Promises between a Rock and a Hard Place

Biden campaigned in favor of a major shift toward green energy. But today, a Canadian pipeline, and the price of gasoline, have led him to care more for drivers than for nature.

In 1960, American political scientist Elmer Schattschneider summed up the crux of politics in one word: conflict. Every society has divergent interests, at times irreconcilable. Every government, sooner or later, is called upon to make decisions that side with some over others. Thus, every government, at some point or other, has to make enemies of its citizens.

In the United States, the best example of this dynamic is what is currently playing out with regard to the environment. Canada is particularly well placed to monitor this situation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau having, on Thursday, met with President Joe Biden in Washington for the Three Amigos Summit.*

Another Oil Pipeline Confronting the White House

In one of his first moves after taking office, Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline project, a source of deep tension between the American and Canadian governments as well as within the Democratic Party. Labor unions and environmentalists, both of which are integral parts of the voting coalition that supports Democrats, engaged in bitter fighting that stretched out over a decade — the former in favor of the project, the latter opposed.

More recently, another oil pipeline has become a political nuisance for the White House. Enbridge Line 5, which carries oil from the west of Canada to Ontario, crossing the Canadian-American border through Michigan not once, but twice, is the subject of fierce protests.

Native Americans who live along the shores of Lakes Huron and Michigan, as well as environmental groups, are calling for the infrastructure to be shut down. The Democratic governor of Michigan supports the demands, highlighting the risk of an ecological disaster in the event of an accident. Gretchen Whitmer, who was a finalist for Biden’s vice presidential running mate in 2020, is in a vulnerable spot ahead of her campaign for reelection next year.

There is opposition from industries and companies who rely on the pipeline, but also from the Canadian government, as Trudeau is asking the White House to intervene in favor of the project.

This debate is taking place in the context of a considerable increase in gasoline prices and inflation.

The No. 1 Issue

Early in the month, Virginia held the most important election of the year in the United States — one that Republicans won hands down. In polls leading up to the vote, one thing that was clear was that the economy dominated as an election issue, with one in two voters, 48%, acknowledging that it had had the most influence on their vote.

Democratic organizers asked a group of female voters who had voted for Biden in 2020, and for Republican Glenn Youngkin in this election, what motivated their change of allegiance. One answered, candidly, “What I’m paying when I go to fill up the gas tank.”** Almost automatically, everyone attending nodded in agreement.

This reality leads to agonizing choices for the president and his team that are difficult to reconcile. Beyond the back-and-forth on the issue of Line 5, the Biden administration, which promised from the start a major shift toward green energy, now finds itself pressuring a rival like China to release its oil reserves. Prior to this, the administration tried, in vain, to push the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to increase its production in order to reduce the price at the pump for American consumers. This behind-the-scenes effort was made public on national television on Oct. 31 by Biden’s energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm.

That same day, the American president was arriving at the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Scotland to press for the need to end dependence on fossil fuels.

*Editor’s Note: The formal name for the meeting of the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States is the North American Leaders’ Summit. It is sometimes informally referred to as the Three Amigos Summit.

**Editor’s Note: This quote, accurately translated from the original, could not be verified.

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About Reg Moss 120 Articles
Reg is a writer, teacher, and translator with an interest in social issues especially as pertains to education and matters of race, class, gender, immigration, etc.

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