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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Biden administration‘s mission to phase out domestically produced oil and natural gas has reignited anti-pipeline activism across the country. Regrettably, the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was marred by “peaceful protests” turned violent during construction, has again become a cause clbre in the literal sense, threatening to reopen an ugly chapter around this key piece of U.S. energy infrastructure.

Earlier this month, a group of Hollywood actors sent a letter to President Biden urging him to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline as a matter of “climate justice.” Sadly, their misinformed call to arms not only distorts the facts, it also sweeps under the rug their lavish lifestyles, which contribute to the very cause they purport to be fighting.


The signers are some of the most frequent patrons of the private jet industry—a form of travel that emits about 40 times as much carbon per passenger as commercial flights. Yet, cutting back on their private jet travel doesn’t appear to be part of their agenda. These silver screen personalities want to have their jet fuel and kill it too.

In 2016, Leonardo DiCaprio put down his carbon footprint by flying privately from France to New York and back to pick up an environmental award. Chris Evans raised eyebrows last year when he shared photos wearing a climate change shirt onboard a private jet. In 2014, Chelsea Handler bragged about flying her dog on a private jet, alone, to meet her. The list goes on and on.

This hypocritical Hollywood letter comes only days after it was revealed that President Biden‘s recently appointed climate czar, John Kerry, took a private jet to Iceland in 2019 to receive the Arctic Circle award for climate leadership.

These jet-setting celebrities face an inconvenient truth—domestically produced fossil fuels are critical to supporting the lives of working-class Americans, as well as celebrities’ high-society lifestyles. Fossil fuels supply over 80 percent of the United States’ energy needs. There is no switch that can be thrown to transition to alternative energies overnight. Attacking U.S. production and transportation capabilities will only increase costs for consumers, kill jobs, and put even greater reliance on foreign suppliers.

The U.S. oil and gas industry supports over 10 million American jobs and creates about eight percent of our nation’s GDP. While those jobs might not afford the private travel Hollywood’s elite enjoy, these are good paying jobs that are creating growth across every sector of our economy and every corner of our country. That reality should not be lost on the Biden administration as it seeks to foster recovery to help Americans who are out of work and facing lost wages and business closures in the wake of the global pandemic.

Hollywood actors are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Unfortunately, their letter gets those wrong, and it’s important to set the record straight.

The actors claim the Dakota Access Pipeline was rerouted across tribal lands to avoid Bismarck, ND, and its “90 percent white inhabitants.” In fact, the existing route was always preferred and included in the original permit application. The alternative route near Bismarck would have crossed 27 more waterways, more agricultural land and would have been significantly longer.

A coalition of Congressional Democrats recently penned a similar letter to the President. Among other false claims, the elected officials allege that there was “egregious environmental racism” in law enforcement’s actions to keep the peace during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in 2015 and 2016. In fact, more than 600 activists were arrested for attacking police and journalists, arson, trespassing and slaughtering livestock. Less than 10 percent of those arrested were from North Dakota. Most were professional protesters who traveled from 46 states to stoke the unrest.

Contrary to recent claims, the Dakota Access Pipeline underwent rigorous vetting, including robust consultations with Standing Rock Sioux leadership and stakeholders across North Dakota. The multi-year permitting process received approvals from federal, state and municipal authorities, which were upheld by multiple courts when challenged. The pipeline has operated successfully now for nearly four years, providing a reliable energy source to consumer markets across the Midwest.

Separately, domestic shale production does not conflict with the United States’ transition to alternative energy sources—as Hollywood elites would have the public believe. CO2 emissions fell 14 percent between 2005 and 2017, the lowest level since 1992, even while oil and natural gas production increased 80 percent and 51 percent, respectively, over the same period. President Biden knows this as under the Obama-Biden administration, U.S. natural gas production grew 35 percent.

Hollywood’s elites have long been removed from the realities facing every day, hard-working Americans. The Biden administration shouldn’t be. Robust domestic oil and natural gas production is imperative to our economy, to millions of American jobs, and to continued success in the fight against climate change. It’s even vital to jet-setting actors’ extravagant lifestyles, whether they admit it or not.

• Craig Stevens, former senior adviser to U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, is the spokesman for Grow America’s Infrastructure Now, a national coalition focused on promoting key infrastructure investments. Follow GAIN on Twitter @GAINnowAmerica.


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