Environmental activists have been advocating for the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, and President Joe Biden recently granted their wish. There is one problem: there are bound to be substantial job losses. In an ideal world, Biden would have devised a plan that immediately supplemented these job losses, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, our world is nowhere near ideal, and Joe Biden is nowhere near an ideal president.
This decision came with a bundle of other executive orders Mr. Biden passed on his first day in office. Evidence has long suggested the harmful effects of oil pipelines on the environment, but former presidents refused to act. It’s not that they neglected environmental issues, although that is exactly the case with former President Donald Trump, it’s that people feared the Keystone XL pipeline’s cancellation would be complicated. They were right to worry.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump administration’s poor handling of the crisis, the job market is struggling to recover. Although the amount of people that will be displaced because of the pipeline’s removal is unconfirmed, we know that it will be enough to trouble thousands of people.
Mr. Biden made the right choice to finally put an end to the environmental terror that would be caused by the Keystone XL pipeline. However, the timing is less than perfect. There is still no COVID-19 relief plan that includes student debt cancellation or postponement, minimum wage increase and a stimulus package. The American economy was not in the best place before the pandemic, and now many are out of a job and relying on the government for support. Still, the government is silent. This adds to the growing panic and frustration surrounding Biden’s decision.
The devastation following this decision is justified, but, amid the despair, we must imagine the larger picture. Global climate change is worsening, and scientists are already struggling to deal with the damage. Although for some this is an abstract issue, thus making it difficult to see the reason behind a seemingly destructive idea, there is evidence that in a few years much of the damage will be irreversible. The job losses surrounding this executive order will be impactful for many people, but the number could be a lot larger if we delay necessary action.
Richard Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, brings up the point that forcing pipeline workers to get new jobs is not as simple as it sounds. Many people refuse to endure such a change, and many are also not well-equipped to pick up a new trade. Although this is a valid argument against President Biden’s decision, it is unfortunately not enough to justify the existence of the Keystone XL pipeline. However, it is President Biden’s job to ensure that those who are forcefully removed from their jobs have government support. This is something we have yet to see come to fruition.
We should remain hopeful that President Biden will make up for the jobs lost due to this executive order. It will be a tragic mistake were he to neglect this responsibility, but it should not take away from the necessity and urgency of the pipeline’s cancellation. It is time that impactful environmental change takes place in America, and this is a step in the right direction.