Is Keystone XL worth the fight?
Those who follow the debate about the Keystone XL Pipeline have very likely formed their own opinion about the project’s merits, or dangers. Further presentations may not change any minds.
The controversial project is still awaiting approval or rejection by President Obama. Late last month the U.S. State Department issued its final environmental impact statement. As summarized by this Jan 31st article in the New York Times:
The State Department released a report on Friday concluding that the Keystone XL pipeline would not substantially worsen carbon pollution, leaving an opening for President Obama to approve the politically divisive project.
The department’s long-awaited environmental impact statement appears to indicate that the project could pass the criteria Mr. Obama set forth in a speech last summer when he said he would approve the 1,700-mile pipeline if it would not “significantly exacerbate” the problem of greenhouse gas emissions.
Political pressure surrounding Keystone is intense and could be especially problematic for this president, as conveyed by the Washington Post:
The decision remains politically fraught for Democrats. Environmental activists fiercely oppose it, arguing that the pipeline could leak, would accelerate development of the greenhouse gas-intensive oil sands in Alberta and would increase the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.
Wendy Abrams, founder of the Chicago-based nonprofit group Cool Globes and a major Democratic campaign contributor, said she felt a “gut-wrenching pain for my kids” when she read the report. She said it made her question her past support of Obama and Kerry. “If they can’t get it done, what am I hoping for?”
The New York Times recently gave the topic “Room for Debate” treatment, asking: Is Keystone worth the Fight?
The yes column was represented by: Bill McKibben, environmentalist; J. David Huges, geoscientist; Jane Kleep from Bold Nebraska and Erich Pica with Friends of the Earth U.S.
McKibben framed it this way:
As it turns out, Keystone XL is the issue that has brought more activists into the street than any environmental question in a generation. That’s because they understand that if we’re ever going to tackle global warming we actually have to leave some carbon in the ground. And they understood that this was one place where President Obama, acting by himself, could make an enormous difference. Should he do the right thing, it would be the first time a world leader has said: Here’s a project we won’t build because of its effect on the climate.
The no column included: Tony Horwitz, author, “Boom”; Burton Richter, physicist; Cindy Schild, American Petroleum Institute and Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger with the Breakthrough Institute. Those arguments range from Keystone XL being a good/necessary project or that its dangers have been overstated in a way that misdirect attention from more important efforts.
Here’s how Burton Richter, author of “Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Climate Change and Energy in the 21st Century” put it:
Those opposed to Keystone are trying to mobilize support for a cause: combating climate change. I do support that cause, but will not waste time or effort on things that do no real good. Now if the Keystone opponents wanted to mobilize to push through a carbon tax, I would be with them, but that is much harder. The anti-Keystone movement is fundamentally about politics and building support for the “anti-something” organizations.
This is where a post would normally close with some sage observation. But I can only state the obvious: Canadians and Americans remain divided on the pros and cons of this project. And reasoned arguments seem unable to bridge that fundamental divide.
Tags: canada, economy, energy, environment, Keystone XL pipeline, pipeline safety
I vote for the pipeline. I vote for nuclear power. I vote for the environmentalists to get real jobs other than lobbying for fun, fame and profit.
Getting rid of the insanely huge and wasteful monster trucks and gas-sucking SUVs and mini-vans many Americans drive would be a very positive step towards reducing our use of carbon based fuels. No excuses! Until then the “debate” is meaningless.
Canada should adopt BC media magnate David Black’s proposal and build a bitumen pipeline west to the BC port of Kitimat where Black wants create jobs and build a refinery that can export expensive and much sought finished product overseas — rather than shipping the bitumen via Keystone to Texas refineries so Americans can export the finished product for a healthy profit while also providing their federal and state governments with lots of tax revenue that should be generated in Canada for Canadians.
Somebody must have hacked into OL’s account.
Funny one Peter! But the truth is I often agree with OL up to a point, but then our two paths diverge in the ether and that makes all the difference…
There are many good reasons to say “no” to Keystone.
