Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said on Tuesday he did not invite Jason Kenney to appear before the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to “question the past” – namely the disposal by President Joe Biden of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Yet that is what many Republican members of the committee took advantage of, using the Alberta premier’s appearance today as an opportunity to denigrate the Biden administration’s energy policy in general and its decision to scuttle Keystone. XL.
Since gas prices have skyrocketed, Republicans have spoken out to tie the price at the pump to its cancellation, although Kenney’s presence also gave those senators the opportunity to criticize the administration for reaching out to hostile regimes to boost oil production.
On both issues, Kenney seemed more than willing to oblige Republicans, while refraining from cracking down on the US president.
He was there to champion his province as a reliable source of energy for the United States and, as he said in his opening statement, pitch the idea of building a new pipeline “to fulfill the dream of North America’s energy independence and security”.
He expressed frustration that the United States has looked elsewhere for oil, to OPEC and specific countries like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, and has spent hundreds of billions of dollars over the past decades to defend security around the Persian Gulf.
The solution to Washington’s energy security challenges, he said, “is your closest friend and ally.”
Kenney’s appearance came as gasoline prices soared, Washington scrambled for more oil and the U.S. midterm elections were fast approaching.
He was invited by Manchin, the committee chairman and a Keystone supporter who is also a deciding vote in the equally divided Senate. Just over a month ago, the Democrat from West Virginia traveled to Alberta to tour the oil sands and meet with leaders and key players in its oil industry.
The committee also heard virtual testimony from the Minister of Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson. Nathalie Camden, Quebec’s Deputy Minister of Mines, and Electricity Canada President Francis Bradley also testified.
Kenney said his administration was puzzled that the administration’s response to sky-high gas prices was to beg OPEC to produce and sell more oil “while working to lift sanctions against dictatorships. like Iran and Venezuela”.
Kenney said, with the political will of Washington, “we could also get another major pipeline built that would free the United States forever from imports from hostile regimes.”
The Republicans on the committee were certainly receptive to his remarks and more than happy to pursue those themes. Wyoming Republican John Barrasso, a prominent committee member, asked a series of questions about Biden’s decision to kill Keystone.
“Is it fair to say that President Biden’s decision to kill the Keystone pipeline has increased costs, harmed the environment, and added to our supply chain problems?” He asked.
“I think that’s a reasonable conclusion,” Kenney said.
“Does Biden’s policy make sense to the people of the United States or Canada?” Barraso asked.
“It’s up to you to find out what works for people in the United States,” Kenney said. “But I will just say this. We find it inexplicable that the United States government has been more focused on encouraging additional OPEC production than Canadian production.”
Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, went on to ask if Canadian energy companies have been unable to deploy capital due to some of the energy policies imposed by the Biden administration..
“Well, I would say yes,” Kenney said.
Lee asked what message is being sent “to our Canadian allies, including Alberta” by the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline and reaching out to countries like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to increase production.
“All I can say is: inexplicable,” Kenney said.
While the Republicans were receptive, Kenney had to convince the Democrats on the committee, who, with the exception of Manchin, supported the decision to scrap Keystone XL. Still, most Democrats weren’t in attendance, and those who did asked questions that weren’t directly related to Kenney’s speech.
For example, Senator Angus King, a Democrat from Maine, asked how Alberta had reduced its methane emissions.
After the hearing, Manchin appeared to support Kenney’s speech for a new pipeline and expressed let’s hope Biden reverses course.
According to a Wall Street Journal report last month, Biden administration officials are looking for ways to increase oil imports from Canada, but do not want to resuscitate the Keystone XL pipeline.