Donald Trump and the Keystone XL pipeline are made for each other—both are built on a cascade of outrageous lies—so of course the Republican president is now promising to make the pipeline a reality. Candidate Trump said the pipeline, which would transport tar-sands oil from Canada to refineries in Texas, would boost energy independence, put Americans to work, and be built with US steel. The truth? Keystone oil would be sold on the global market, create almost no permanent jobs in the United States, and rely on foreign steel. Oh, and it would accelerate global warming on a planet whose ice caps are already melting at record speed, raising sea levels and triggering drought and other extreme weather events the world over. “We’re importing Russian steel to build a foreign-owned pipeline so Canada can export its oil so we can create 35 American jobs,” tweeted Ross Hammond, the US campaigns director for Stand.earth, one of the many activist groups that are pledging ferocious resistance.
Trump’s bid to revive Keystone XL is but the most high-profile fight he is picking on climate policy. On March 28, he issued executive orders aimed at undoing other key elements of Barack Obama’s climate record: the Clean Power Plan; a moratorium on new coal leases on public land; restrictions on methane emissions; and a requirement that federal agencies consider the social cost of climate damages in their decision-making. Trump had previously proposed a 31 percent budget cut for the Environmental Protection Agency, whose administrator, Scott Pruitt, ludicrously asserted that carbon dioxide is not a “primary contributor to…global warming.” Candidate Trump had promised all of this as well, assuring heartland voters that he would bring back coal workers’ jobs instead of sacrificing them to a Chinese “hoax” about humans broiling the planet beyond habitation. Trump reiterated these promises when signing the new executive orders, telling a handful of coal miners flanking him, “You know what this is, right? You know what this is? You’re going back to work. You’re going back to work.”
But Donald Trump promises a lot of things. Making good on his promises is something else entirely, as congressional Republicans were reminded by their botched attempt to repeal Obamacare. Along with the Muslim travel ban, the Obamacare debacle marked the second time in Trump’s infant presidency that he was rebuffed on a core agenda item. Will Keystone XL and his larger climate-wrecking program fare any better?
Don’t count on it. Political, legal, and economic obstacles abound. Not only are activists pledging to fight Trump on all fronts, including regulatory challenges to Keystone XL in Nebraska and a march on Washington on April 29, but key state and local governments say they remain committed to fighting climate change and prioritizing clean energy. The governors of California, Oregon, and Washington and the mayors of their biggest cities say they will resist Trump’s efforts to gut the Clean Power Plan, and the Republican governor of Maryland, pressed by relentless local organizing, has now backed the nation’s first total legislative ban on fracking in a state with gas reserves.