The IEA estimates that Keystone would harvest 3 times the carbon that would take us over 2 degrees C, the absolute limit for a catastrophe we might survive. If we’re lucky.
See: “IEA acknowledges fossil fuel reserves climate crunch”
We are warned by our most trusted messengers, such as NOAA, NASA, the Royal Academy of UK (SIr Isaac Newton was president), National Academy of Sciences (Einstein was a member) the World Bank, the IMF, American Academy of Pediatrics. Plus 195 academies world wide with their top scientists.
Not the con men and cynics in the carbon industry-and the fossil fools that drink their Kool-Aid.
And it would strip forests the size of Florida, forests that might have absorbed enormous quantities of CO2 before they were removed as “overburden”. Would Keystone “replace” those forests? They say they will.
Even 2 degrees itself may be too high – a “prescription for
disaster” says Dr. James Hansen, chief climatologist at NASA (ret.)
This is not a smart gamble.
Did McKibben get to Washington from the north country in an electric car? None I know of have enough range to make the trip let alone get back. My brother’s 1980 Mazda GLC got 47mpg, better than most hybrids. Seems to me that 47 mpg in such a car is more efficient than 26 in a Subaru today. One can get a Cadillac today that gets 30. I cannot afford an electric car nor a hybrid nor solar panels. Wealthy folks may. So the elite get to brag act pompus while I drive what I can afford. Some have gotten “Obama phones” do I get an Obama car?
The price of fuel is forcing us out of jobs that require commuting.
Jeff, us regular folk may not be able to afford electric cars or hybrids, but we sure can buy a used Civic or Corolla instead of a used SUV or pickup. Twenty mpg makes 30+ mpg look mighty good when you’re at the pump.
And I’m not quite sure what OL intends– there’s a suggestion there that until we all start driving more fuel efficient cars, there’s no point in taking any other measures to reduce greenhouse gasses. I don’t happen to have any children, so it’s not all that big a deal to me, but to any of you who do, if you care about them at all, you should be pushing for every possible policy to reduce emissions, and practicing everything you personally can to make yourself a smaller part of the problem. Of course, for all we know, it’s already too late.
OL sounds a bit like McKibben. Yeah! Assuming OL is serious, it would be interesting to know how he suggests we accomplish his recommendation? Seriously, what steps do you have in mind for “Getting rid of the insanely huge and wasteful monster trucks and gas-sucking SUVs and mini-vans…”?
There are so many of those fuel – guzzling monstrosities out there that I wonder who are all the people who worry about climate change and what are they driving? There are either a lot of hypocrites out on the Northway or a lot of stupid people who don’t understand the consequences of their actions. I’m not sure which it is. Either way, there’s not much point in talking about solutions unless people are serious about them.
A solution to this problem is not going to come via the sacrifice or good intentions of consumers. So I think we need to stop blaming people who travel, or who drive cars they can afford, or who happen to buy large vehicles that meet their needs.
Instead of telling people to travel less, I think we need to make traveling less wasteful. Instead of telling people to buy more expensive hybrid cars, I think we need to make cars with better fuel standards that are more affordable. And I think instead of telling people to stop buying trucks, we need to make trucks more efficient.
Those types of solutions MUST come from industry – and if industry is not willing to provide those solutions on their own, then they have to be mandated by our government.
Halting the Keystone Pipeline is a nice way of sending a message that we’ve had enough with this business as usual nonsense… but if it isn’t backed up by industry changes or governmental policy changes, I am not sure what good it does.
I haven’t followed the politics of this closely, but I wonder if the Obama administration can try to strike a compromise here. Offer to approve the pipeline in exchange for a series of strong, sweeping industrial efficiency standards.
There are so many of those fuel guzzling monstrosities? Car statistics do not include pickups, cross-over vehicles, mini-vans or what most people typically think of as SUVs such as a Ford Explorer of any size. The Toyota RAV4 is not considered a car and rates at 31 mpg highway.
In the January 2014 chart at the website below, light trucks outsold cars. But that category includes cross-over vehicles and mini-vans, classic SUVs and pickups. True SUVs make up 9% of the sales.
