The Free Market Memo

Biden’s Energy Policies, Including Keystone, Have Been a Disaster for Montanans

Montanans are paying more for energy, and our economy is weaker, because too many leaders in Washington refuse to free our energy sector

By Jesse Ramos

Bidenomics has been a disaster for Montanans from day one. Literally. Within hours of taking the oath of office, President Joe Biden issued an executive order canceling the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline. From the very start, Montanans could see that this administration’s policies would create serious economic problems for our state.

Canceling the Keystone XL pipeline was just the beginning. Construction of the pipeline’s 285-mile stretch through Montana would have brought 800-1,000 construction jobs to the state. And those workers would have brought with them a surge of economic activity, pumping vital dollars into Montana businesses large and small.

That short-term surge of revenue is nothing to dismiss. For mom-and-pop businesses, a year or two’s worth of higher-than-average income can make a big difference. It could mean paying off loans early, having money to invest in new equipment or new hires, or putting aside a little extra for a house or a child’s education.

The long-term damage was even greater. With a terminal near Baker and nearly 300 miles of energy infrastructure added to Montana’s tax base, the Keystone XL pipeline would’ve generated an estimated $63 million a year worth of property tax revenues in the state. With the stroke of a pen, Biden erased that revenue from the books of local governments across Montana.

Activists love to say that canceling the pipeline hurt only “Big Oil,” but in reality, it hurt a lot of Montana communities and businesses.

After Biden single-handedly scrapped this major investment in America’s future economic growth, McCone County Commissioner Jim Moos said what a lot of Montanans knew to be true.

“There is no end to the things that would benefit if we had the pipeline,” he said. “It would be a lot of things we’ve put off because we just don’t have the money.”

Two-and a-half years later, Montana’s local government officials aren’t the only ones who feel like they “just don’t have the money.”

The cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline cost jobs and economic growth nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s own analysis. On top of that, Bidenflation [LM1] has raised the cost of living and pinched family and business budgets both nationwide and in Montana. Inflation hit the Mountain West particularly hard, in part because of bad energy policies.

This past spring, Minnesota Public Radio’s “Marketplace” show reported that energy costs fell by 6.5% nationwide in the prior year, but the decline was only about 1.5% in the Mountain West. Marketplace attributed our region’s high energy prices in part to “some constraints on natural gas pipelines in the region.”

Even public radio reporters know that crimping energy supplies raises prices.

Montana has the highest per-person energy consumption in the entire United States, and about half our households use natural gas for heat. We need plentiful, affordable energy now, not just decades from now when alternative energy will play a bigger role in all our lives. But President Biden’s aggressive campaign to hinder the development and transportation of the fuels Montanans currently depend on has kept supplies low and prices high.

After he ordered the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, President Biden ordered a halt to new oil and gas leases on federal lands. A federal judge blocked Biden’s order months later. But in August 2022 a federal appeals court allowed Biden’s suspension of new leases to stand. New oil and gas exploration on federal lands is happening not because of the Biden administration, but over its objections.

Montanans have suffered from terrible energy policies, made worse by terrible economic policies, for years. But we don’t have to. There are better alternatives, if only our leaders would embrace them.

In March, the U.S. House passed the Lower Energy Costs Act on a bipartisan vote of 225-204. CBS News reported at the time that the bill “would sharply increase domestic production of oil, natural gas and coal, and ease permitting restrictions that delay pipelines, refineries and other projects. It also would boost production of critical minerals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt that are used in products such as electric vehicles, computers and cellphones.”

This common-sense plan to increase domestic energy production, lower prices, and help the U.S. transition to new energy sources is just what Montana needs. But it’s been stopped in the U.S. Senate, where even our own Senator Jon Tester won’t act on it.

Montanans are paying more for energy, and our economy is weaker, because too many leaders in Washington refuse to free our energy sector. We need them to get out of the way and let American energy companies do their job. The more Washington meddles, the worse off we all are.

Jesse Ramos is a former Missoula City Councilman and the State Director for Americans for Prosperity-Montana.

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