Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Few Thoughts on Keystone That Might Surprise You

The Keystone Pipeline project is drawing heavy opposition as it draws toward a possibly decisive vote in Congress, and for good reason.  It’s an environmentally filthy product: heavy oil the consistency of road tar dredged up from Alberta tar sands. The pipeline is an environmentally iffy way to transport.  It won’t do anything to make us more energy independent, whatever that means.  It will make the (evil) Koch bothers richer than they already are.  On the other hand, it’s not that simple. 

The basics of the issue?  An 875 mile long pipeline from the Canadian border through Montana and South Dakota to Steele City, Nebraska where it would connect with existing pipelines.  From there the oil would flow to gulf coast refineries.  The final product would be sold on the open market with the likelihood that some of it would be sold in the U.S.

Will it create jobs?  Sort of.  Construction would take a couple of years and create up to 40,000 temporary jobs.  Communities along the way would enjoy a momentary infusion of cash.  Experience indicates that they would spend it faster than they get it.  Boom-Bust is not a viable plan for sustained economic development.  No more than fifty permanent jobs would be created by everybody's count.

If we stop it will it stop the transportation of the stuff?  No.  A lot is being shipped by rail right now.  More will be shipped that way if the pipeline is defeated.  Shipping by rail is even more environmentally damaging than pipelines.  The record of railroad spills is not a good one, and railroads add more cost and pollution just because they’re railroads.  Of course shipping by rail would add more permanent jobs in many sectors of the economy.  Think about that!  But I digress.  Other pipelines are in the works to move it across the Rockies to ports near Vancouver, BC. where the, as yet, pristine waters of Puget Sound and the Inside Passage remain relatively free of environmental threats of such magnitude.  Plans are being made to expand the capacity of yet other existing pipelines to our own gulf coast. 

In Dr. Pangloss’s world, stopping Keystone would stop Alberta tar sands oil altogether, and maybe that would be a good thing, but this is not Dr. Pangloss’s world.  So my reluctant advice is to approve Keystone as the least damaging alternative amongst a host of damaging alternatives.  I’m prepared to change my mind, but it has to be on evidence, and not on wishful thinking or left leaning Fox News style propaganda.

In the meantime, if we had the political courage to do so, we would be wading into solar, wind, and geothermal as viable alternatives that could put a good chunk of these kinds of projects out of business.  However, considering the shameful voter turnout in America, it’s obvious that we lack political common sense, much less courage.  We’ve given over control of the nation to Ezekiel’s fat sheep and Matthew’s goats.

As for me, I enjoy my gasoline powered cars, natural gas fired furnace, and the privilege of travel on planes, trains and ships.  What about you?

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