What I don’t like about the Keystone XL is the taking of private property for private use using eminent domain.
I don’t have anything agains people using big trucks if they really need them but lots of people drive big trucks without any real need, and that is wasteful to society in general and expensive for the truck owners. Then there are the people who buy the big truck and put monster truck tires on them, tires that cost much more than standard tires and they decrease mileage significantly. Why throw your own money away?
advertising works, and auto manufacturers make more profit on trucks so they advertise their trucks. People often used say that nobody will pay a premium to buy a hybrid. Often those were the same people who paid a premium to buy their truck. It boggles the mind to think someone who would never consider buying a luxury car like a Jag or Audi will spend pretty much the same money to buy a truck that never sees cargo in the bed, never leaves a paved road, and never pulls a trailer.
And while I’m at it, you know you can pull a trailer with a car? True!
“A solution to this problem is not going to come via the sacrifice or good intentions of consumers. So I think we need to stop blaming people who travel, or who drive cars they can afford, or who happen to buy large vehicles that meet their needs.”
Again, the concept of individual responsibility is completely disregarded. If people don’t accept responsibility for their actions individually, it is hard to see how effective solutions can be accomplished collectively. I’m not blaming people who travel, not at all, but let’s have some sanity when we do. I doubt anyone needs to drive a vehicle that is nearly 17 feet long, over 6 feet wide, over 6 feet high and gets 15 – 21 MPG. Given that the price tag for such a vehicle is in excess of $40K, I also doubt people are driving them because they are affordable. People don’t mind individuality when they drive vehicles that scream “Look at me!”, but when it comes to responsibility, they fall back on the collective principle and cry for government intervention.
The NY State Police have the same problem as they use Expeditions and Tahoes for routine patrols. Routine. Why? Because we (taxpayers) allow it. Another example of wasteful excess.
Knuck- I have trouble believing there are many trucks whose beds never see a load. Sure, cars can tow a trailer, if the car is big enough. My Ford Focus tows our boat or a little trailer with no one but me in it because of the gross capacity for the vehicle. The boat and trailer are about 500 lbs. Add 3 people and luggage and I stand to damage the transmission according to the owner’s manual.
Using Original’s perspective, I should not even own the boat that needs to be towed that itself uses gas that pollutes the air and the water.
If this country lived by individual responsibility there would be no “social safety net.” Families with more than 6 people can’t fit in most cars because they don’t have enough seat belts… since government now requires use of seatbelts… The citizens took away that personal responsibility to choose to buckle up. I doubt the kid with the swamp tires is worrying about seeking government intervention.
Are the police SUVs hauling more that the trooper and his computer? Are they carrying body armor, heavy weapons, road flares emergency gear, haz mat stuff?
The environmental push should be shutting down tar sands oil extraction. Fracking is green compared to what those guys are doing to Alberta right now.
The issue for me with the pipeline is not the pipeline itself but the environmental issues surrounding transporting that much oil over major aquifers, if that could be solved then how is this pipeline different from any other form of oil transportation?
People had large families, trailers and boats long before the introduction of SUVs and they got along just fine. I know; I was there. Do you really need a 20 ft long, four door pick-up? Must be a hell of a boat! The next thing for the police will be military surplus, armored, assault vehicles….oh, that’s right, I forgot! There are limits to everything, even the militarization of the police and we have long since exceeded them.
My overall point is that people crave a collective, government enforced solution to the carbon based energy issue (and many other issues as well) but are unwilling to accept the individual responsibility that all collective actions flow from. You can’t have one without the other. Just as societies are made up of many indivduals, societal problems are resolved by the responsible actions of individuals that eventually lead to the development of societal norms and collective solutions.
“you should be pushing for every possible policy to reduce emissions, and practicing everything you personally can to make yourself a smaller part of the problem. ”
I agree with the second part of this, and I do what I can and luckily I can afford it.
