I am an avid fan of the environment. I like trees and grass. I like clean air and water. I accept global warming and climate change theory. But the Keystone Pipeline should not be the symbol of environmentalism it has become. The State Department’s recent report on environmental impact makes a lot of sobering conclusions, the most important of which is that the Pipeline isn’t that big of a deal.
Among the most important points the State Department makes is that this oil, whether we like it or not, is probably going to market. It’s just going to travel by rail to the Canadian coasts, creating more greenhouse gases from transportation, not to mention transporting oil by rail has proven to be more dangerous to human populations and prone to spill. If this oil was produced in the U.S., we might have better standing to be protesting over its extraction. But it’s not.
Giving ourselves direct access to this oil from a friendly neighbor instead of some tumultuous region in the Middle East makes sense. It’s rather absolutist to assert that Canadian tar sands will suddenly be game over in the fight against climate change. The oil in question produces 17% more emissions; hardly enough to constitute environmental Armageddon in light of the planets current excess pollution, especially considering Canada isn’t exactly the oil-producing Saudi Arabia of the west.
It’s also likely the case that this pipeline isn’t going to be the major job creator republicans and oil executives claim it is. One study by the Cornell Global Labor Institute estimates that about 3,900 construction jobs will be created. But providing ourselves with easy access to energy will help us keep costs down while we hopefully are transitioning our energy market to more green methods, and this helps sustain the current job market. It also assures that the consumption is kept more localized than otherwise, instead of being shipped half way across the world to China or other hungry growing economies. The pumping of this oil shouldn’t mean we have to abandon all other attempts to clean up our energy.
So let it be built! But let’s see if we can’t avoid the giant Ogallala aquifer in the plains states, because it is huge source of fresh drinking water that is a more precious resource than oil. Have this pipeline be the king of all pipelines for safety, with extra measures to prevent a land equivalent BP oil disaster. If we are serious about environmental protection, the least we can do is entrust ourselves with handling this stuff over the Chinese or Canadians, who will be going full speed forward on tar sands with or without us.
Rather, environmental groups should be focusing on lobbying for more green technology to shadow oil production in the near future. Maybe put a 1% excise tax on every gallon going through the pipeline to be directed into green energy projects. We need to focus on things we have control over, like modernizing our energy grid to be more efficient and conservative in our consumption of energy. How about completely revamping our water consumption so that we don’t drain the Colorado River dry? I get the outrage caused by the idea of more oil and the potential for more spills on U.S. soil. But has environmentalism really faltered so much that it hinges on this arguably inconsequential pipeline?