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Andy Nguyen
By Andy Nguyen May 17, 2021

No, the East Coast gas shortage isn’t related to the Keystone Pipeline or Biden’s order

If Your Time is short

  • President Joe Biden’s executive order halted construction on an extension of the Keystone Pipeline, which carries Canadian crude oil to refineries, not gasoline. He did not order the pipeline closed.
     
  • The supply disruptions and price spike on the East Coast are due to an attack on the operator of the Colonial Pipeline, which carries gasoline from refineries to markets, not a shortage of crude oil.

A fuel shortage hit the East Coast on May 7 after the Colonial Pipeline was shut down following a cyberattack, but some people on social media blamed the fuel woes on President Joe Biden’s order halting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline project in the Great Plains.

"When you can't find gas, remember who executively ordered the Keystone Pipeline to close," a Facebook post read on May 10.

Similar claims linking the Colonial and Keystone pipeline issues have been made elsewhere on Facebook and by politicians on Twitter, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif, and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The post gets a few things wrong. First, Biden’s order didn’t close the Keystone Pipeline; it’s still operating. Second, Keystone doesn’t supply gasoline; it carries Canadian crude oil to U.S. refineries. Third, the gasoline shortages are due to a problem with the operator of the Colonial Pipeline, not a lack of crude oil — or anything connected with Keystone or Keystone XL.

The Colonial Pipeline, which runs for 5,500 miles from Houston to New Jersey, supplies the East Coast with 45% of its gasoline. When a ransomware attack targeted the computer network of the Georgia-based company that operates the pipeline, the company decided to halt all operations in order to contain the attack. The temporary shutdown of the pipeline resulted in fuel shortages and price hikes throughout the East Coast.

Keystone XL would have been an extension to the still operational Keystone Pipeline, which stretches for 2,687 miles from Hardisty, Alberta, in Canada to Illinois and Texas. The extension would have created another to carry crude oil from Alberta to U.S. refineries and terminals and expanded the network’s capacity.

Construction on the Keystone XL project began on April 7, 2020, and less than 100 miles of the 1,179-mile extension was completed by the time  President Biden issued an executive order revoking the construction permit on Jan. 20, 2021.

Even if the permit wasn’t revoked, Keystone XL could not have helped solve the problem created by the attack on the Colonial Pipeline. Keystone XL would’ve helped carry more crude oil to refineries in Illinois and Texas. The Colonial Pipeline transports oil that has already been refined into usable fuel. 

The U.S. State Department told PolitiFact in 2017 that oil supplies coming through Keystone XL would have a minimal impact on fuel prices in the United States. 

Our ruling

A Facebook post suggests that shortages of gasoline are due to an executive order closing the Keystone pipeline.

The post is not accurate. Biden’s executive order halted construction on Keystone XL, an extension to the Keystone pipeline, but did not not close the Keystone pipeline, which is still operating. 

The Keystone pipeline does not carry gasoline. It carries crude oil to refineries and terminals. 

The gasoline shortages and price spikes on the East Coast are due to the temporary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, whose operator was targeted in a cyberattack on May 7. They are not due to a shortage of crude oil.

There’s no connection between Biden’s Keystone XL order and the supply shortages that resulted from the Colonial Pipeline attack.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Facebook post, May 10, 2021

Facebook post, May 11, 2021

Kevin McCarthy tweet, May 11, 2021

Marsha Blackburn tweet, May 12, 2021

The Washington Post, "Colonial Pipeline ‘ransomware’ attack shows cyber vulnerabilities of U.S. energy grid," May 10, 2021

Colonial Pipeline Company, Media Statement: Colonial Pipeline System Disruption, May 9, 2021

TC Energy, Keystone Pipeline System, accessed May 15, 2021

CTV News, "Work starts on disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline," April 6, 2020

Canada Energy Regulator, CER continues oversight role of KXL, Jan. 25, 2021

The White House, Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis, Jan. 20, 2021

TC Energy, Keystone Pipeline Starts Deliveries to U.S. Midwest, June 30, 2010

Colonial Pipeline, About Us, accessed May 17. 2021

PolitiFact, "Will all the oil from the Keystone XL pipeline be exported," April 16, 2017

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More by Andy Nguyen

No, the East Coast gas shortage isn’t related to the Keystone Pipeline or Biden’s order

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