But on the former part of what you write. I think there is disarray and a lack of focus in our energy policy based on trying to do too many things at the same time. This so called “all of the above” idea sells well when you want to keep all the voters happy. But to make progress and do it in a timely fashion we need to focus our efforts in a more narrow way. Otherwise we will continue to make little or now gain and basically spin our wheels while we argue.
This pipeline is a good example. It is a huge waste of political capital that should be conserved to effect real change. The same goes for the fracking issue in NYS. Just make a decision one way or the other.
If I was the president and the governor. I would approve the pipeline and ban fracking in NYS.
Mervel’s more right than everyone else on this thread, including McKibben. It’s about the water. Might want to look up West Virginia for a preview.
Well, yes and no: it’s not like fracking is good for the water supply. At best, if all goes well, the poisons won’t get into the water supply any time soon.
As for the NY State Police and their use of Expeditions and Tahoes for routine patrols because we (taxpayers) allow it– please let me know who I should vote for to put them in smaller cars.
Original- I don’t see the collective desire. Folks are not sold. Yes government serves the purpose but the desire is not there.
But to the same point of personal responsibility. We are all benefitting by the use and drawing down of the Ogalalla aquifer but where is the collective desire to stop the withdrawal or personal responsibility not to use it to grown corn or other crops. The demand calls for resources. I didn’t need corn in my gas tank. There are woodlots being converted to cornfields near many in this audience as we write.
The solution, not a pleasant one, is directly connecting any taxes on fuels to energy replacements. Taxes on energy to pay for transportation efficiency improvements, solar panel promotion, nuclear development and waste disposal or re-use. We paid to get rid of “clunkers.” Pay me to get off the grid. Pay me to get an electric car. Pay me to relocate to a community where I can walk no more than 3/4 miles for groceries or have public transportation.
We have a system in place that needs a change but no money to make the change in any kind of a hurry.
Well what about the auto companies? Seems like I see a lot of commercials pushing all kinds of gas guzzlers. Should they have some individual responsibility not to advertise these fuel eating monsters? After all, the Supreme Court says corporations are like people – so they should act appropriately and take some responsibility.
i’m sympathetic to a lot of what larry is saying, but not to the idea that everything in society reduces to the individual.
ameliorating climate change by appealing to personal responsibility is going to work about as well as ameliorating crime by doing the same thing.
You can’t drive a Tahoe to the Pipeline protest.
MYOWN- Is your perception of gas guzzlers clouded by outdated consumption statistics and/or by outdated pollution standards? $ wheel drive pickups get 17-18 mpg and I’ve seen some with diesels get into the mid-20s. Cross-over SUVs get into the mid to high 20s for mpg. My 1963 Rambler got 24…. New tier 4 and 4a diesel engines for instance may not use less fuel but they are less polluting. Half the cars in Europe use diesel. The manufacturers are responding to CAFE standards. The new jeep liberty coming next year will be totally new and get 28-31 mpg highway.
Can’t buy a new diesel car or SUV in NY…
For a person to sense an impact climate change is like trying to wear down the the grand canyon with a paint brush.
Keystone XL fight is only valuable as a delaying action because as we use less petroleum fuel China is increasing consumption. We need fuel or at least something to tax to transfer into supporting the next energy infrastructure. (Somebody could say it is not responsible to sell gas consuming cars in China…) The conversion to alternative fuel sources cannot be made like turning a switch. I cannot afford gasoline at twice the price, especially when healthcare is going up so fast and home heating oil has doubled in less than 10 years. Moving to a warmer clime is a practical but not yet possible solution as much as it may satisfy Cuomo.
I think that the abrogation of individual responsibility is one of the gravest mistakes our society has ever made.
I expect the reason to go around personal responsibility or not be concerned with it is the consequences of those personal actions on others. Illegal immigrants are illegal and should be sent home- accept the consequences of their actions. But their children born here and therefore citizens can’t be sent anywhere. The person who overeats may extend the behavior to others in the family. And like drinking large soft drinks, the consequences of obesity affect the healthcare system. Drunk drivers hurt others more than themselves. So the efforts go out to deter specific practices.
