President Joe Biden may not have had to loosen sanctions on Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro’s government if he hadn’t nixed the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Keystone XL pipeline, the permit of which Biden revoked shortly after taking office, would have imported enough heavy crude into the U.S. to offset any need for Venezuelan imports, according to a review by The Daily Caller News Foundation. On Tuesday, the Biden administration moved to ease some of the sanctions former President Donald Trump placed on Venezuelan energy in 2019 in an effort to curb oil and gasoline prices.
While the Keystone XL pipeline wasn’t expected to be operational until 2023, Reuters reported, it’s unclear when the U.S. will begin importing oil from Venezuela under the Biden administration’s deal.
“Who wouldn’t rather buy Canadian oil than Venezuelan oil?” Steve Milloy, a former Trump administration transition official and JunkScience.com founder, told TheDCNF in an interview. “Canada is our close neighbor to the north. Venezuela is a hostile dictatorship that tortures its people. Why would we want to fund that versus Canada?”
U.S. refineries imported 506,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Venezuela in 2018, prior to the Trump administration’s sanctions, according to the Energy Information Administration. Between 2008-2018, the U.S. imported an average of 801,000 barrels of crude per day.
By comparison, the Keystone XL pipeline — an extension of already-operational infrastructure — would have transported an additional 830,000 barrels of heavy crude per day from western Canada to refineries in Texas, the pipeline’s operator TC Energy confirmed to TheDCNF in an email.
“We were so taken aback when President Biden vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline,” Jason Kenney, the premier of Alberta, Canada, told U.S. lawmakers Tuesday.
“We were also perplexed when the Administration’s response to sky high gas prices was to plead with OPEC to produce and sell more oil, while working to lift sanctions on Iranian and Venezuelan exports,” he continued.
The Department of State under the Obama administration acknowledged that Venezuela was a major supplier of heavy crude to the refineries the Keystone XL pipeline would feed in its January 2014 environmental analysis of the pipeline. A separate market analysis concluded that Venezuelan energy producers would benefit most if the pipeline wasn’t constructed.
“If Gulf refiners cannot access Canadian heavy oil, the most likely alternative is Venezuelan supply, which is projected to grow based on ongoing investments,” the August 2013 report from research firm IHS Markit concluded.
“Therefore, the decision on Keystone XL may ultimately boil down to a determination of oil market share between Canada and Venezuela,” the report continued. “Venezuelan heavy oil—and Venezuela—will be the number one beneficiary of a negative decision on Keystone.”
Venezuela, which the U.S. government has accused of widespread human rights violations, is among the least “free” countries in the world. The South American nation’s oil industry has been a key government revenue generator since it was nationalized in the 1970s, according to the Strauss Center for International Security and Law.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from TheDCNF.