What’s all this about a pipeline? | Rich Elfers

What’s all the fuss about the Keystone XL pipeline proposal anyway? The proposed 1,179-mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada, would diagonally cross Montana and then traverse South Dakota, to Steel City, Neb., where it would be connected to already existing pipelines to Gulf state refineries.

Liberals don’t like it because it would take tar sands from Canada, causing higher pollution: the extracted oil produces 17 percent more carbon pollution than normal petroleum production, according to a Nov. 18, 2014, New York Times article by Coral Davenport. They object to the whole process of extracting oil from tar sands because it is environmentally destructive.

Conservatives want it, Davenport goes on, because they say it will create 42,000 temporary, two-year jobs. Eventually, upon completion, the pipeline would create 35 permanent jobs and make the U.S. more energy secure by getting oil from Canada. Their argument is that this pipeline just adds to the thousands of pipelines that already criss-cross the nation.

The fact of the matter is that environmental groups have turned the Keystone XL pipeline into a symbol for them. Because the pipeline crosses an international border, the president is open to pressure from these groups not to approve it. They’re seeing the pipeline issue as a litmus test of the president’s loyalty to environmental causes, according to Bernard Weinstein, associate director of the Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University in a Feb. 4, 2015, article on Watchdog.org.

These groups are exaggerating the issue of pollution because whether or not the pipeline is built, Canada will continue to process its tar sands into petroleum and then ship it via rail or truck to the west coast, as long as it remains cost effective. Of course, with the recent drastic price reductions of crude oil, the issue could become moot.

The arguments of conservatives ignore the fact that recently created railroad and trucking jobs would be lost as a result of the pipe construction. Additionally, most of the jobs created by construction would be temporary. Republicans and Democrats have turned the proposed pipeline into a political issue to rally their base constituents in preparation for the 2016 elections.

In other words, this whole pipeline controversy is not that important one way or the other.

The Republican-controlled Congress may soon pass a bill favoring construction, while President Obama has promised publicly he will veto any related bill that lands on his desk. The Keystone XL pipeline decision is actually another straw man for larger differences between the Democratic president and the Republican-controlled Congress.

After five years of controversy, the next few weeks in February could see an end to the wrangling. President Obama will have to make a decision and if he vetoes it, doing so it would be only his third veto since he took office in January 2009. Republicans are unlikely to be able to muster a two-thirds vote in both houses to overturn the president’s veto. His decision could be the first of many the president makes in the next few months. All of this emotion, threats and name-calling will continue for the last two remaining years of the president’s term, not because it is in the nation’s best interest but because the power of politics has a much greater voice than rational thinking in the nation’s capital.