We seek no quarrel with the environmental community. Quite the contrary, we admire the conscientious work that many environmental organizations have produced over the years. However, the scare campaign that some groups such as the Sierra Club are mounting in opposition to the Keystone Pipeline System seems, to us, to be more about fundraising than about environmental protection. The project has been studied to death (which has literally become a strategy of the green extreme corner of the environmental movement) and the risks pale compared to the enormous benefits the pipeline will provide to the country.
To review: The Keystone Pipeline System is a system to transport oil sands bitumen from Canada and the northern United States to refineries in the Gulf Coast of Texas. The pipeline will have capacity to transport 830,000 barrels of oil per day to Gulf Coast and Midwest refineries, reducing American dependence on oil from Venezuela and the Middle East by up to 40 per cent.
The products to be shipped include synthetic crude oil and diluted bitumen from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Base in Alberta, Canada. Two phases of the project are in operation, a third from Oklahoma to the Texas Gulf coast is under construction, and the fourth is awaiting U.S. governmental approval.
If approved, upon completion the Keystone Pipeline System would consist of the completed 2,151‑mile Keystone Pipeline and the proposed 1,661‑mile Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion Project. The controversial fourth phase, the Keystone XL Pipeline Project, would begin at the oil distribution hub in Hardesty, Alberta and extend 1,179 miles to Steele City, Nebraska. According to TransCanada, the project’s sponsor, the $5.3-billion Keystone XL Pipeline Project is the largest infrastructure project currently proposed in the United States. Construction of the 1,179-mile pipeline will require 9,000 skilled American workers. The project will provide jobs for welders, mechanics, electricians, pipefitters, laborers, safety coordinators, heavy equipment operators and other workers who rely on large construction projects for their livelihoods.
In addition to construction jobs, an estimated 7,000 U.S. jobs are being supported in manufacturing the steel pipe and the thousands of fittings, valves, pumps and control devices required for a major oil pipeline. TransCanada has contracts with more than 50 suppliers across the U.S., including companies in Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Indiana, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Ohio, Arkansas, Kansas, California and Pennsylvania.
TransCanada is currently employing 4,000 Americans in Oklahoma and Texas on construction of the $2.3-billion Gulf Coast Pipeline Project, which is expected to be complete by the end of this year.
Construction and development of the Keystone XL and Gulf Coast Pipeline Projects is anticipated to generate $20 billion in economic impact in the United States, including $99 million in local government revenues and $486 million in state government revenues during construction.
The pipelines will also generate an estimated $5 billion in additional property taxes.
Keystone XL Pipeline will be the newest and most technologically advanced pipeline built in the United States to date. TransCanada has voluntarily agreed to incorporate 57 special safety conditions into the design and construction of Keystone XL, including a higher number of remote-controlled shutoff valves, increased pipeline inspections, burying the pipe deeper in the ground and using thicker steel pipe at river crossings.
The Keystone Pipeline system is monitored around the clock at TransCanada’s high-tech pipeline control center that is staffed by highly trained pipeline operators. Information from 21,000 data sensors along Keystone XL will be sent by satellite every five seconds, providing real-time updates on operating conditions. Any sign of a problem on the pipeline is quickly detected and any section of the pipeline can be isolated within minutes by remotely closing any of the hundreds of valves on the system.
So why is President Obama now shuffling the project back for yet more study?
No one really believes the nation can satisfy its energy needs with windmills and solar, yet that’s what opponents are, essentially, demanding we do. Republicans and Democrats, both by wide margins, support the project, as does business and labor. Not only would it provide energy independence for the United States, and keep us from being held hostage by the Middle East Oil Cartel, it would allow us virtually to become independent suppliers of our own needs and maybe even a net exporter of oil to our allies. The latest United Technologies National Journal Congressional Connection poll finds that two‑thirds of Americans support building the pipeline to carry Canadian oil to the Gulf Coast, and that includes fifty‑six percent of Democrats. Less than one‑quarter of Americans oppose the project.
