WASHINGTON – Donald Trump’s prospective cabinet is now stacked with friends of Canadian oil, with vocal proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline his picks to run key posts in the State and Energy departments.
Both are from the state where the pipeline concludes: Texas.
Trump announced Tuesday that he’ll ask Congress to approve Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as the U.S’s top diplomat — and the decision on international pipeline permits belongs to the secretary of state.
And Rick Perry is the pick for energy secretary, sources tell The Associated Press. When he announced his ill-fated run for president last year, the former Texas governor promised he’d waste no time approving the pipeline: “(I’ll do it) on Day 1.”
Canada’s former ambassador to Washington recalls different meetings with both men, where they expressed that support. Gary Doer recalled one event at the Canadian embassy in Washington featuring Perry and pro-pipeline governors.
He also chatted with the secretary of state pick when they shared a table at a Washington dinner. Tillerson spoke to him about the different projects Exxon had going in Canada — including one that involves 4.6 billion potential barrels in Alberta and investments in lower-emitting extraction technology.
“He was very proud of those investments,” Doer recalled.
At that dinner Tillerson lamented the fate of Keystone XL. In a speech, he spoke at length about the project currently scuppered by the Obama administration, which Trump has hinted he could soon revive.
Tillerson cited it as a prime example of economic damage from government meddling.
“The United States and Canada both need this vital pipeline,” he told the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., last year. “Keystone XL would improve U.S. competitiveness, it would increase North American energy security and it would strengthen the relationship with one of our most important allies and most valued trading partners.
“But approval of the pipeline has been taken out of the hands of experienced career officials, and it has become a tool of political manipulation.”
He noted that the project had undergone four environmental reviews by the State Department, all of which concluded that it would not result in greater danger or greater amounts of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere.
Tillerson’s nomination could face resistance in Congress.
Lawmakers are primarily expected to interrogate him about his years-long relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, at a time of conspiracy theories and scrutiny of Trump’s own relations with Russia.
The president-elect fuelled those suspicions about his Moscow ties last week — by insulting the U.S. intelligence community.
After reports that U.S. officials concluded Putin tried helping him win the election, Trump last week blasted them as the same people who’d botched the intelligence regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
Republicans have promised to investigate Russian involvement in the election. Some have also suggested they will grill Tillerson.
For others, the greatest source of consternation lies on environmental grounds. After Perry’s name surfaced in media reports, the anti-pipeline group 350.org issued a statement titled: “Another day, another climate change denier.”
Perry, in fact, had promised to eliminate the Department of Energy. His own possible future department was one of three he’d vowed to scrap during his presidential run — the names of which he forgot during a 2012 debate, a turning point in his campaign.
Tillerson’s own view of climate change is decidedly nuanced.
Exxon’s boss says he believes humans are contributing to global warming. He’s long supported a carbon tax as the best policy for curbing emissions, arguing it provides greater clarity to the market than the hodge-podge of incentives and cap-and-trade systems that exist in different jurisdictions.
On the other hand, he says climate change is a reality to which that humans need to get accustomed.
Tillerson told the Council on Foreign Relations in 2012 that his company — which for years suppressed research on global warming — was now participating in UN climate research, and working on climate modelling with researchers at MIT.
He said different models show the seas rising to different levels: “You get numbers all over the map… (Is it) four inches? Six inches?”
“We believe those consequences are manageable,” he said.
“As human beings, as a species, that’s why we’re all still here. (We adapt). We have spent our entire existence adapting. So we will adapt to this.”
If new weather patterns shift crops around, he said, humans will respond: “It’s an engineering problem — and it has engineering solutions.”