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Former President Barack Obama greets outgoing Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen at the inauguration of Joe Biden on Jan. 20, 2021. (AP) Former President Barack Obama greets outgoing Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen at the inauguration of Joe Biden on Jan. 20, 2021. (AP)

Former President Barack Obama greets outgoing Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen at the inauguration of Joe Biden on Jan. 20, 2021. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher March 11, 2022

Pence falsely blames Biden’s nixing of Keystone pipeline for US reliance on Russian oil

If Your Time is short

  • The Keystone XL pipeline was never built, so Biden’s canceling it didn’t make the U.S. more reliant on Russian oil. 

  • After the U.S. placed economic sanctions on Venezuela in 2019, the U.S. began to buy more Russian oil.

With its first advertising campaign, a group led by former Vice President Mike Pence said it is spending $10 million on a claim that President Joe Biden, by canceling the Keystone XL oil pipeline, "dramatically increased Americans' dependence on Russian oil." 

The TV ad from Advancing American Freedom, which Pence founded in April 2021, targeted 16 House Democrats. The ad appeared March 7, the day before Biden announced the United States’ ban on imports of oil and other energy from Russia.

The spot opens with violent images of the carnage in Ukraine. Then the narrator says that before Russia’s invasion, "a horrific decision had already been made. Joe Biden caved to the radical environmentalists and stopped America’s Keystone pipeline, and dramatically increased Americans' dependence on Russian oil, endangering America's security and helping Russia fund their invasion." 

 

The version of the ad the group posted on YouTube targets Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa. But Advancing American Freedom said the same ad would also target Democrats running for re-election in Arizona, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia in the House, where Democrats have an 11-seat advantage.

Pence’s name or image do not appear in the ad.

The ad is wrong about Keystone and dependence on Russian oil.

Canceled Keystone was never built

Biden on his first day in office canceled the permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported crude oil from Canada to Nebraska, where it would connect with another leg stretching to Gulf Coast refineries. 

The pipeline would have been able to carry up to 830,000 barrels of oil every day, more than the U.S. imports from Russia, but it would not have been a simple offset.

The pipeline would have required years of construction and likely faced legal challenges, so it couldn’t have solved today’s demand needs. There would have been no certainty that the pipeline could have produced a net increase of that number of barrels a day, rather than just transporting oil from Canada that is currently being transported some other way, and producers would not have been obligated to sell that entire amount to the U.S.

In saying the cancellation dramatically increased dependence on Russian oil, the ad quotes "S&P Global Report" as saying "US reliance on Russian oil hits record high." Advancing American Freedom did not reply to our requests for more information to support the ad’s claim. 

We found an April 16, 2021 article from S&P Global, a financial information firm, with this headline: "Analysis: US reliance on Russian oil hits record high despite souring ties." The first subheadline read: "Russia has filled the gap left by US oil sanctions on Venezuela." The article did not mention the Keystone pipeline.

Featured Fact-check

Indeed, we found that Venezuela is the key reason the U.S. increased its Russian oil imports.

Russia became a more significant source of oil for the U.S. after the U.S. placed economic sanctions on Venezuela in 2019. In the absence of oil from Venezuela, U.S. oil companies turned to Russia for supplies.

That being said, Russia is a relatively small source of oil for the U.S.

In 2021, the U.S. imported about 672,000 barrels per day of crude oil and petroleum products from Russia. That accounted for about 8% of imports overall, and between about 3% and 4% of U.S. oil consumption. 

In 2022, preliminary reports indicate that the U.S. has decreased its Russian imports.

Experts told PolitiFact that the U.S. could replace Russian imports with American oil, but that it would take time and cost more. 

Our ruling

Advancing American Freedom said Biden's cancellation of the Keystone pipeline "dramatically increased Americans' dependence on Russian oil."

The Keystone pipeline was never built, so Biden’s canceling it didn’t make the U.S. more reliant on Russian oil. The United States’ decision to buy less oil from Venezuela is the key reason the U.S. bought more Russian oil. In 2021, about 3% to 4% of U.S. oil consumption was from Russian imports, but in 2022, preliminary reports indicate that the U.S. has decreased its Russian imports.

We rate the statement False.

RELATED: Keystone wouldn’t simply offset oil US imports from Russia

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Pence falsely blames Biden’s nixing of Keystone pipeline for US reliance on Russian oil

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