As John Bussey said in a business article in The Wall Street Journal, “Sometimes it seems as if the environmental movement has been left behind by the sheer speed of America’s shale energy revolution. That may be because a resource, natural gas, that environmental groups once saw as part of the solution, has become part of the problem, as they see it.” Shale gas and oil are widely viewed as one of the biggest forces to hit the U.S. economy in modern history. Total U.S. gas production has rocketed 33% since 2008, and oil 46%, driving down energy costs. The expanding shale industry supported 1.7 million jobs in 2012 and produced $62 billion in state and federal tax revenue.
So where does this leave the environmental movement? Trying to change the conversation about shale gas. For years the environmental groups saw gas as an ally in the cause. Gas has half the carbon footprint of coal. It was the ideal substitute for coal and a bridge to greater use of renewable energy. But as shale gas production soared, the price of natural gas plummeted. This has become one of the most positive developments of our time, promising an abundance of cleaner, cheaper energy. Everyone should be cheering this extraordinary turn of events. But not the extreme green pseudo environmentalists. These groups now worry that the abundance of clean gas is here to stay, taking the momentum out of the shift to so-called renewables such as solar and wind. The Sierra Club, once a venerated environmental group, now states that “gas should be used as little as possible for as short a time as possible; renewables are the answer.” This is an astounding statement that is of little relevance for a nation the size of the United States. Virtually all polls report overwhelming support among the American people for going forward with the pipeline. Polls show that there is support across the gender and age gap in favor of the full pipeline.
If America is to limit its production of coal, which was at one time our largest source of energy, what is to replace it? Saudi and Venezuela oil can’t be the answer since the oil cartel controls the supply and, therefore, determines the price, and we have to get down on bended knee and hope that the Cartel will spare us the indignity of begging for their oil.
Now that Nebraska Governor Dave Heinemann, a Republican, has endorsed a revised pipeline route through his state, governors and congressional delegations from the four other states it crosses have already pressed for Federal government approval. The fate of the project now rests squarely with the Obama Administration, which has the final say because it crosses an international boundary.
For the White House, the issue is a perfect storm of competing interests: a promise of thousands of new construction jobs, and the potential of cheaper energy, but with stiff opposition from some environmental groups such as the Sierra Club which raised and donated approximately $1.0 million (100% to Democrats) during the last election cycle. This is the extreme green faction that is saying “No Way!” and the President seems to be bowing to their demands.
Speaker John Boehner states “the President alone stands in the way of tens of thousands of new jobs and energy security. Every state along the proposed route supports this project,” he said, “as does the bipartisan coalition in Congress, and a substantial majority of Americans.”
Fifty‑three Senators, including nine Democrats, have joined the chorus sending a letter to the White House requesting a meeting with the president to discuss the issue urging him to expedite approval.
“After more than 4½ years and an exhaustive review process, it is time to come together, Republicans and Democrats, and do what is clearly in our national interest,” said Republican John Hoeven of North Dakota. By going forward with Keystone, America effectively controls the global price of oil. That means we get to outflank the Middle East sheiks. This is a huge deal because OPEC is essentially neutered when the U.S. and its various states control thirty percent or more of the world’s supply. Refining, in America, Canadian and American crude from oil sands allows for this to happen.
As these oil resources are recovered, we will have enough oil to sell to China, India, whoever, but it is time to stop wasting valuable time. America and China contribute over fifty percent of all emissions on the planet, mostly from coal.
There are refineries in the southern U.S. that are operating way under capacity, and by processing American and Canada’s crude, we can continue to employ the people in those refineries who are currently refining heavy oil from Venezuela to the delight of Chavez’s successor.
This entire debate is a debate over whether we want to get oil from Canada or from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. We do not normally use the term “no brainer” in our essays, but this one clearly comes under that heading. America gets jobs; America gets cleaner and more secure energy. America benefits and the risks associated with this project are minimal. The choice is clear and there is no legitimate reason for the President to delay any further his approval of the project.