The Keystone XL pipeline is an outgrowth of our collective demand for petroleum- even if the product will all be exported. In anticipation of a potential environmental impact and depletion of the resource and expense of removing the pipeline at some point in the future, all of those costs should be estimated and applied as a tax on transmission. In some manner we (the US) would take over ownership (purchase it for one dollar) and use the reserves to remove it when the time comes. Maybe a bond could be required to cover the job before the line is built.
I kind of disagree with Larry on this. I think if you want to drive an SUV drive one, its part of what this country is about, and that is freedom of choice and freedom to do what I want with my income, its a very basic concept of a free society.
However, there are costs that go with driving cars, all cars. That cost can be measured many different ways, but I think one way to measure it is in the amount of fuel you are using that is being dumped into my air. So the best way to pay for that is through a significant gas tax or an energy tax of some sort. Air and water are valuable resources that belong to all of us in a literal way and if you want to use them as a dumping ground you have to pay the price to do that.
I drive a smaller car not because of some sort of moral benefit to society or because I think I am making a difference, I drive it because I pay less on gas and it was less expensive to buy and I like it.
No problem if you want to drive a gigantic, wasteful SUV, I just don’t want to hear you cry about pipelines or fracking or carbon based fuels if you do. We can’t just do anything we want and then expect everyone else to clean up after us.
Yelling about personal responsibility makes for a nice sound bite, makes us feel high and mighty… but it doesn’t solve problems.
A lot of people drive big vehicles because they can fit more things in them. They are more convenient, more comfortable. You want to brow beat these people and hope that they all suddenly see the light and give up their lifestyles? Good luck with that.
Not… going… to… happen.
Instead, concentrate on making all vehicles acceptably efficient. Then people can drive whatever the heck they want, and who cares if they happen to choose to drive those large, convenient, safe, comfortable ones.
Real solutions are not about restricting choice or reducing options or rolling back progress.
Well, we now know that dave drives a big SUV. And sometimes an SUV is appropriate – if you are transporting lots of stuff and people it may be more efficient than driving 2 vehicles. They are not necessarily safer to drive as they tend to roll over in an accident that a lower center of gravity vehicle wouldn’t.
Dave is correct about increasing average fuel economy. Thank you Jimmy Carter and Obama for forcing automakers to get better.
“You want to brow beat these people and hope that they all suddenly see the light and give up their lifestyles? ”
Why not? Seems to be working on other issues that liberals believe in, but you’re not gonna give up your gas-guzzlers, are you?
Haha yes I see where you are going with it Larry.
I don’t think we value or price “free” natural resources correctly, if we did we would conserve them in a different way and a better way.
So as commendable as OL’s statement is, “Getting rid of the insanely huge and wasteful monster trucks and gas-sucking SUVs and mini-vans many Americans drive would be a very positive step towards reducing our use of carbon based fuels.”, his only solution is individual responsibility to stop driving the vehicles on his list of gas-guzzlers. Not gonna happen.
And, it seems his real concern is that an environmentalist might have used a gas-sucking SUV to arrive at a protest and therefore the debate is meaningless. Not to pick on Larry but if we had followed this line of thought it would be interesting to think where we wouldn’t be today.
For instance, there wouldn’t have been any debate in the 1970’s about industrial pollution, when some of our rivers caught fire, because a clean river activist bought a can a paint from a company that happened to be polluting. Or no discussion or effort to upgrade municipal wastewater treatment plants, that were discharging raw sewage at the time, because an environmental activist flushed a toilet.
No OL, the debate must happen and is not meaningless. Relying on individual responsibility is a non-starter and cop-out. We need vehicles of all sizes that are more fuel-efficient. But every time someone suggests the government raise MPG standards, the auto industry and conservatives howl.
What we should do is give the oil and gas companies a dose of that good old conservative elixir called the free market and end all their billions of government subsidies. Let the price of fossil fuel rise to its actual cost. We wouldn’t need government MPG standards. Auto companies would be in serious competition to deliver cheaper high mileage or hybrid cars and trucks. Fossil fuel consumption would go down as would air emissions. Research and development jobs would explode as companies sought lower cost oil and gas substitutes.
