The White House announcement yesterday came initially from press secretary Sean Spicer. An “energy revolution” is underway, he proclaimed – two executive orders from President Trump that would create “tens of thousands of new jobs” while still making the environment “a priority.”
Every phrase was out of the “alt-fact” universe that the new administration is espousing. The Keystone-XL pipeline, canceled late in 2015 by President Obama, would actually create at best 50 long-term jobs. The Dakota Access pipeline was stopped in December, pending an environmental impact review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The pipeline would run under Lake Oahe, water source for the adjacent Standing Rock Sioux reservation, and a leak could contaminate not only the tribe’s supply but that used by 17 million Americans downstream.
So much for job security and environmental priorities. Keystone-XL would cross almost 1,200 miles across six states, moving more than 800,000 barrels of oil every day from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, through Nebraska and on to Gulf Coast refineries. Dakota Access would transport crude oil 1,700 miles from North Dakota across South Dakota and Iowa, onward to a shipping point in Illinois.
Petroleum from both pipelines will ultimately be shipped on to Asia. And that’s the Trump administration’s America First Energy Plan? So who stands to benefit from these mega-projects? Not surprisingly, a lot of people headed into Trump’s new administration.
- Incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s big plan while CEO of ExxonMobil was to develop those Canadian tar sands. The company holds contracts for more than five billion barrels in Alberta, and the Exxon website predict that tar sands will be providing one-quarter of our oil by 2040.
- The Koch brothers own more than 4,000 miles of pipelines, and are already the planet’s biggest exporter of oil from the Canadian tar sands. Their home-boy Congressman, Mike Pompeo, introduced the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act in 2013, a bill aimed at speeding up the approval process. Now Pompeo will be running the CIA.
- Energy Transfer Partners, the company slated to build the Dakota Access pipeline, donated $5 million to a super-PAC behind Rick Perry in the 2016 presidential race. When Perry’s run for the White House fizzled, he became a paid board member of ETP, receiving $236,820 in compensation in 2015. Perry is about to become Secretary of Energy.
- Donald Trump himself had a personal stake in the Dakota Access pipeline. He invested between $500,000 and $1 million in Energy Transfer Partners in 2015.
Here’s what the president had to say following the big announcement, as quoted in The Guardian today: “From now on we’re going to start making pipeline in the United States. If we build it in the United States, build the pipelines, we want to build the pipe. It’s going to put a lot of workers, a lot of steelworkers back to work. We will build our own pipeline, we will build our own pipes. That’s what it has to do with. Like we used to in the old days.”
While striving for articulation, Trump didn’t reference an amendment put forward by Democratic Senator Al Franken in the “old days” of 2015, when the Republicans tried unsuccessfully to force approval of Keystone. The amendment would have required the use of only domestic steel, but the Republicans unanimously blocked such a consideration. Right now, one of Keystone’s biggest suppliers is a Luxembourg-based steel company – to which the new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross sold his own International Steel company in 2005.
“The energy industry is going to try to bind this country up by pipeline,” Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., told me recently. “Then we’ll have $25 trillion of pipeline infrastructure – an investment so massive that even after the oil industry crashes, there will be powerful financial interests like Citibank and Wells Fargo that have a stake in making sure there’s oil going through those lines even though there’s no other rationale for it.”
That’s the way the corporate oligarchy running our country would have it. Trump will try to change what he yesterday called “the horrible permitting process,” but Kennedy and others don’t think it will be that easy legally to overturn the Army Corps’ time-honored ability to do an environmental review of both projects.
Plus there’s no doubt that fight-back litigation will be coming from among others the Natural Resources Defense Council, whose president Rhea Suh said: “It’s appalling that Trump wants to throw open our borders to big polluters. Eliminating the national interest determination process, used by both Republicans and Democratic administrations for decades, cedes control of our borders to multinational corporations to jam through cross-border infrastructure projects. And it completely shuts out public engagement in decisions that affect our communities, air, water, and climate.”
Bernie Sanders added that Trump has “ignored the voices of millions and put the short-term profits of the fossil fuel industry ahead of the future of our planet. At a time when the scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us that climate change is real, it is caused by human activity and it is already causing devastating problems, we cannot afford to build new oil pipelines that lock us into burning fossil fuels for years to come. I will do everything I can to stop these pipelines and protect our planet for future generations.”
A massive protest by thousands of indigenous people, finally backed by some 4,000 American veterans, pushed the Obama administration’s Army Corps to call a halt to the Dakota Access pipeline late last year. It’s going to take this kind of action, and more, to head off the onrushing Trumpocalypse. Jesse Ventura told me recently that he sees Standing Rock as a coming turning point in the battle.
Maybe we should join together and build a wall to keep the illegal plunderers out?