Michael Bastasch on July 13, 2017
Small town North Dakotans were so thrilled President Donald Trump approved the Dakota Access oil pipeline, they “lit fireworks and rode trucks with American flags,” according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg visited Williston, N.D., to learn more about how hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was shaping rural America. What he learned shed light on exactly why Trump won 80 percent of the vote in the 2016 election.
“When the Dakota Access Pipeline was approved, that removed $6-7 per barrel of cost from producing oil in the region, which brought more investment and jobs here,” Zuckerberg wrote of his visit on Facebook Wednesday.
Here’s the important part (bold is my own):
A number of people told me they had felt their livelihood was blocked by the government, but when Trump approved the pipeline they felt a sense of hope again. That word “hope” came up many times around this. One person told me the night the pipeline was approved, people lit fireworks and rode trucks with American flags down Main Street to celebrate.
Many people I talked to here acknowledged this, but also feel a sense of pride that their work contributes to serving real needs we all have every day — keeping our homes warm, getting to work, feeding us, and more. They believe competition from new sources of energy is good, but from their perspective, until renewables can provide most of our energy at scale, they are providing an important service we all rely on, and they wish they’d stop being demonized for it.
The Obama administration blocked the Dakota pipeline after it had initially been approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The reversal came after environmental activists and Native Americans clashed with police and pipeline security guards for months, trying to physically block the project.
And that came after eight years of environmentalists claiming fracking was poisoning people’s drinking water, causing cancer and harming infants all without strong evidence to back it up. One prominent activist even called fracking “rape.”
But to North Dakotans, fracking brought a flood of investment and jobs into the state, some of which left when the price collapsed in 2014. The state saw more economic opportunity and, as Zuckerberg noted, “these are good jobs where people with a high school diploma can make $100,000 a year.”
The huge increase in oil and natural gas production has brought down energy prices, including what we pay at the pump, and it’s enhanced the U.S.’s geopolitical standing. The U.S. is on its way to becoming a major exporter of oil and gas.
Trump approved the Dakota pipeline on his fourth day in office in January, the same day he approved the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Both projects were blocked by the Obama administration.
The Dakota Access pipeline was not a major election issue, but Trump’s support for the Keystone XL pipeline was probably enough to convince North Dakotans he would help the region by approving Dakota Access.
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, promised that under her leadership there would not “be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.”