At the core of my career, I take pride in being a part of something bigger. I take pride in doing my part building the infrastructure that supplies Americans with the energy that fuels their vehicles, heats their homes and businesses, and drives the economy. Proven countless times over, pipelines are the most effective and efficient way to boost our economy and move toward a realistically cleaner future. Not to mention, it’s the means by which I have provided for my family for many years.
Back in the 1940s, my grandfather came back from World War II and worked on a pipeline, subsequently starting the Crabtree family tree of working in the oil and gas industry. My father worked in the industry as well, and I was proud to follow suit after serving in the U.S. Army. Three generations have witnessed firsthand pipelines are the most reliable source of energy transportation our country relies on. In addition to my grandfather and father’s experience, I’ve discovered over the past two and a half decades of my life, pipelines provide a clear path forward for our country economically and environmentally.
It’s hard to understand the rationale behind the Biden administration supporting Nord Stream 2 in Russia, while canceling the Keystone XL Pipeline here at home. I, alongside several other dedicated pipeline workers were laid off after President Biden signed the Executive Order canceling KXL in January. While the administration promotes their infrastructure bill, it is disappointing to see much-needed pipeline infrastructure overlooked, as they choose to prop up adversarial nations instead. On the campaign trail, President Biden promised to add jobs and support labor unions, however, his administration is doing the exact opposite, one paycheck at a time.
The Biden administration is cutting jobs that are both longstanding and needed more than ever. Promises were made to displaced pipeliners like myself for a career in renewable energy, which has so far been unfulfilled. This is like asking a lawyer to quit his job and become a dentist. With the Biden administration’s new priorities in motion, my next job will likely be downgraded to an entry-level position with entry-level pay as a 45-year-old who has invested 25 years working in the oil and gas industry.
I’ve always admired the evolution and innovation that traditional energy has provided for our nation, and especially leading to economic growth in states such as Montana, South Dakota, Texas and New Mexico among others. Instead of viewing it as the enemy, it’s important to fully understand how oil and natural gas enables our way of life. Kids in school need to know that the chair they are sitting on, the pen they are writing with, and their favorite slide on the playground are all byproducts of a petroleum products, likely transported by pipeline.
I mistakenly assumed the recent impacts felt by the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack up and down the east coast would awaken the opposition to the benefits of pipelines, but not even the long gas lines and gasoline shortages were enough to sway opinion.
Or consider the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has safely operated for more than four years. Despite being built by some of our country’s most skilled tradespeople, its impressive safety record, and the fact that pipelines are 4.5 times safer than transport by rail, a small but vocal group of activists continue to call for its shutdown.
Fortunately, a federal judge last month dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe attempting to shutter the crude oil pipeline. The decision came after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Biden administration affirmed the pipeline’s ability to continue operating – playing a key role in safely providing consumers with American energy.
While this industry has provided my family with a reliable source of income, it has also become the cornerstone of American infrastructure and the economy on a much larger scale. If Americans realize the importance of energy transportation through pipelines, not only will I have a career to pursue again, but our country will start to gain economic and environmental momentum that is achievable through investing in the necessary infrastructure. President Biden should listen to pipeline workers on the ground like myself before the next decision comes up about whether to cancel a pipeline in construction.
Neal Crabtree is a pipeline worker affiliated with Pipeliners Local Union 798. He has worked on projects in every state except for Alaska and Hawaii and lost his job after Keystone XL was canceled. Crabtree is based in Fouke, Arkansas.