Will Warren Buffett Really Make Billions Off The Keystone Pipeline’s Demise? It’s Complicated

Moving crude by rail is costly, inefficient, and dangerous compared to oil pipelines. It's also incredibly lucrative.

The internet is not known as a purveyor of truth. (In case you didn’t know.)

False information can take many forms. Maybe it’s the fake Robin Williams quote your aunt shared on Facebook. Or perhaps it’s the nutty Qanon conspiracies you see in your Twitter feed. Sometimes it’s more subtle—the news headline that says something that’s actually not in the article. (Editors write headlines, not reporters, and you’d be surprised how many editors flub headlines.)

FEE Composite: Flickr-Fortune Live Media | Roy Luck, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Recently there was a meme going around claiming that President Joe Biden spiked construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day because of political donations from Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor who runs the multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway.

The meme (which I won’t link to because I don’t want to get slapped down for spreading fake news) went like this:

The Keystone pipeline. Cancelled by Biden on first day. Warren Buffet owns the railroad that is now transporting all that oil. Warren Buffet donated 58 million to Biden campaign. Warren Buffet would lose billions in transport fees if the pipeline is completed. See how politics works? It is not an environmental issue, it is a money issue...

The meme contains information that is demonstrably false. Nevertheless, it was shared enough that it captured the attention of Reuters, who fact-checked the meme.

Keystone Pipeline Background

As Reuters notes, the post is referring to the Keystone XL Pipeline, a project Biden canceled by executive order on his first day in office. The action was essentially a nail in the coffin to a project that would have carried 830k barrels of heavy oil-sands crude from Alberta to Nebraska per day.

The meme is clearly wrong on multiple points. For starters, it doesn’t even spell Buffett’s name correctly. More importantly, the assertion that Buffett donated $58 million to the Biden campaign is bogus.

Public records show Buffett didn’t donate to any political campaign in 2020, let alone a $58 million sum, and a spokeswoman for Buffett confirmed this.

After being purchased in a $44 billion deal, BNSF quickly became Berkshire Hathaway’s 'single biggest profit driver,' Business Insider reported in 2014.

“Mr. Buffett gave no money to the Biden presidency campaign in 2020,” Buffett assistant Debbie Bosanek told Reuters. “He files all filing requirements for political contributions and made no contribution to any PAC.”

So score one for Reuters for setting the record straight (and correctly spelling Buffett’s name).

The news agency also correctly pointed out that Buffett donated to congressional Democrats in 2019, though they declined to say how much. (If you’re wondering, three checks alone in 2019 to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee totaled more than $460,000. A hefty sum, to be sure—though one Buffett would hardly feel.)

Unfortunately, from here Reuters fact check goes off the rails.

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Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has been the subject of articles in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Star Tribune. ...

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