Keystone XL: The wrong question
The Keystone XL pipeline from Canada’s tar sands would have pros and cons, but foes would do better to shift their focus to the larger environmental issues.
The question of whether to build an oil pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas is turning out to be one of the most important political decisions of the year for the Obama administration. It’s an agonizing choice because the costs and benefits of building it are so closely balanced; opponents have overstated the environmental risks, and proponents seem oblivious to the consequences of continuing to feed our nation’s oil addiction.
The Keystone XL pipeline would run 1,700 miles and cost $7 billion, generating thousands of construction jobs. It would increase oil imports from a stable, friendly neighbor while decreasing U.S. reliance on more volatile (and sometimes hostile) OPEC regimes. What’s more, pipelines are the safest way to transport oil. (LA Times)
Plans for a 1,700-mile-long tar-sands oil pipeline across the Midwest face a variety of political and logistical hurdles. To that, add one more: a large black beetle with red spots whose habitat, it seems, lies right where the Keystone XL pipeline would go.
Out of 23 endangered species that range on or near the pipeline route, only the American burying beetle would be adversely affected by the controversial, 36-inch pipeline, a recent environmental review says.
Canadian pipeline company TransCanada has already moved into beetle relocation mode. (LA Times)
Keystone XL: More about the politics than the petroleum
For months, the stars seemed pretty well aligned for the Keystone XL pipeline, the proposed $7-billion megaproject that would carry oil-sands crude from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico coast in Texas.
Though the U.S. State Department has seemed at times to drag its feet, all the arrows had been pointing in the direction of a resounding “yes.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed her cards by declaring herself “inclined” to support it. Five of the six governors through whose states the 2,700-kilometre conduit would run were on board. And a country dying for jobs had a whopper of a shovel-ready project.
Then, a little thing called politics reared its head.
Proponents of the TransCanada Corp. project, which would double the amount of Alberta crude flowing south, now fear that President Barack Obama will give in to pressure from the base of the Democratic Party to nix the pipeline.
With Mr. Obama’s approval rating sliding to a record low – leading more than half of Americans to think for the first time that he will be a one-term President – the White House needs to bring every stray Democrat it can find back into the fold before the 2012 election.
The progressive wing of the Democratic Party has been feeling particularly unloved by this White House. Killing the Keystone XL project would be a powerful way for the administration to show its renewed affection. (Globe and Mail)