Editorial: Put revised pipeline plan on fast track

Friday, January 20, 2012
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If TransCanada Corp.’s proposal to build a 1,700-mile oil pipeline from western Canada to Gulf Coast refineries didn’t date back to 2008, President Obama’s contention that he hadn’t had enough time to properly evaluate it might seem more credible, and his decision to reject it less politically motivated.

And while he made no bones about politics driving the decision — the Republicans mischievously forcing his hand by attaching a rider to the payroll tax extender last month, demanding an answer by Feb. 21 — his action was justifiable.

Clearly, the Keystone XL pipeline is an economic winner. It would create jobs by the thousands during construction, at a time the economy is still struggling. There would be far fewer permanent jobs, of course, but there would also be nearly 900,000 barrels of oil per day.

Just as clearly, the proposal is an environmental nightmare. It requires an extraction process akin to hydrofracking to separate the oil from the tar sands in which it lies, creating three barrels of polluted water for every barrel of oil. Of equal concern was the proposed pipeline’s route — around lakes and sand dunes in an ecologically sensitive area of Nebraska and above an aquifer that supplies water to parts of Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico. Pipeline accidents in this country are not all that rare, so a more circuitous, less-dangerous route for Keystone XL would be advisable.

Obama wanted to delay this decision until after the election — rather than risk alienating environmentalists or unions that would benefit from construction jobs. For equally political reasons, the Republicans wanted a decision out of him before then, and tried to get it by attaching an unrelated rider to what they knew was a must-pass bill. What they got is a waffle that keeps the door to the pipeline open but insists that the builder choose a more environmentally benign route. TransCanada indicated that it will cooperate, but wants the president to provide a more timely assessment, so construction can get started without much additional delay. That seems like a reasonable enough request, and Obama can probably deflect much Republican criticism if he agrees to grant it. Jobs and oil are in short enough supply that a project adding both should be accommodated if at all possible.

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January 20, 2012
1:28 a.m.
ChuckD says...

Yes, we should place our trust of the stewardship of our resources in the hands of the "energy" (c'mon, it's coal, oil and gas, right?) industry, and those that are supposed to regulate them, because they've got a proven record of safety and concern for them.

Right? (crickets)

You bet I'm painting with a broad brush. This industry, arguably more than any other, has a proven record of getting their way in every way. They have run roughshod over our country and many others, in every way. Their so-called "green initiatives" have proven to be only PR campaigns. They have the unmitigated gall to claim record profits while collecting government subsidies. They have a proven record of not being good citizens of this country.

But we should accommodate them! Give them the opportunities to show how they create jobs, and get us that sacred oil and gas. I'm sure they'll do better this time, they say they've learned their lesson!

Right, that's the definition of insanity.

January 20, 2012
5:08 a.m.

Might as well make the same argument for hydro-fracking.Just as jobs and oil are in short enough supply that a project adding both should be accommodated if at all possible. So is our clean water supply in short supply to risk destroying that. This is our most precious resource. If it was not we would not be sending it to China.

January 20, 2012
7:32 a.m.
Starman says...

There is no need for the pipeline as the Nations freight Railroads could haul this oil saving both the expense of building it but also saving the environment from damage.
It is a real shame that the Republicans are out for the own gain once again and forced the President into a corner over this.

January 20, 2012
11:53 a.m.
gina99 says...

There already is a pipeline over the same route. The problem is in the White House where you find a President that wants higher energy prices. He still hasn't figured out that high energy prices kill American jobs. This has been studied for 3 years. We need North American energy to lessen our dependency on hostile sources. This volume of oil could never be hauled by railroads which again proves the irrationality of the radical environmentalists.

January 21, 2012
7:35 a.m.
wmarincic says...

Sure let's let China have this oil. The same people complaining above are the same ones complaining the most when gas was four dollars a gallon and blaming Bush when it was Obama.

January 21, 2012
3:09 p.m.
FrankLowe says...

In you post, you called names and made unsubstantiated allegations, but gave no valid reason to not move foward with pipeline. If you would like to debate, please address the following issues:

1. We need oil. I'm all for renewable energy, but we are not at the point where it's dependable, and efficient enough to replace fossil fuel.
2. Since we need oil, and since a small minority keep us from drilling here, we have to get it from somewhere. Wouldn't you rather it come from our friends in Canada, than those in the middle east who hate us?
3. If we don't build this pipeline, the oil from Canada will go to Asia, in particular China. China could care less about enviromental impact.
4. For the time being, like it not, our economy depends on fossil fuel. 5 or 6 dollar a gallon gas would make our already sluggish economy grind to a halt. And this would hurt poor people a heck of lot more than it would hurt those who are well off

January 21, 2012
10:22 p.m.
ChuckD says...

Oh dear FrankLowe,
What part of my "unsubstantiated allegations" do you need spoon-fed to you that you couldn't easily find on the web? The record profits? The government subsidies? The environmental damage? I don't need to jump through your hoops to prove my points, do your own research.

While you're out there find out where our oil comes from. One clue, it's not the middle east.

It's not a binary world, FrankLowe, where they're either with us or against us, or where there's fossil fuels or renewable sources. Obviously we're stuck on fossil for the foreseeable future. The question is are we moving toward a more sane technology, or not. And how does opening up the ANWR to risk, or placing pipelines through other sensitive areas move us toward that end? Remember the incident in the Gulf? Do you? Remember Exxon-Valdez? Are you aware of all the other spills both of broken pipelines and broken super tankers and all the other failures of this great industry. It doesn't sound like you are.

And just because China lags badly in environmental awareness doesn't provide an excuse for us too as well. Have a little national self-respect, would you?

Lastly FrankLowe, a better understanding of why oil and gas prices are so high and so volatile would go a long way. In a word, speculation. That too is well documented.

Your a real font of talking points, aren't you? Ever wonder whose?

January 22, 2012
7:18 a.m.
Starman says...

I agree that we should keep the oil for ourselves.Let China get thiee oil overseas.
To Gina99: The railroads Can handle this oil. They have the means of expanding so that would create permanent jobs to start with. More tank cars and locomotives which in turn would cause suppliers of these products to hire more people. Plus at the oil terminals, they can expand their operations which means even more permanent jobs. All this with a small impact on the environment as the tracks are already in place unlike a pipeline which would tear up millions of acres of land during construction.The construction of a pipeline is temporary. Just look at the Alaskan pipeline.
The pipeline is a poor long term solution to both Job Creation as well as the environment.

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