If I asked any person to name the most prominent issue of environmental policy presently in America, most would answer with the debate surrounding the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. There has been a six-year battle surrounding the construction of the pipeline since September 2008 when TransCanada Corp filed an application with the US State Department to allow the construction of the pipeline.
What the purposed plan is that the Keystone XL Pipeline is that the pipeline would be used to transport crude oil from the tar sands in Alberta Canada. Upon arrival in the Gulf Coast this crude oil will be refined and shipped to overseas markets for sale. The Keystone XL Pipeline will not be the first of its kind with other pipelines that not only funnel crude down from out neighbor to the north but also other crude from tar sands. Yet, there has been a largely partisan public debate surrounding this issue for the past 4 years.
President Obama has always been weary of the pipeline construction. Additionally, President Obama has made it clear that it is not the place of Congress to pass a bill concerning the Keystone XL Pipeline. President Obama awaits the result of an investigation by the State Department before allowing the construction to go forward.
The Keystone Pipeline made it back into the new this week when the House passed the Senate version of the Bill approving the construction of the Keystone pipeline. In anticipation of this, The White House already released a statement saying that President Obama will veto the Bill when it arrives on his desk (which will only be the third time President Obama has exercised his veto power in his presidency). Congress does not seem to possess the two-thirds majority that it would take to overturn the veto so it seems that after 12 separate votes on versions of this Bill in Congress it will still be unable to pass. Therefore, Republicans have spent this past week asking President Obama to reconsider his veto of the Bill.
Supporters of the pipeline claim that this Bill is what the American people want. Honestly, they are not wrong. In a public opinion poll conducted by PEW 65 percent of Americans favor the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. That may be because job creation has been so closely tied to the construction of the pipeline. The problem is that the numbers surrounding the number of jobs the Keystone Pipeline will create range from exaggerated to hilariously ridiculous. In terms of direction jobs, the Keystone XL Pipeline will end up creating about 10,000 construction jobs that will last for no longer than a year. In terms of permanent jobs, the pipeline will only create about 50 permanent positions.
Conversely, critics of the Keystone XL Pipeline cite the risks to the environment that the construction of the pipeline would create. It is true that the harvesting of the crude oil from the tar sands is much more dangerous to the environment. In order to extract the crude would emit 17 percent more greenhouse gases than other forms of crude extraction takes. Additionally, the crude oil from the tar sands is a much dirtier and heavier form of crude. If there was to be an oil spill from the pipeline the consequences would be devastating for the Midwest and a lot harder to clean up (think of the BP oil spill times ten).
But here is the harsh truth about the Keystone XL Pipeline, the construction or lack there of itself will have a minimal impact on the environment or environmental policy in America. I do not support the construction of the pipeline but honestly the construction of the pipeline itself is neither here nor there. Without the pipeline TransCanada is still going to extract the crude from the tar sands in Alberta. The only difference is that they will have to move it via truck to the gulf coast. It will not change our oil costs, as it will still be sold over sea. A few less temporary jobs will be created but in the end of the day 50 people mean so little to a nation of millions. Generally, I see the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline as something more symbolic. Construction of this pipeline shows that we as a people are much more willing to spend millions of dollars pumping dirty forms of rude out of the ground than we are willing to support forms of policy that would go towards developing clean forms of energy. What the decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline does do is set a dangerous precedent that America is going to continue to drill its way through the 21st century. Because we are not running out of crude oil, but we are running out of an environment to exploit.