President Obama “is focused like a laser on putting people back to work,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) assured us last fall – echoing repeated statements by President Obama and Administration officials who “can’t wait” for Congress or others to take action and create jobs.
The jobs thing didn’t last long, however. The President recently vetoed TransCanada’s application for permits to build the Keystone XL pipeline. Approving it “would not be in the national interest,” he declared.
This decision, along with the President’s refusal to allow exploration for natural gas and oil off our coast in Virginia, shows a true reluctance to move America toward more energy independence. But this Keystone decision clearly shows a “caving” to the more extreme elements of the environmental movement.
It is hard for most Americans to understand how it is contrary to the national interest to create 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs, increase US gross domestic product by an estimated $350 billion, and bring 830,000 barrels of oil per day via pipeline from friend and neighbor Canada to Texas refineries. It’s hard for us to grasp how pipelining Canadian oil is worse than importing oil in much riskier tankers from unstable, unfriendly places like Venezuela and the Middle East – or how it’s better for the global environment to transport Canadian oil by tanker to China, where it will be burned under far less rigorous pollution laws and controls.
It’s equally hard for average citizens to comprehend how more than three years of careful environmental studies are insufficient, especially after the State Department had issued several reports concluding that the pipeline would have only “limited adverse environmental impacts” in areas that are already dotted with oil wells and crisscrossed with oil and gas pipelines.
The 1,660-mile-long Keystone XL pipeline would begin in southeastern Alberta, Canada and end in Port Arthur, Texas. It would incorporate existing Keystone Cushing pipeline through Kansas and part of Oklahoma, while most of the US portion would be new, creating 20,000 jobs by manufacturing and installing 36-inch pipe, valves and other components to build that addition.
Environmentalists belly-ached that surface mining Alberta’s oil sands damages lands and habitats. Never mind that this technique is being replaced by “steam-assisted gravity drain” processes, that previously mined lands are being restored to forest and grass habitats, or that blocking Keystone XL will neither end oil extraction nor prevent crude or refined product shipments to China.
Environmental activists complained that mining, processing and using this oil will increase greenhouse gas levels and global warming. Never mind that total “greenhouse gas” emissions would amount to an almost undetectable portion of annual global GHG emissions; that “dangerous manmade global warming” is an exaggerated scare that has little basis in truly peer-reviewed science; that there has been no warming for a decade; the UN sponsored “science” is crumbling at its foundation; and increasing numbers of climate experts are publicly dissenting from UN climate orthodoxy.
Jobs, GDP, tax revenues and national security therefore have taken a backseat to the political calculus on stitching together votes from the liberal-left to secure the base for President Obama’s re-election.
As our President suggested in his State of the Union speech, he is willing to generate expensive electricity for three million homes by blanketing a million acres of public lands with taxpayer-subsidized, bird-killing wind turbines, habitat-smothering solar panels, high-voltage transmission lines, and gas-fired backup units. But the Keystone pipeline is intolerable.
TransCanada could do as Mr. Obama suggested: reapply for permits after the fall elections and after changing its intended pipeline route to avoid allegedly sensitive areas. In the meantime, it could continue trying to win friends and influence people.
There is a better way.
TransCanada should work closely and cooperatively with farmers and farm bureaus, state governors, agencies and legislators, mayors and other affected parties, to address concerns and compensate landowners for the use of their property, unavoidable impacts and damages in the unlikely event of an accident. The company should emphasize that Keystone XL will create thousands of jobs; generate billions of dollars in private, local, state and national revenue; use the best and safest pipeline technology; and bring oil from a friendly country to American refineries, motorists, farmers and manufacturers.
TransCanada should also take legal action, in state and/or federal courts of its choosing. The company’s permit application has been rejected – for specious environmental and overtly political reasons. The Administration’s decision is clearly “ripe” for litigation.
The company may be reluctant to sue. Litigation over such matters is not as common in Canada as in the lawsuit-happy USA; the judicial territory may be unfamiliar; and the outcome is not certain.
However, in the United States environmentalists often win in the courts of media and public opinion, especially in an election year, especially with hundred-million-dollar anti-oil campaigns, laden with emotional rhetoric.
On the other hand, companies frequently win in US courts of law, where they are able to compile complete judicial records with solid scientific facts supporting their projects – something that is virtually impossible to do in a sound-bite-driven (and often biased) news media. The factually bankrupt rhetoric of environmentalist campaigns is no match for sound science, when claims and arguments are scrutinized at the trial and appellate level. Faced with defeat, the green wolf packs often go off in search of easier prey.
The anti-pipeline, anti-oil sands groups, and their allies surrounding President Obama, will not disappear. But they should be challenged.
This better way forward has strong probabilities for success. It is clearly in the national interest of both Canada and the United States that it be taken, and that it succeed.