It was a nice, peaceful inauguration, something America badly needed. Former president Donald Trump didn’t attend, breaking a longstanding tradition, but I doubt that too many of those who did attend missed him. The nightmare has ended but the memory lingers on. President Joe Biden faces significant challenges and he deserves a grace period to get settled in but there really isn’t time for that. So, true to his promise, he set to work on Day 1, issuing over a dozen executive actions including: creating a COVID-19 coordinator position, cancelling Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization, implementing a 100-day mask mandate on federal property and interstate public transportation, rejoining the Paris climate accords and revoking a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
Coordinating the response to the COVID-19 pandemic would appear to be his number one domestic priority. Vaccines were developed in record time but getting people vaccinated has been dreadfully slow, resulting in avoidable pain, suffering, anxiety and death, especially among the elderly who are most at risk and account for most of the deaths attributed to the disease. State-by-state performance in managing the challenging logistics involving in getting almost everyone vaccinated with a perishable vaccine with unpredictable shipping data varied from barely adequate to mostly awful.
Here in the nation’s most populous state, currently the epicenter of the pandemic in America, it seemed to take forever just to get even front line medical personnel vaccinated. Available doses were not getting into enough arms fast enough to avoid wastage. Then, just before the MLK holiday weekend, a decision was made to allow vaccinations to be given to anyone over 65 and anyone else with an underlying condition, including, incredibly, smokers. This is, obviously, a huge segment of the population and would quickly have resulted in long waiting lines, rapidly depleted supplies, frustrated people whose appointments were cancelled, often after waiting in line in vain, overextended websites malfunctioning and hotlines ringing unanswered. County vaccination centers were then told to vaccinate group 1b tier 1 (persons over 75) before persons over 65, but the online application process for many still took hours and many of the elderly didn’t have access to a computer. The Coronado vaccination site at the city’s community center was difficult for disabled persons to access because of adjacent pipe-laying operations involving heavy equipment. One site in Imperial Beach showed a wrong address on the website. To make matters worse, all the county vaccination sites were closed for the holiday weekend. What sense did that make during the worst medical crisis in a century?
These were not problems of Mr. Biden’s making but he now owns the rollout problem and if a national COVID-19 coordinator can help get more Americans vaccinated and keep them out of overextended hospitals, by all means give him or her all the resources and authority necessary to get things done. The number one domestic priority is getting the pandemic under control. Domestic priority number two should be getting businesses open again, Americans back to work and economic growth back to pre-pandemic levels. Some of Mr. Biden’s executive actions on Day 1 will not be helpful in this regard, among them, the decision to rejoin the Paris accords, revoking many of Mr. Trump’s actions in removing climate-related restrictions on business and revoking the Keystone XL pipeline permit.
The Keystone pipeline would carry crude from the oil sands of Canada’s Alberta Province south across the border to Nebraska, on the way to American refineries and maritime terminals on the Gulf Coast. It was already expected that Biden would take this action if he won election, in deference to the left wing of his party, which will demand this and much more to try to prevent the extraction of carbon-based fuels from the ground. But the Canadians had hoped to change his mind by promising to use all- green energy in the construction and operation of the pipeline, U.S. steel for the pipe, and employ 10,000 U.S union workers. But Mr. Biden, with a virtue-signaling stroke of the pen, cost the nation thousands of good-paying jobs and stuck a finger in the eye of our closest friend, neighbor, ally and leading trading partner, while signaling to the rest of the world that a deal with America is often only good until the next election.
This comes on the heels of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s order to shut, by May 12, the Great Lakes Pipeline 5 which runs from Superior, Wisconsin, across Michigan to the Lake Huron port of Sarna, Ontario. This 645-mile pipeline carries much of the oil used for the production of gasoline, jet fuel and heating oil for the Canadian residents of the border regions where most of Canada’s population lives. It will raise prices for these products dramatically. With friends like the U.S., who needs enemies? Mr. Biden telephoned Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau after Mr. Trudeau expressed his disappointment with the decision. The White House Press Corps might consider asking Mr. Biden, “What did you say to Prime Minister Trudeau when he asked ‘Why are you doing this to us?’ instead of the usual softball questions they will continue to feed to him.
These actions to satisfy the climate fanatics in his party, who are convinced that only they have access to the facts and to “the science,” will cost many American and Canadian jobs, harm both economies, raise the price of petroleum products and possibly sour relations between our two nations which share a common border that, while the longest in the world, is essentially invisible. But it will do absolutely nothing measurable to prevent global warming or climate change or even to keep crude oil in the ground. One way or another, crude will get to refineries and maritime terminals and eventually to markets that need it and are a long way from being able to rely exclusively on renewable energy. And it will travel, if not safely by pipeline, then by truck, train, barge or ship, greatly increasing the risk of spillage, highway congestion, catastrophic accidents, pollution and product cost, which of course, will be passed on to consumers. But the climate warriors will feel very virtuous.