Michael Whatley

Last month the Obama Administration announced it would delay a decision on whether to permit the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline – a 1,700 mile long proposed pipeline that will connect the Alberta oil sands and Bakken crude oil reserves to Gulf Coast refineries – until after the 2012 election. The decision was no doubt influenced by the boisterous protests led by environmental groups like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Tar Sands Action among others.

What casual observers of the Keystone XL debate don’t realize is that opposition to the pipeline is only one front in a broader anti-oil sands campaign. At the heart of the oil sands opponents’ position is their contention that the carbon content of the oil sands is higher than other crude oils. The NRDC refers to the Alberta oil sands as “dirtier and more corrosive” than other oil supplies. Tar Sands Action referred to Keystone XL as “the fuse to North America’s biggest carbon bomb.” Indeed, these advocates have routinely circulated the alarmist claim that development of the oil sands means “game over” for the climate.

Another major front in the anti-oil sands campaign is an effort to implement Low Carbon Fuel Standards (LCFS). An LCFS is, in a nutshell, a cap-and-trade program for transportation fuels that forces consumers to ditch affordable fuels like gasoline and diesel and replace them with alternative and renewable fuels and technologies that are not fully developed yet, like electric cars and cellulosic biofuels. Ironically, the NRDC even admits that the advanced biofuels necessary to achieve the mandate “have yet to be produced on a large scale.”

Fortunately, the American public has not embraced the LCFS concept. According to polls by CNN and Rasmussen, 51% of Americans oppose carbon credit trading and energy mandates called for under LCFS. Even larger majorities of Americans oppose paying more in taxes and higher energy costs to artificially prop-up renewable energy. This explains why Congress failed to enact an LCFS mandate even when the Democrats had massive majorities in both the House and the Senate.


Michael Whatley

Michael Whatley is Executive Vice President of the Consumer Energy Alliance.