Buttigieg on Keystone pipeline: We don't want 'permanent solutions' to short-term problems

Pete Buttigieg (MSNBC video screenshot)
Pete Buttigieg (MSNBC video screenshot)

Authorizing the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline to lower fuel prices and give the United States more leverage against Russia would amount to “galloping after permanent solutions to immediate short term problems,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an interview with MSNBC late Wednesday.

Amid skyrocketing oil prices accompanying Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Republican governors and lawmakers are urging President Biden to reverse his cancellation of Keystone on his first day in office and use some of the 9,000 untapped oil leases on public lands to counter dependence on Russian oil.

MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle, the host of “The 11th Hour,” acknowledged the president “does not set the price of gas,” but she argued “he can influence it.”

“And while releasing some strategic reserves matters, given how much has been released, it is really just a drop in the bucket,” she said. “Are there things, and I realize this is controversial, it has huge environmental impacts, could the president possibly consider authorizing the Keystone Pipeline? Or working something out with Iran?”

“Look,” Buttigieg replied, “the president has said that all options are on the table. But we also need to make sure that we are not galloping after permanent solutions to immediate short term problems, where more strategic and tactical actions in the short term that can make a difference, like what you have with the strategic reserve, which exists partly in order to respond to situations like this.”

The Keystone pipeline was to carry an estimated 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to the United States. In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Biden said the U.S. will join with other governments to release 60 million barrels of crude oil from strategic reserves, including 30 million from the U.S. However, the U.S. alone consumes an average of about 20 million barrels of oil per day.

The transportation secretary insisted Biden “has laid policies that are going help cushion the impacts of any volatility in energy markets in the future by building up more of a diversified and homegrown energy base for this country.”

At the White House on Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki said authorizing the Keystone pipeline would have no immediate impact.

And she said the U.S. has “no strategic interest in banning Russian oil,” arguing it makes up “only about 10% of what we are importing.”

However, on Thursday, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a ban on all oil and gas imports from Russia in response to Putin’s “diabolical actions.”

“Ban it. Ban the oil coming from Russia,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference in the Capitol.

But Pelosi told reporters she is against drilling on U.S. public lands.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Pelosi not only wants to ban oil from Russia, she wants to ban it from America.

“Democrats aren’t trying to punish Russia OR help Americans,” he wrote on Twitter. “They actually want gas prices to be as high as possible so they can scam you with their radical Green New Deal.”

Former deputy national security adviser KT McFarland said in an interview last week that the “single most important thing” Biden could do to counter Putin is to take away Russia’s leverage by reopening “American energy industry,” beginning with the Keystone XL pipeline.

See Buttigieg’s interview Wednesday with MSNBC:

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