In a burst of executive orders, President Trump sought Tuesday to revive two controversial oil pipelines — the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline. In the process, he reanimated a stale, mostly irrational debate about infrastructure projects that never merited such controversy.
Anti-pipeline activists bear a great deal of blame for this senseless state of affairs. Despite study after study showing that Keystone XL would have negligible effects on the climate, they built a movement around denying the permit the pipeline needed to cross the Canada-U.S. border, backed by implausible arguments about permanently trapping Canadian oil in the ground by choking off access to it. The movement was misleading — stopping the pipeline would not have really moved the needle one way or the other for the environment — and so it was an enormous misallocation of time and energy. Yet they got their prize, anyway, prevailing on the Obama administration to halt the project.