Tar Sands Tug-of-War: the Keystone XL Pipeline

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Immediately following Obama’s official thumbs down on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline proposal, media, businesspeople, politicians and the public on both sides of the political coin began sounding off about the rights and wrongs and pros and cons of the decision.

As a Greener Ideal reader I can take a swing in the dark at the probability that you feel one of the following about the Keystone standing: cautious relief, pleasant satisfaction, or at least mildly thankful for the room to breathe before TC’s re-application (which they are intent to put through) or more pipeline chaos erupts somewhere else in the world. Because the truth is, the decision isn’t so much a “rejection” as a “delay”, and not of oil as an industry either, to boot—but of this ONE pipe through our backyards.

Less than an hour after the decision came down the pipes (har har), TransCanada announced its intent to reapply to build the same line once a small rerouting through an environmentally-sensitive area in Nebraska is completed and started stepping up its PR campaign about the project. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was “extremely disappointed” with the news, dropped some foreshadowing bombs: that he will continue to work to diversify and expand Canada’s energy exports, as well as that the decision “underscore[s] the urgency of opening new export routes to fast-growing Asian markets.” (The Globe & Mail)

As this Huffington Post article explains, Obama also reaffirmed his support for domestic oil and gas exploration and expanding fossil fuel infrastructure.  “There’s still money to be made,” the article –and the situation in real life- conclude. I suppose, sadly, that’s the bottom line.

Largely in forum however, the debate between the two sides centers not around money but on jobs and energy security vs environmental harm.

Watching Republicans talk about anti-XL’ers hating on America for the supposed plethora of job loss the pipeline squashing creates, I had the sense that I as Judy Q. Public was being talked down to in hyperbole like a child being warned of the dangers of touching a hot stove that’s not even on. Huffington Post Senior Writer Toni Johnson spoke with Council of Foreign Relations rep Michael Levi, who agreed that “arguments on both sides of the debate have been pretty badly exaggerated.”

Even the results of this “win” have been, as Obama’s so-called “rejection” unfortunately had little to do with environmental/human concern but much to do with bureaucratic semantics—saying Republicans “forced this decision” by requiring an expedited 60-day review of the pipeline and missing deadlines; now oil supporters expect the revised proposal to be expedited through the powers at be to approval status in no time flat.

The shame in all of this is that the real issues: what short and long term effects this, and every oil pipeline, have on our societies and environments, are being buried under ego and money-driven politics that strive to gloss the situation over to dangerously shiny levels.

Great Plains BisonThe reality is, from job creation to environmental impact to fossil fuel freedom, when you put any aspect of the debate under a microscope it opens up a whole other can of worms and issues to contend with. The “small area” of Nebraska glossed over in articles is a perfect example of this: a tiny point in the matter that in actuality stands as a complex representation of how deep these debates can go. This “small area” of Sand Hills is both home to a number of important animal species and supplies drinking water to about 2 million people.  What amount of construction jobs justifies putting all this at risk?

The entire proposed pipeline is almost 3,500km long, and its impact runs just as deep. Let us continue to swim together and clear muck from the lens of our oil dependency in hopes that when TC’s re-application is being processed, there will be less hyperbole and more humanism.


3 thoughts on “Tar Sands Tug-of-War: the Keystone XL Pipeline”

  1. Jessica,

    the rejection of the Keystone Pipeline was an excellent decision on President Obama’s part because it showed that he made an extremely tough decision in light of having to consider protecting Nebraska’s drinking water and potentially creating jobs, of which estimates widely range from anywhere between 20,000-30,000 to as high as 120,000. I tend to believe the 4,000 figure given by democrats and that too they would not likely be permanent full time jobs. The pipeline would have sent 800,000 more barrels of oil to the us per day but I would believe that after the construction and what not, the sustaining flow of the oil would go to those who look after the export and gas companies many of who already have jobs–the construction and maintenance as well as some other potential jobs are probably the new one’s that I would believe would have been created but again probably not something that would keep people working for either all that long or with the needed hours to make any real big hoopla that the Republicans would like to brew.

    The fact that the Republicans have also stated that President Obama has sent jobs to China is also extremely contentious as Primeminister Harper’s gesturing and strong desire to have our market open up to the Chinese and other Asian buyers is not one hundred percent guaranteed. In fact, I strongly believe that the Northern Gateway is going to get rifled down. You can not simply run piping routes across native territory especially when there is a widespread opposition to it. Instead of being civil about the whole thing, Primeminster Harper is doing what he does best and that is starts to call people all sorts of names (i.e. foreign radicals, radicals etc) and tries to push and bully his way through. While I am strongly opposed to oil especially in light of what can potentially happen, Primeminster Harper may be a little more successfully if he would stop being a bully and start to find viable ways of trying to convince people by constructive dialogue. In any case, the Northern Gateway is supposed to take a year to be considered and at the end of the whole thing even though we are looking for ways to create jobs, the pipeline will have to find another route other than running through Native lands if it is to have any chance of success. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how things will continue to progress and that more and more we should look for other ways to solve our energy and economic needs.

  2. I’m sorry,

    I found an error of fact on my part in regards to the time frame as to when we should be hearing about Northern Gateway–it should have been a year and a half (18 months) at the earliest and not one year.

  3. Is this what passes for journalism today? It is an appalling and apologetic musing by a left-wing Obama supporter. Why should any reader care about the author’s feelings about the issue? What are the facts of the issue and what are the positions taken by the major political actors? Stick to that and keep your personal views out of the writing. It is pure partisan progaganda. Furthermore, the writing itself is poor and confused.


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