Our hydrocarbon wealth especially offers amazing benefits: improved human safety, health, welfare and living standards, in a more stable world, with new sources of jobs, wealth and income equality. Not tapping these resources is contrary to Obama’s promises and our national interest. It is immoral.
Of all the opportunities arrayed before him, the 1,179-mile Alberta to Texas Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) is the most “shovel ready.” Indeed, it awaits merely a presidential phone call or signature, to slash bureaucratic red tape, streamline the permitting process, and create construction and manufacturing jobs. Some 40,000 jobs in fact – more than half as many as were created nationwide last December.
Jobs. KXL would create an estimated 20,000 construction jobs; another 10,000 in factories that make the steel, pipelines, valves, cement and equipment needed to build the pipeline; thousands more in hotel, restaurant and other support industries; and still more jobs in the Canadian, North Dakota and other oil fields whose output would be transported by the pipeline to refineries and petrochemical plants where still more workers would be employed. With Mr. Obama and his EPA waging war on communities and states that mine and use coal, these jobs are even more important to blue-collar workers in Middle America.
Revenue. States along the pipeline route would receive $5 billion in new property tax revenues, and still more in workers’ income tax payments. Federal coffers would also realize hefty gains.
Safety. Right now most of the oil from Canada’s oil sands and North Dakota’s Bakken shale deposits moves by railroad and truck fuel tanks, often through populated areas. Truck and rail accidents have forced towns to evacuate and even killed 50 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Corporate executives and federal regulators are working to improve tanker designs and reroute traffic. But even despite occasional accidents, pipelines have a much better safety record. KXL would be built with state-of-the-art pipe, valves and other components, to the latest design, manufacturing, construction and inspection specifications. It has been configured to avoid population centers, sensitive wildlife areas and the Ogallala Aquifer.
Resource conservation and energy needs. Building Keystone will help ensure that vast petroleum resources can be efficiently utilized to meet consumer needs. In conjunction with other pipelines, it will greatly reduce the need to flare (burn and waste) natural gas that is a byproduct of oil production in Bakken shale country. The pipelines will also help get propane and natural gas to places that need these fuels. Recent pipeline problems, plus unusually high demands for propane to convert corn to ethanol, created soaring prices and shortages amid one of the nastiest North American cold spells in decades.
KXL will also enable state and private lands to continue contributing to America’s hydrocarbon renaissance. That is especially important in the face of congressional and Obama Administration refusals to open more federal onshore and offshore oil and gas prospects in Alaska and the Lower 48 States.
US-Canadian relations. The endless dithering over KXL has frayed relations between Canada and the United States. It has compelled the Canadians to take decisive steps toward building new pipelines from the Alberta oil sands fields to Superior, Wisconsin … and to Canada’s west coast, for shipment to Asia’s growing economies. Further delays will not reduce oil sands development – only the oil’s destination.
Climate change. In his SOTU speech, President Obama informed us that “climate change is a fact.” Well, duh. It’s been a fact since Earth was formed. The only pertinent issues are these: Are humans causing imminent, unprecedentedclimate change disasters? And can we control Earth’s climate, by drastically curtailing hydrocarbon use, slashing living standards and switching to renewables?
No evidence supports either proposition. Moreover, oil sands production would add a minuscule 0.06% to US greenhouse gas emissions, a tiny fraction of that amount to global carbon dioxide emissions, and an undetectable 0.00002 deg F (0.00001 C) per year to useless computer-model scenarios for global warming.
A January 24 letter spearheaded by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) and signed by all 45 Republican Senators notes many of these points and requests that President Obama permit KXL pipeline construction “as soon as possible.” Several Democrats told Hoeven privately that they support his effort and Keystone, but are nervous about challenging the President or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly.
On January 31, the State Department reaffirmed its previous conclusions that KXL is unlikely to noticeably increase demand for Canadian oil sands or global emissions of carbon dioxide. With reelection behind him, the President has “greater flexibility” and doesn’t need to kowtow to his radical green base. By picking up his pen and phone, cutting off another year-long study of whether Keystone is “in the national interest,” and approving the pipeline, he could satisfy independents and his union base. He’d even reduce CO2 emissions, which State says would be 28-42% higher if Canada’s oil is shipped via train or truck, instead of through the pipeline.
Democrats are urging unemployed workers to lobby Republicans for extended benefits. They should instead lobby Democrats and the President to do what’s right for America: create the jobs they promised, by approving Keystone – along with drilling, fracking, mining, and reduced taxes and regulations.
America is waiting. Will there finally be real hope and change? Or just more hype and empty rhetoric?
* Acronym translator: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Outer Continental Shelf, hydraulic fracturing, Keystone XL pipeline, absent without leave, State of the Union, carbon dioxide, catastrophic manmade global warming, President of the United States, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, Department of Energy, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council.
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