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Climate Change

Biden — Don’t Be A Pipeline President!

By David Lapp Jost

This month’s events have made it painfully clear that we are experiencing a climate crisis. Lethal heatwaves and the ocean catching fire in a pipeline spill in the Gulf of Mexico are important signs. Yet Joe Biden is pushing us in exactly the wrong direction, supporting huge pipelines that will move tens of billions of dollars of gas and oil. We need our president to protect our environment, not just fake it. We need actions from Biden, not words.

Our climate crisis is dire. We need to recognize that and act. The West Coast of the United States and Canada practically baked these last couple of weeks, killing hundreds of people and bringing society to a standstill for several days. As everyone knows, last year’s fires show that this summer has been a mild one … so far. Meanwhile, the ocean caught on fire (watch it burn) in the Gulf of Mexico, due to another irresponsible pipeline. We U.S. Americans must sadly look forward to many more pipeline-related catastrophes, though, because our president is pushing massive new pipelines right now, and refusing to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, a sad departure from the policy of his Democratic predecessor, Obama. As long as the world can guzzle cheap fossil fuels, the climate will worsen, human health will suffer, and renewable energy will remain at a disadvantage. Biden holds executive power over these projects — we need to hold him accountable.

Enbridge

Joe Biden is sitting on the sidelines or even promoting fossil fuel extraction while the Enbridge 3 and Enbridge 5 pipelines move forward. He is betraying Indigenous leaders, environmental activists, and even the Democratic Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer.

Enbridge 3, a tar sands pipeline responsible for the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history, is currently being replaced. Costing billions of dollars, the thousand mile pipeline carries hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day, and facilitates tar sands oil production in Alberta, which National Geographic called the “world’s most destructive oil extraction.” These projects will likely be used for decades, hurting progress on climate and clean alternatives.

Indigenous Water Protectors have led the struggle against Line 3, which crosses hundreds of bodies of water and will presumably lead to spills like the dozens that have resulted from the current line. Seeking to protect economically, religiously, and culturally important waters, members of groups like Honor the Earth and the Giniw Collective are putting their bodies on the line every day to thwart the project. Indigenous people and supporters are being arrested and in some cases likely jailed for a long time; the groups deserve financial support and support in action. Over 700 Water Protectors have now been arrested, already well exceeding the number arrested at Standing Rock. Sadly, media devote little attention to the crisis. Joe Biden’s Department of Justice and Army Corps of Engineers have unfortunately chosen to follow Trump’s policy and firmly back Line 3, and will no doubt continue to unless pressured by Democrats to do the right thing and cancel the line. Well over 90% of over 70,000 public comments on Line 3 have been against it — it’s time to listen to indigenous people and the general public and stop this climate and environmental arson.

Biden has refused to take the side of Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s governor, who is acting to stop the Enbridge Line 5 Pipeline. Line 5 is an aging pipeline in a busy strait that could easily leak and contaminate hundreds of miles of coastline if a ship’s anchor hit it. Enbridge has now ignored a hard deadline from the governor — a troubling instance of corporate power ignoring the power of elective democracy that news media have mostly neglected to report on. Line 5 also faces overwhelming opposition of regional Native American tribes. Much of the legal dispute around Line 5 comes down to issues of Canadian and U.S. sovereignty and trade, as well as public legitimacy — Biden could decisively intervene, and is choosing not to.

Dakota Access

In 2016, indigenous leaders mobilized hundreds of thousands of people in resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Even one of Obama’s daughters joined in. It’s now time to honor their work and and stop pumping hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil every day through DAPL — once and for all.

At the start of his presidency, Native tribes called for Joe Biden to turn off the oil flow that threatens the health and safety of their communities. Any day he wanted, Biden could honor their wishes and turn off the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Army Corps of Engineers — over which Biden has authority as Commander in Chief — is conducting an environmental review of the pipeline, responding to the concerns of indigenous communities. For some reason, the Corps does not believe the pipeline should be closed during a review of its safety even though pipelines run by Energy Transfer Partners — the DAPL operator — had 349 leaks, spills, and other accidents from 2012–2020. Biden should follow his Democratic predecessor rather than following Trump and call a stop to production.

DAPL is pumping hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil every day, now. That oil represents about 4% of U.S. oil production and its closure would send an unmistakable signal to the oil industry (which is thriving under Biden, with oil and gas stocks nearly doubled since election day). Every day of further pumping is an affront to tribes that have requested its closure and to those who were injured or arrested to stop DAPL in 2016 and 2017. 

Nord Stream 2

Biden has also taken up the cause of supporting Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline — a remarkable shift away from Trump’s energy policy in the wrong direction. In addition to bolstering natural gas burning to the detriment of the climate and air quality, the Nord Stream Pipeline will allow Russia to bypass Ukraine in selling gas to western Europe, so it could cut off gas to Eastern European countries as it did in 2014, causing significant disruption and freezing people to death. The German Green Party — second in German political polls — opposes the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will not be finished until after Germany’s October election. Trying to prematurely finish that process by lifting sanctions on Russia is in the interest of no one except Putin, gas companies, and the German right wing. 

Hold Biden Accountable

Far too many in the media have trumpeted Biden’s cancellation of the already-delayed, problem-ridden Keystone XL project that was only due to start operating in 2023. Far too many are heralding Biden’s infrastructure bill, which never amounted to enough in the scale of the costs of addressing climate change and seems to be diminishing in scale with every Republican compromise. With renewables the cheapest they have ever been, there is no reason we need to develop tens of billions worth of new pipelines. Biden’s presidency should be a transition to clean energy, not this. Democrats need to hear from us — this shouldn’t continue. 

Featured image: Standing Rock protest, by Pax Ahimsa Gethen (CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons).

Related story: U.S. Supreme Court Gives Pipeline Eminent Domain Go-Ahead

 
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