regarding Line 5 is that a shutdown would be disastrous. According to the National Post,
[It] would cut off nearly half of the crude oil it needs to make petroleum products such as gasoline. All of the jet fuel used at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport is made in Sarnia, and distributed through Line 5. It also carries propane used to heat homes in northern Michigan and Ontario, and supports thousands of jobs on both sides of the border.
Enbridge has refused to comply with Whitmer's order, arguing that the governor has no jurisdiction to shutdown a pipeline approved by the federal government.
The approval of Michigan's energy department -- which determined "the project would have 'minimal impact' on water quality and wetlands" -- is significant, but Line 5 isn't in the clear yet. The project still requires the approval of the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Michigan Public Service Commission, whose members have all been appointed by Whitmer, must grant approval for the pipeline to actually be put into the new tunnel.
Still, in the current hostile environment Enbridge will take any good news it can get.