Obama and the Energy No-Brainer: Keystone XL

As expected, the Obama Administration is foot dragging on what should be a no brainer. But for all the alleged expertise and brain power in his Administration- most of it theoretical, not real world- it was to be expected. At issue is the Keystone XL pipeline that would connect the oil fields of northern Canada with refineries in Texas and the Gulf Coast. As it stands now, Obama has said he will not be pressured into making a decision. However, the Keystone project has not been a secret for over two years now.
The “XL” part of the pipeline is an extension of an existing pipeline which was first proposed in July 2008, before he was elected. South Dakota approved it in February, 2010. It is now November 2011. in fact, phase 1 has been operational since June 10, 2010 (the part that connects to refineries in Illinois) as is Phase 2 (the part that extends into Oklahoma) since February 2011. At issue is an extension of that pipeline to Texas and a second pipeline that would enter the US in Montana and terminate in Nebraska. The key point is that Phase 3 is merely an extension of an existing, operational and safe pipeline.
Of course, the main opposition comes from the environmental movement and other supposedly educated liberals. Their primary claim is that the pipeline will undermine the government’s commitment to clean energy initiatives and that it will increase greenhouse gases. In reality, this is probably the weakest of its arguments, but should be answered regardless. Their best argument- one that they have sort of abandoned- is that the pipeline will cross some environmentally sensitive areas of South Dakota and Nebraska along with the Oglala Aquifer, one of the largest freshwater reserves in the world. However, when confronted with the fact that there will be an inordinate amount of monitoring of the pipeline (some 1,600 checkpoints) to eliminate or mitigate spills or ruptures, these arguments fall by the wayside. In fact, the EPA has now twice approved the pipeline. And the President or Congress can call for another environmental impact study- that is, drag their feet more- the facts will not change.
Instead, they turn to their greenhouse gas/ global warming/ clean energy argument. The fact is that the tar sand oil from Alberta will find its way to market one way or another whether this pipeline is built or not even if Obama disapproves of it and bows to liberal pressures. Instead, the oil will be shipped to Asia, most likely China. As has been pointed out, shipping oil from point A to point B leaves a larger “carbon footprint” than any pipeline ever will. Secondly, the US will still need oil and the thick, sticky crude from Canada- a politically stable ally- is akin to the heavy crude currently imported from Veneuala and Nigeria (two considerably less friendly and/or stable countries than Canada). With or without Keystone XL we will still be importing oil and Canada will still be exporting their oil.
Some have claimed the project would create 20,000 jobs while others have put the number at considerably less- somewhere near 5,000 and that they would be short-term construction jobs. Well, isn’t every construction job, by nature, short term? Building a bridge, for example, is not an infinite term project (although it seems like it sometimes). The fact is that this $7 billion private investment in job creation will create anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 jobs while likely helping other businesses along the way. In effect, this is a $7 billion private investment job creating stimulus that Obama now mulls over. Also, the pipeline will cross ranches and farmland and TransCanada (the owner of the pipeline) will pay fees to the owners of these properties for right-of-way access. I will admit that in advance of State Department (thus, government) approval, TransCanada has unnecessarily resorted to eminent domain. Legally, once that approval is granted- as in the case of railroads and pipelines- property owners generally lose these cases for right-of-way access. However, the refusal of many landowners in the area has been motivated by scare tactics and, in some cases, lies by environmentalists trying to scare landowners to advance their liberal agenda.
However, going back to their concerns about refining this oil in the United States and greenhouse gases, global warming, and alternative energy nonsense, as stated, if Keystone XL is not approved, TransCanada intends- via Plan B- to use existing Canadian pipelines to export the oil via tanker to China or other Asian countries. These Asian countries, especially China, have very lax environmental laws. Thus the refining process in Asia would be a greater contributor to GHG than refining the oil in the United States. If there is a true desire to protect the environment, then it would make the greatest sense- if this oil is to be refined- to do so in the United States. But, there lies the problem- environmentalists would rather have the oil fields in northern Alberta simply shut down. To put it simply: that ain’t happenin’. Therefore, it is a moot point and the logical solution is to export, via pipeline, the oil to the United States. Our environmental protections are light years ahead of those of China, India or any other Asian country. Additionally, most of the major oil spills in history have involved tankers, not pipeline ruptures. Of course, they occasionally happen, however Keystone XL would be the most technologically advanced pipeline and the safety standards would be above the minimum standards currently in place.
Perhaps the only real complaint anyone could have against the pipeline is the economic impact. Diverting this oil from midwest refineries, mainly in Illinois, to Texas would potentially increase gasoline prices in Illinois, Indiana and other states that rely on refined oil products from refineries in Illinois. One study indicates that this could potentially increase gasoline prices anywhere from ten to 30 cents a gallon. However, those “potentials” are just that- theoretical.
The arguments of the environmentalists are so lacking in logic and so hypocritical that they should be rejected out of hand. However, in ObamaWorld where everything is turned on its head in order to justify the liberal agenda, all bets are off on this no-brainer. This pipeline would create 5,000-20,000 construction jobs not using government money (and the number of jobs is inconsequential- any number is greater than zero) to move a product to a destination that can best refine that product with the least real or potential damage to the environment, a product that will find its way to market with or without Obama’s approval regardless. But, we are talking about Obama here and all bets based on commonsense are off the table. Expect him to drag out a decision by ordering more environmental impact studies (is this a best out of five competition? has the physical environment changed?) to the point that the final decision will occur sometime in late November 2012.