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At some point, the chief executive has an obligation to say “enough is enough” and press forward. But, this isn’t a chief executive who’s willing to make a stand of any kind. The answer to the question “how long will it take before Obama has the sense to stand up to the radical environmentalist portion of his base?” remains unknown, but we know this for sure: that answer involves more than three years per issue.
Environmentalist opposition to Keystone XL typically fell into one of two categories: that the pipeline would supposedly endanger sensitive aquifers in Nebraska and that utilizing this particular form of crude would be “dirtier” than using other forms for crude. Neither claim holds up to any scrutiny.
The aquifer issue presupposes a number of faulty precepts. It implies that Keystone XL will be invading virgin territory that has never seen the likes of a pipeline before. In fact, as the Heartland Institute has documented, thousands of miles of pipelines already crisscross the Ogallala aquifer and Keystone XL will cut a relatively small portion of it. Worrying about spills and contamination is another red herring. The regulations and technologies to prevent spills and to quickly clean them up in the event that one should occur are as advanced as they ever have been. Of all of the many pipelines that cross the Ogallala, Keystone XL would be the most modern, most regulated, most protected and, accordingly, the least to worry about.
The dirty crude issue is equally spurious, because the amount of contamination in crude ultimately doesn’t matter. American refiners have to meet the same clean air and clean water standards no matter what kind of crude they’re dealing with. What about the pipeline’s carbon footprint, you may ask. Personally, I don’t worry about such things, but if you do you ought to rest easy. When one does a complete life-cycle analysis (as opposed to the abbreviated versions that environmental groups do in order to support their theories) crude from Alberta is about middle of the pack in terms of net greenhouse gas emissions impact.
Keystone XL would have delivered almost 900,000 barrels of crude to American refiners per day, taking a serious dent out of imports from overseas. It would have created tens of thousands of jobs and generated billions in revenue. It’s a project that’s all upside and it’s hard to understand why any president would want to kill it, particularly in this economy.
Fortunately, the project isn’t dead yet. Keystone XL immediately announced its intention to reapply for a permit. At the same time, it appears that there is a good deal of bi-partisan support in Congress to take the decision out of the president’s hands. With a competing pipeline route that would ship Canadian crude to China under consideration, we can only hope that Congress does indeed take action and soon. For, as yesterday’s announcement so clearly demonstrates, action is not a word in this administration’s vocabulary when it comes to fixing our ailing economy and addressing our energy woes.
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