The Keystone XL pipeline is an atrocity. The extraction of the tar sand oil is destroying huge swaths of Canadian land. The multi-national oil and gas companies treat the US like a third world country. The pipeline will bisect the country and jeopardize aquifers and surface waters along its route until it reaches the Gulf where it will be processed and shipped to the highest overseas bidder. As with fracking in the US there is little benefit to American citizens other than a few short term construction jobs. Neither project has anything to do with American energy independence. They have everything to do with extracting the resources as fast as possible, in the cheapest manner, letting the negative impacts fall on rural property owners and selling the products on the world market to the highest bidder.
Mervel: “I drive a smaller car not because of some sort of moral benefit to society or because I think I am making a difference, I drive it because I pay less on gas and it was less expensive to buy and I like it.”
Anybody remember the Arab Oil Embargo? Suddenly Americans lost interest in the ever longer, lower, wider, heavier behemoths they’d been driving for decades, and VW beetles, Toyotas, Hondas started selling like hotcakes. Even though gas seems expensive right now, it apparently isn’t expensive enough for most people to be willing to switch. Beats me as to why.
(In case anyone’s wondering, I drive a 16 year old Honda Civic.)
Or maybe its that the gas prices have been creeping up to gradually– like the frog in boiling water, we’ve gotten used to them bit by bit.
I would approve the Keystone pipeline because it will not make any difference and it wastes precious political capital. I would ban fracking, not because it cannot be done safely, but because it can be done elsewhere and too many constituants are opposed.
Yeah I am neutral on fracking. I think it needs much more controls if we are going to continue to do it in my opinion. I do lean toward doing it though; as oil/gas and energy exploration are great sources of jobs for many blue collar workers, from the guys on the rig through the truck drivers through the suppliers of bits etc. As the US becomes an oil exporter energy is going to be part of our basic industrial mix. Everyone talks about the need for good old manufacturing jobs that pay well that are not shipped overseas, well this is one of them and a big one.
The pipeline should be looked at in the context that it does not create that many jobs and it goes over very sensitive water resources.
Taking billions of gallons of good drinking water, putting toxic chemicals in it, and pumping it into the ground doesnt make much sense to me. It may make some people some money but everyone and everything loses. Air, water and food, why do we put chemicals in all of life’s necessities?
Money is more important than water to drink. Besides, when that water starts getting into our drinking water, other corporations can make big money selling us water trucked great distances from not yet poisoned places. And our corporate health care system can make big money curing the diseases it causes.
Oh, yeah, and because “jobs”.
The water usage is a huge issue. We don’t price water correctly, if we actually charged for the water usage as we should fracking may not be feasible. But actually water is used for all drilling not just fracking and it is all polluted.
But jobs are important, decent jobs are a human rights issue just as much as clean water is.
You don’t think it would be preferable to create jobs repairing bridges and highways, rather than by poisoning ground water?
Perhaps this is all a scheme by early investors in Mars One. If they ruin all the drinking water on Earth they can get more people to move to Mars then they can sell them not just drinking water but air two!
Walker, sure but those don’t exist and won’t exist.
Oil and natural gas are valuable world wide commodities, they are not “make work” jobs to try to find something for people to do; they are real; they are producing something that is needed for the entire globe. The US is leading right now in decreases in greenhouse gas reductions, because of our natural gas boom and because of the fact that we are good at this, we invented these techniques.
So lets not talk about caring about poor people and jobs and manufacturing jobs in particular while at the same time trying to kill one of the best sources of blue collar manufacturing jobs we have in the US which exist in the energy industry( which includes wind by the way–but that of course is also opposed in NYS). Yes it needs overview it needs regulations just like the auto industry does just like any other heavy industry does. But its not going away that is for certain, and in my opinion the benefits to the environment that come from increased natural gas production and usage outweigh the costs.
Believe me people in the coal business hate fracking.