Last year, we were looking forward to the day when a new administration would be avoiding fights with our neighbor to the north, so often targeted with tariffs and rhetoric from the outgoing administration of President Donald Trump.
Here we go again, eh?
The problem with Canada in the new administration of President Joe Biden: oil and gas.
Or more specifically, energy pipelines.
Biden snubbed Canada’s interests — and by the way, those of our Gulf Coast refineries — by canceling the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Now, Biden’s ally Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, has aped the policies of Washington by ordering Canadian energy company Enbridge to shut down its Line 5. That is a key part of the crude oil network that delivers energy from Alberta to refineries in the U.S. Midwest and eastern Canada.
This is not the same case as Keystone XL, although the environmental consequences are similar: Alberta’s heavy crude can be more safely refined in North America’s more strictly regulated industry, instead of being shipped to mainland China or elsewhere.
God only knows how much in the way of real environmental protection are provided by some of the potential markets for oil. And make no mistake, with the world’s demand for energy, the Alberta oil will be refined somewhere.
Pipelines are the safest way to transport energy long distances.
Earlier this year, Biden relied on the same dodge that former President Barack Obama used in his criticisms of Keystone XL, the longstanding technicality that the U.S. State Department must approve transborder pipes. It is hypocrisy of the first water that, without a vote of Congress or any real oversight, Biden’s administration acts in the same arbitrary and capricious manner that Trump was so often accused of, although the latter favored oil and gas interests. In Trump's case, he abused his authority to impose tariffs on other products.
U.S.-Canada relations reached a nadir under Trump. The latter was only barely on speaking terms with our closest neighbor’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau. We had hoped for better in the new administration but are so far very disappointed.
One interesting fact about the Line 5 controversy: It is not, like Keystone XL, a new pipeline network. As Canadian officials pointed out, it’s been working safely for 68 years.
The company is fighting Whitmer’s orders in court. Among other things, we hope litigation might establish how the great State of Michigan achieved a foreign policy.
And lest some 23 million gallons of oil be forced onto trucks and railcars, we hope that the safety of people on both sides of the border will weigh into the final decision.