The following editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, Jan. 25:
President Donald Trump’s executive actions Tuesday to revive the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline — two environmental flashpoints doused by the Obama administration — should not have come as a surprise to anyone. He promised to do so during the campaign, and his support is consistent with his desire to make the U.S. oil and gas industry more productive.
Nevertheless, there are good reasons to oppose both projects. The Keystone pipeline would move 830,000 barrels of oil a day through the American heartland, creating hundreds of short-term construction jobs while encouraging a particularly dirty form of oil extraction. President Obama eventually scuttled the project as contrary to “the national interest” of combating global warming. The Dakota Access Pipeline, whose builders include a company in which Trump until recently invested, would carry 500,000 barrels a day over an 1,100-mile pipeline, including under a dammed stretch of the Missouri River from which the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation draws its water. After dramatic protests, the Army Corps of Engineers denied a key permit and directed that alternative routes be explored.
In signing his declarations, Trump zeroed in on the jobs that would be created, which meshes with his pledge to invest in the nation’s sagging infrastructure while getting more people more work. But not all infrastructure is created equal; some of it serves our long-term interests, and some of it decidedly does not. Promoting the use of fossil fuels, and especially the ones pulled from Canada’s tar sands, fall into the latter category.
In addition to reviving the pipelines, Trump signed another action seeking to streamline what he described as “the incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible permitting process … for domestic manufacturing.” Streamlining of regulations might be a good thing — but only if the projects are fully vetted and, when approved, do not cause undue harm to the environment.
Sadly, Trump has displayed little concern for the environment, and significant contempt for environmental regulations. His order freezing all new business activities by the Environmental Protection Agency should worry the 56 percent of Americans who think environmental concerns should outweigh economic ones. Similarly, Trump nominated as head of the EPA someone who has sued to block the agency more than a dozen times, and selected the former head of Exxon Mobil as secretary of State.
The national interest — the world’s interest, for that matter — is not best-served by speeding the investment in infrastructure that makes it cheaper and easier to burn fossil fuels. The U.S. should be encouraging investment in the infrastructure of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. Trump needs to get his head out of the oil sands, and face the reality of climate change.