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Warren Watch: Behind Buffett’s support of Keystone XL pipeline project

Warren Watch: Behind Buffett’s support of Keystone XL pipeline project

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Although he hasn’t spoken publicly about the most recent step forward by the Keystone XL oil pipeline proposal, Warren Buffett has generally supported the project for years.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission voted 3-2 last week to authorize a route for the pipeline through Nebraska. It was an important government approval, although the plan still faces possible legal challenges.

Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., told my colleague Paul Hammel in 2012 that he wasn’t an engineer, geologist or otherwise especially qualified to have an opinion about the project.

But in later interviews, he said pipelines are generally the best way to transport fluid materials such as oil to be processed into fuels.

He also said in a CNBC interview in 2015 that the pipeline would be good for Canada and America, adding, “Canada’s been a terrific partner for us over the decades and it is wrong for us to thumb our nose at them.”

Some conservative commentators had suspected Buffett of financing anti-pipeline groups so that BNSF Railway, Berkshire’s railroad, would get more oil-related hauling business. Not true, Buffett has said.

His pro-pipeline stance has confounded opponents who think it’s out of line with his support of former President Barack Obama, who blocked the project while in office, and his philanthropic support of humanitarian works.

But Berkshire owns pipelines that carry 8 percent of the nation’s natural gas flow, and in 2008 Buffett and associate Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, took a trip to Alberta, Canada, to see an oil sand extraction project and learn about the expensive process.

And a Berkshire company named LiquidPower Specialty Products Inc. could sell the new pipeline its “flow improver” products, which are chemicals that help sticky materials flow through pipelines like the Keystone XL.

On the Wall of Fame

Sheriffs aren’t always the most popular folks, but Howard Buffett, former Omahan and current sheriff of Macon County, Illinois, is the 27th inductee into the Decatur Wall of Fame.

Warren’s older son moved to Decatur in 1992 to become a vice president with Archer Daniels Midland Co., leaving that job in 1995 but staying in Decatur and raising a family, farming and starting a career in philanthropy through a foundation funded by his father.

At the community’s annual Thanksgiving luncheon recently, Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe called Buffett “a man of purpose” and said his contributions to the community go beyond writing checks, Claire Hettinger wrote for the Decatur Herald & Review.

“With everything he does, he is trying to make a difference,” Wolfe said.

Buffett’s grants for projects in the Decatur area over the past 20 years have totaled $55 million, including funding for law enforcement training and equipment. His foundation’s other objectives include improving food security and resolving conflicts in developing countries.

He had volunteered for the Sheriff’s Office for years. When Sheriff Thomas Schneider retired for health reasons in September, he appointed Buffett to serve as sheriff until an election next November.

“We all love him and thank him,” Schneider said.

Web scam alert

Howard Buffett’s foundation, meanwhile, has issued a fraud alert to warn people about emails circulating on the Internet using his name and the name of the foundation.

The messages say Buffett is giving money to people at random or looking for “agents” to represent the foundation and asks the receiver to click on a webpage address.

The foundation said it doesn’t give away money or solicit money or people via email.

The Omaha World-Herald is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

steve.jordon@owh.com, 402-444-1080, twitter.com/buffettOWH

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