Republicans bash Biden's energy policies during Jason Kenney's committee appearance

Republican members of the U.S. Senate's energy and natural resources committee took advantage of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's appearance on Tuesday to bash the Biden's administration's energy policy in general, and its decision to scuttle the Keystone XL pipeline.

Alberta premier pitches new pipeline to U.S. senators

Jason Kenney pitches Alberta oil to solve U.S. energy woes

3 months ago
Duration 2:02
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney appeared in front of a U.S. Senate committee, hoping to convince prominent lawmakers to consider Alberta’s oil and gas industry, and the idea of building another pipeline as solutions toward energy security.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said Tuesday he didn't invite Jason Kenney to appear before the U.S. Senate's energy and natural resources committee to "relitigate the past" — namely, President Joe Biden's scrapping of the Keystone XL pipeline. 

Yet that's what many of the committee's Republican members seized on, taking advantage of the Alberta premier's appearance today as an opportunity to bash the Biden administration's energy policy in general and its decision to scuttle Keystone XL.

Since gas prices have soared, Republicans have been vocal about linking the price at the pump to its cancellation, though Kenney's presence also gave those senators the opportunity to criticize the administration for reaching out to unfriendly regimes to boost oil production.

On both those issues,  Kenney seemed more than willing to oblige the Republicans, while refraining from coming down too hard on the U.S. president. 

He was there to champion his province as a trustworthy source of energy to the U.S. and, as he said in his opening statement, pitch the idea of building a new pipeline "to achieve the dream of North American energy independence and security."

He expressed frustration that the U.S. has turned elsewhere for oil, to OPEC and specific countries like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, and had spent hundreds of billions of dollars in recent decades defending security around the Persian Gulf.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Tuesday made his pitch for another oil pipeline to the States during an appearance before the U.S. Senate's energy and natural resources committee. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The solution to Washington's energy security challenges, he said, "is your closest friend and ally."

Kenney's appearance came as gas prices skyrocket, Washington scrambles for more oil and with the U.S. midterm elections just around the corner.

He was invited by Manchin, the committee chair and a Keystone supporter who is also a critical swing vote in the evenly divided Senate. Just over a month ago, the West Virginia Democrat visited Alberta to tour the oil sands and meet with executives and key players in its oil industry.

The committee also heard virtual testimony from Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson. Nathalie Camden, Quebec's deputy minister of mines, and Electricity Canada president Francis Bradley also testified.

Government perplexed

Kenney said his government was perplexed that 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 dictatorships like Iran and Venezuela."

Kenney said, with political will from Washington, "we could also get another major pipeline built that would forever allow the United States to free itself from imports from hostile regimes."

Kenney was invited to the hearing by the committee chair, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, a supporter of the Keystone pipeline and a critical swing vote in the evenly divided Senate. (Mariam Zuhaib/The Associated Press)

Republicans on the committee were certainly receptive to his remarks, and more than happy to carry on with those themes. Wyoming Republican John Barrasso, the ranking member on the committee, asked a series of questions about Biden's decision to kill Keystone.

"Is it fair to say that President Biden's decision to kill the Keystone pipeline, increased cost, harmed the environment and added to our supply chain chain troubles?" he asked.

"I think that's a reasonable conclusion," Kenney said.

"Does Biden's policy make any sense for the people of the United States or of Canada?" Barraso asked.

"It's for you to figure out what works for people in the United States," Kenney said.  "But I'll just say this. We find it inexplicable that the government of the United States has been more focused on encouraging additional OPEC production than Canadian production."

WATCH | Kenney makes case for Alberta oil:

Alberta premier in Washington makes case for Alberta oil

3 months ago
Duration 1:13
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he found the U.S. focus on OPEC oil production 'inexplicable,' in this friendly exchange during a Senate hearing on U.S. petroleum and mineral needs.

Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, continued, asking whether Canadian energy companies have been unable to deploy capital as a result of some of the energy policies imposed by the Biden administration.

"Well, I would say yes," Kenney said.

Lee asked what message is sent "to our Canadian allies, including to Alberta" by the cancellation of  Keystone XL pipeline, and the reaching out to countries like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to ramp up production.

"All I can say is: inexplicable," Kenney said.

While the Republicans were receptive, Kenney needed to convince the Democrats on the committee, who, except for Manchin, supported the decision to scrap Keystone XL. Yet most Democrats did not attend, and those who did asked questions not directly related to Kenney's pitch. 

For example, Sen. Angus King, a Democrat from Maine, asked how Alberta had lowered its methane emissions.

Following the hearing, Manchin appeared to support Kenney's pitch for a new pipeline and expressed hope Biden reverses course.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal last month, Biden administration officials are seeking ways to boost oil imports from Canada, but don't want to resurrect the Keystone XL pipeline.


Mark Gollom

Senior Reporter

Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.

With files from Alex Panetta