Fox News mentioned the Keystone Pipeline 141 times in one week during the network’s coverage of the War in Ukraine
Yet Keystone would have no impact on current energy prices
As Russia invaded Ukraine, Fox News wasted no time suggesting climate policies emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin and made the U.S. more vulnerable to energy price shocks resulting from the crisis. Prominent among the policies Fox News hosts and guests identified was President Joe Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline: Over a seven-day period from February 22 to February 28, Fox mentioned the Keystone pipeline approximately 141 times in segments about the Ukraine crisis.
While the context of the mentions varied, they generally revolved around the falsehoods that the Keystone pipeline, if completed, would reduce U.S. gas prices, cut into Russia’s market share of natural gas in Europe, and help the U.S. become energy independent and thus insulated from the expected price shocks from the Russian invasion.
The Keystone XL pipeline has no link to higher energy or gas prices today
The Keystone XL pipeline was designed to carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska, where it would have connected to the Keystone Pipeline System. The pipeline system flows to the U.S. Gulf Coast, which has refineries that are equipped to process tar sands oil. At the time Biden halted the project, only 8% of the XL pipeline had been built, and it “would have required years of construction and likely more legal challenges, so it couldn’t have solved today’s demand needs.”
Farmer and journalist John Phipps echoes this idea that Keystone XL would have little impact on gas prices, noting in AgWeb:
If the KXL pipeline cancellation has any impact on gas prices today, it is trivial compared to current oil economics and domestic oil production.
Other analyses agree with this assertion. Politifact recently noted that the “decision to cancel the planned Keystone XL oil pipeline, which was not in operation, did not cause the recent increases in U.S. gasoline prices.” Several energy experts also noted in USA Today that Keystone XL does not impact current gas prices.
Additionally, the fuel that would have run through Keystone XL has found its way to the market via other forms of transportation, as two energy journalists recently pointed out on Twitter:
Yet Fox insisted Keystone XL is both the reason for and solution to high energy costs in the wake of the Russian invasion
Many of Fox’s Keystone mentions lambasted the Biden administration for canceling the pipeline, while others theorized that Biden could help alleviate energy issues right now by reopening the pipeline. Notably, Fox commentators rarely (if ever) discerned between the never-operational Keystone XL and the in-use Keystone pipeline. There were thus many instances where commentators seemed to suggest the Biden administration canceled the entire Keystone Pipeline or could just reopen it.
One of these was the idea that canceling the Keystone XL pipeline led to higher gas prices. For example, on the February 22 edition of The Ingraham Angle, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) stated that “across the board, on average, Americans are spending $1.25 more per gallon for gasoline at the pumps. That’s directly related, as Stephen [Miller] said, to stopping drilling on federal lands and ending construction of the Keystone Pipeline. That’s why you are spending more at the pump — it’s not because of Vladimir Putin.” The next day, on Fox & Friends, Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said, “They drove up gas prices on South Dakotans by canceling the Keystone Pipeline which came straight through our state.”
Keystone was also mentioned in the context of U.S. energy independence. One example comes from the February 24 edition of Fox & Friends, with co-host Pete Hegseth stating, “So we know that the Biden administration, you know, through the Keystone XL Pipeline and not allowing additional exploration, they have limited our ability to be energy independent.” On the February 26 edition of Fox News Live, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) suggested that reopening the Keystone pipeline would help resurrect U.S. energy independence. U.S. energy independence is a favorite talking point of right-wing commentators. It’s also complete hogwash – as long as we continue to use fossil fuels, we will always be subject to the whims of the global oil market. The only way to become truly energy independent is to rapidly adopt renewable energy.
The cancellation of Keystone was also raised by polluter shill Marc Morano on the February 23 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight as part of a supposed “War on Fossil Fuels,” which Morano claimed has emboldened and benefited Putin. (Hard to have a war on fossil fuels when public lands drilling increased on a per-month basis in 2021 compared to the previous three years, and when oil and gas companies reported a huge increase in profits in 2021.) Keystone was raised as a way to help our European allies wean themselves off of Russian gas, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) did on the February 22 edition of America’s Newsroom. (If operational, Keystone XL would not have exported natural gas. Additionally, Europe is doing the sensible thing by doubling down on clean energy in order to move away from its dependence on Russian gas.)
Finally, Fox News also suggested that Keystone would reduce our dependence on Russian imports, as Fox & Friends First host Carley Shimkus did on February 25. Shimkus stated: “We import 595,000 barrels of oil from Russia per day. The Keystone Pipeline would have produced 830,000 barrels.” It’s a very strange comparison to make for a never-operational line that would have taken years to complete if approved.
Fox has set the stage for other right-wing outlets and social media commentators to blame Keystone for the Ukraine crisis
This isn’t the first time that Fox commentators have made ludicrous claims about Keystone XL. Last November, they tethered the canceled pipeline to rising gas prices. Last January, when the Biden administration pulled the plug on the project, they pushed misleading jobs claims about the pipeline 74 times over a nine-day period. In fact, Fox has been lying about Keystone since at least 2011, as Media Matters has documented.
Because Fox, in particular, has spent so much airtime making Keystone a symbol of Biden’s climate and energy policy, it has allowed for others in the right-wing media sphere to push the falsehoods around Keystone during key moments like the Ukraine crisis. Tomi Lahren has at least twice attacked its cancellation. OAN’s Jack Posobiec thinks reauthorizing it will “immediately drop the price of oil.” The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro thinks that killing Keystone incentivized the Russian invasion. One guest on the February 24 edition of OAN’s One America News theorized that shutting down Keystone XL helped fuel rising gas prices (he also lied that it was 85% complete when the Biden administration canceled it). On the February 25 edition of Newsmax’s Wake Up America, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) essentially stated that Biden’s weakness, including in shutting down Keystone XL, helped create the conditions for the Ukraine crisis.
It’s Fox News, though, that has helped set the stage. Much like with the Green New Deal, the network has seized control of a narrative with climate implications and is now using it to spread oil industry propaganda and delay action on fighting climate change.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for the term “Keystone” from February 22, 2022, to February 28, 2022. We also included the early morning airing of Fox News at Night on February 29, 2022. We counted all mentions of the term “Keystone” in segments about the Ukraine crisis during this time frame.