Could the Keystone XL pipeline help lower gas prices in the United States?

The punitive economic sanctions imposed by the West on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine have shaken global energy markets, with US ban on importing Russian oil further driving up gas prices for Americans. Now GOP leaders are blaming soaring fuel prices in part on a decision by President Biden early in his administration to block Keystone XL pipeline.

Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who has urged the Biden administration to increase domestic oil production, said in a Tweeter the day before the February 24 Russian attack that the Keystone project would have produced 830,000 barrels of crude per day.

“Stop importing from Russia, start producing more,” he tweeted in early March.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem went further than Crenshaw, writing in a Feb. 24 op-ed for Fox News that by shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline, Mr. Biden was “signaling to the world that American energy independence is n is no longer a priority. ”

“Keystone would have helped allay those fears while giving America the flexibility to counter Russian aggression by increasing energy exports to Europe,” she wrote.

With the Americans facing the worst inflation in 40 yearswould the Keystone expansion offer much relief at the pump?

Root of the problem

It is important to understand what is contributing to high oil prices in the first place. Gregory Nemet, professor of public affairs at the Wisconsin Energy Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, pointed out that the cost of oil has been steadily rising since last fall, when it was around 70 dollars a barrel, above $130 last week before stabilizing at around $100 a barrel on Tuesday. This initial jump in the cost of crude was driven by the ongoing economic recovery, which has boosted consumer and business demand that had been dampened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot more transport and people flying, people driving, more demand for oil,” he said. “And supply doesn’t always respond quickly to that kind of demand shock.”

The war in Ukraine also plays a role, although it was not the instigator of the increase.

“Whenever there is political instability in places that produce a lot of oil, the markets react,” Nemet said. “And it’s not necessarily that they say, ‘Oh, there’s not enough oil. It’s, ‘Oh, there’s a lot more risk now than before.'”


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Russia is the world’s second largest exporter of crude oil, according to the US Energy Information Administration. But the United States imported an average of 209,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Russia in 2021, according to U.S. fuel and petrochemical makers, along with 500,000 barrels a day of other petroleum products. This amount represents 3% of US crude oil imports and about 1% of crude oil processed in US refineries.

Keystone XL, an extension of an existing North American pipeline, would have transported 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska at its peak. By the time Mr Biden halted construction, the $8 billion expansion was only about 8% complete, according to Reuters.

Still, many experts agree that going ahead with the pipeline would not have prevented gas prices in the United States from climbing to an all-time high. The Keystone expansion would have increased global oil production by less than 1%, an amount, they explained, “nearly negligible.”

“I can see why people are making this connection,” Nemet said. “But in terms of gasoline prices and world oil prices, it’s just something best ignored because it wouldn’t have any impact.”

More production, but higher costs for Americans

Even if the pipeline were already built, it wouldn’t help with the price at the pump, Nemet added, noting that the United States has already doubled its oil production in the past 15 years. “And yet we still have $100 a barrel of oil.”

With inflation soaring, gasoline prices have been rising for months – averaging $4.33 per gallon on March 11, according to AAA.

“The key lesson is that the United States isn’t the whole story here. It’s a global market,” Nemet said. “And so we have 8 billion people consuming oil and many countries producing it, and it’s all going into one market.”

The Biden administration has repeatedly pushed back on proposals to revive pipeline expansion. On March 7, Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki if Mr. Biden would ever “reverse his executive order that stopped construction of the Keystone XL” in a bid to make lower gasoline prices.

“The Keystone wasn’t an oilfield – it’s a pipeline,” she replied. “Oil is still coming in, just by other means. So it would actually have nothing to do with the current supply imbalance.”

PSAKI added that the Department of Energy predicts that in 2023 the United States will “produce more oil … than ever before.”

David Kieve, president of the advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund Action, also told CBS News that building the Keystone pipeline would not have mitigated the impact of the Ukraine crisis on fuel prices.

“The Keystone Pipeline, at best if you were in favor of seeing it completed, would not be complete yet,” he said. “It wouldn’t be online and pumping oil until 2023. … So the idea that the president’s stance on the pipeline still not pumping oil emboldened Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine is so far- recovered as amazing.”

Even if the Biden administration immediately offered new oil leases to drillers, it wouldn’t help the costs Americans are bearing today. It would take six to 10 years for oil from a new lease to hit the world market, Kieve said.

Less oil, say clean energy fans

By contrast, Biden’s decision with the International Energy Agency to release 30 million barrels of oil from the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve is putting downward pressure on near-term gas prices, he said. Kyiv said. The agency will release a total of 60 million barrels of crude to help ease some of the supply disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine.

“You won’t see a lot of environmental organizations jumping for joy and saying, ‘Hey, this is the best thing ever,'” Kieve said. “But it’s recognized that these types of actions can impact the prices Americans pay at the pump.”


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In the long term, the best way to protect Americans from soaring oil prices is to accelerate the shift from fossil fuels to renewables, Nemet and Kieve said. Unlike oil, renewable energy depends much less on fixed and limited natural resources. Power from solar panels, wind turbines and other low-carbon technologies also tends to become cheaper as it becomes widely used, they said.

“Instead of having international competition for a scarce resource where everyone wants the oil and there’s a fixed amount of it, that’s different,” Nemet said. “It’s that as we produce more and more of these clean energy technologies…they become more affordable for everyone.”

“We’re all aware of the pain Americans are having at the pump right now, but the best way to eliminate pump pain in the long run is to get rid of the pump altogether,” Kieve said. “The clean energy that we harvest here at home and work to find a better way to store will power us here at home.”

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