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High gas prices falsely attributed to Keystone XL cancellation

March 18, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: The Keystone XL pipeline cancellation caused the current high gas prices.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The Keystone XL crude oil pipeline wasn’t yet operational when it was canceled in 2021, and wasn’t expected to be running until 2023. Rather, experts say gas prices are high due to other factors such as the global spike in the cost of crude oil and increased demand after pandemic lockdowns ended.

THE FACTS: Social media users are pointing to President Joe Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline in January 2021 as a major reason for high gas prices in the U.S. in recent weeks. Gas prices have reached record highs since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A meme posted on Facebook last week, which now has over 20,000 shares, reads: “Facts: If they didn’t shut down our pipelines we wouldn’t be paying $7 for gas.”

“So the guy who closed the Keystone pipeline on Day one, wants us to believe it’s Russia’s fault for the gas crisis,” says another Facebook post.

This persistent narrative has been spreading on social media since the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, along with false claims that all other U.S. oil pipelines have also been shut down. That is not the case. Experts tell The Associated Press that the Keystone XL pipeline cancellation isn’t affecting what’s happening in the oil market today. It was never operational when it was shut down, and was not slated to go into service until 2023, according to a press release from TC Energy, the company constructing the project.

“Problem with the Keystone: It’s like saying a highway that was built but never completed is somehow making your commute to work way longer. You never got to ride on that highway. It was never opened. It was never relied on,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.com, referring to the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Keystone XL pipeline was intended to be an expansion of the existing Keystone pipeline, which runs about 2,687 miles from Alberta to Illinois and Texas, and is operating. The pipeline extension was designed to carry up to 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada and North Dakota to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Biden revoked the permit to continue construction in January 2021, shortly after he took office.

The U.S. is still receiving oil from Canada through other means, like railways and other operational oil pipelines running in the U.S in addition to the original Keystone pipeline, said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, a professor and the chief energy officer at the University of Houston.

Even if the Keystone XL pipeline had been completed, the amount of oil it was designed to transport would have been a drop in the bucket for U.S. demand, experts noted. The U.S. used nearly 20 million barrels of oil a day last year, while global consumption of oil was near 100 million barrels. The pipeline would have contributed less than 1% to the world supply of oil, according to AP reporting.

“The total volume of additional supply is negligible in a market that uses 100 million barrels of oil every day,” Jason Bordoff, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia, said in an email statement to the AP.

Instead, the current surge in gas prices can be attributed to other factors. One of the biggest drivers of gas prices is the price of crude oil, which has been rising over the past year. Gas prices have been steadily increasing due to the high demand after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions were removed.

“Post pandemic, we continue to grow demand because economic growth is just ballooning everywhere and supply has been constrained,” Krishnamoorti said.

Oil prices have continued to dramatically increase due to Russia’s invasion into Ukraine. Russia is a major oil supplier and with many buyers shunning Russian crude, there is less oil that people are willing to buy on the market.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.