Don't Let the Keystone XL Bait and Switch Scam Diminish American Leadership

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would bring tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast for export has become a central part of the debate in the United States about how we fight climate change. American leadership to fight climate change is critical at home and internationally. The pipeline project marks a step in the wrong direction for the United States – leading us towards dirtier forms of fuel that are not compatible with fighting climate change. However, the oil industry is trying to pull a bait and switch scam with Keystone XL – offering it as a path to economic and national security when the pipeline is actually a job killer that is mostly meant for export. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in the national interest and there are strong economic and security arguments to back this up. America can show leadership on clean energy and on fighting climate change by rejecting this dirty fuel project.

The Keystone XL pipeline debate is part of a pattern of corporate scams and misinformation from the stock market bubble of the 1990’s to the real estate bubble of the early 2000’s. Keystone XL continues this pattern of industry risk taking and ignoring of long-term dangers (in this case climate change) for increasingly smaller short-term gains.

The risks to our farms and waters of Keystone XL have been a matter of strong concern all along the pipeline pathway for many months now. The fact that this pipeline is also a job killer rather than a job creator has also been well documented. What is less well understood are the many other economic dangers of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.  A recent article by former Federal Trade Commission attorney and former counsel to the Senate Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee and the Senate Judiciary Committee Henry Banta raises a number of questions when it comes to the economics of the Keystone XL pipeline project:

  • Hardly mentioned at all in the current debate about jobs is that the pipeline could have the effect of reducing employment in the U.S. oil and gas industry.
  • The notion of Canada as a more secure source must be viewed with considerable skepticism by anyone who is old enough to remember the energy crises of 1973 and 1979.
  • In whose interest is the end run past the refineries of the Upper Midwest? TransCanada told the Canadian Government that these U.S. refineries and their customers have been enjoying low crude oil and product prices because of Canadian crude oil. The Keystone XL line would end this “discount” and raise fuel costs in the region about $4 billion.
  • What advantages does the Gulf offer? Perhaps that it is a “free trade zone” meaning that the crude is free of any trade restrictions and some taxes.
  • Indeed there is considerable evidence that the owners of the line intend to export either crude oil or the refined product. If that is what they have in mind, what’s in it for us?
  • Proposals for new tar sands pipelines in Canada are facing delays due to continued public concerns and tar sands oil is unlikely to be going to Asia anytime soon unless it comes through the Keystone XL pipeline. Are the citizens of the U.S. being asked to take a significant environmental risk in order that the oil companies can get past the obstacle of an unwilling public in Canada? 

Similarly, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will not help us from a security perspective. Nancy Soderberg, former deputy national security adviser and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations recently wrote an article that summarizes the security concerns with Keystone XL as follows:

  • Rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline is important for U.S. leadership in making sure that the security of the United States is not compromised by reliance on oil and that the U.S. plays a global leadership role in building a renewable energy economy.
  • As retired Army Brig. Gen. Steven Anderson noted in a recent blog, the pipeline’s biggest client, Valero Energy Corp., informed investors that the refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, would be focused on exports, keeping American consumers vulnerable to global oil price fluctuations.
  • The idea behind Keystone XL was to give Canadian businesses access to the ocean and global market, not to help America reduce its dependence on foreign oil.
  • Committing ourselves to projects like Keystone XL would further lock us into a global oil market that aids and abets tyrants and terrorists, and holds American consumers hostage.
  • Approving such a project would severely diminish U.S. global leadership in building a world based on renewable energy, combating growing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, and reducing dependence on a volatile oil market.

Climate change is a global problem. And it will not be solved without American leadership. The harm to our pocketbooks, homes, health and communities is also being felt all across our country in the violent storms, droughts, floods and fires that we have experienced even in the last year. Just this morning, the news is filled with the unusual blizzard in the southern plains.

For America to demonstrate that it is serious about tackling climate change, the world has to see us not only moving forward with clean energy, but also fighting dirty energy. Keystone XL was the first time the world noticed a serious movement to say no to dirty fuels and no to business as usual in America.

When America has been at its best, it is optimistic and pragmatic. This is the way America behaved in organizing the Berlin airlift, putting a man on the moon and accelerating us into a high tech world. The many businesses, workers and investors in America already moving toward a clean energy economy are optimistic and pragmatic and represent all that is best in America.

In contrast, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is pessimistic and cynical. The pipeline’s proponents are trying to scam people with exaggerated jobs numbers and a myth that this pipeline would make us more secure. The world is not waiting to follow a pessimistic and cynical America. The idea that we can continue to rely on dirtier and dirtier forms of energy and lead the world is absurd. The world is looking for leadership to fight climate change – the worst economic and national security threat facing us in coming decades. America needs to stand strong against oil industry ploys to push a tar sands pipeline as a jobs plan or a security venture when it is neither. We need to show leadership and reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and other tar sands expansion projects.