Today, a groundbreaking opinion piece was published in The Hill. Titled “Tar sands pipeline will comfort our enemies,” it is a scathing indictment of the Keystone XL pipeline’s geopolitical impact by someone who knows. Retired Brigadier General Steven Anderson served as the Chief Logistician in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has seen first hand how oil dependence leads directly to the death of American soldiers.
General Anderson writes that the “pipeline would…set back our renewable energy efforts for at least two decades, much to our enemies’ delight.”
I have written before that the Keystone XL pipeline is a dirty and dangerous step backward. Dirty for the planet, because of the huge carbon emissions from tar sands oil production. Dangerous for local communities, like First Nations in Alberta and ranchers on the Ogallala aquifer. Backward because it locks America in to decades of the dirtiest oil production on earth.
Now we can update the summary of this pipeline: Dirty, dangerous, backward and a delight to our enemies.
Yet, there are still indications that the Administration might allow a State Dept deputy to approve this mega-project, as was the case with previous pipelines. If Secretary of State Hillary Clinton believes that she can delegate this decision to a career bureaucrat and move on, she is fantasizing. In fact, her legacy is threatened by the cronyism and conflict of interest in the handling of this process to date.
Let’s do a little thought experiment to see how the decision might play out politically in 2012.
Option 1 - Pipeline Rejection.
If the pipeline is rejected outright, it will electrify Barack Obama supporters, as they see him stand up to Big Oil in a way he didn’t stand up to Big Banks. Obama donors would be thrilled, and young voters would be freed up to work for the President’s re-election instead of spending their time protesting the pipeline. It would also send much needed shock waves through a complacent Canadian tar sands industry, which would have to accept that fundamental reform is necessary and reckless expansion must be curtailed. Sure, fossil fuel interests would howl in anger, but the Fred Uptons of the world will attack Barack Obama viciously no matter what he does.
Option 2 - Pipeline Delay.
Common sense dictates that the Administration, at a minimum, call for a new environmental review, including pipeline safety and alternative routes. If that happens, the oil industry and most Republicans will criticize the President for delay, no matter how justified. Environmentalists will welcome the delay and seize the opportunity to continue pressing to stop the pipeline.
Option 3 - Pipeline Approval.
If the pipeline receives an early approval by the Administration (the earliest possible approval being around Dec 10 or so), this issue will not go away. There will be eminent domain lawsuits by conservative landowners in the heartland. There will be blockades and other civil disobedience by celebrities and climate kids. There will be more calls by Senators for investigations into the State Dept’s conflict of interest and bias. The friction between President Obama and his supporters will continue and increase deep into the election season.
Approving this permit might delight our enemies, but it will not put the pipeline in the rear view mirror.
Photo: The Green Life