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Kicking the pipe down the road

The Obama Administration has kicked the can down the road and postponed a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until after the 2012 election. The move was made, not to allow a better decision to be made, but to keep valuable voters on board until after a hopeful re-election. Reasoning from the State Department?

We have, under NEPA, looked at many alternatives. But at the time that we were doing that, we had not had discussions with the Nebraskans or heard these significant public comments. So we have decided really to focus on looking at alternative routes that would minimize or avoid the Sand Hills, and we had not done that in the Environmental Impact Statement.

In other words, why talk to the states about decisions that don’t concern them. The White House didn’t count on those pesky Nebraskans. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska:

If the federal government makes TransCanada change the route, “that works,” Nelson said. “If it doesn’t, then the state will have taken care of it.”

Seems to me that just a couple of months ago, this was the biggest job-creator the world has ever seen. But, that was before there was ring of angry citizens around the White House and the only numbers were coming from Keystone and the American Petroleum Institute. Their claim of 13,000+ direct jobs created just never really stood up to close examination. According to the Washington Post, those numbers indicated  “that the 13,000 figure was “one person, one year,” meaning that if the construction jobs lasted two years, the number of people employed in each of the two years would be 6,500.”

According to the only report not coming from the oil industry, “The project will create no more than 2,500-4,650 temporary direct construction jobs for two years, according to TransCanada’s own data supplied to the State Department.” And, they left out small details that may actually kill U.S. jobs like,

  • There is strong evidence to suggest that a large portion of the primary material input for KXL—steel pipe—will not even be produced in the United States. A substantial amount of pipe has already been manufactured in advance of pipeline permit issuance.
  • In 2010 US pipeline spills and explosions killed 22 people, released over 170,000 barrels of petroleum into the environment, and caused $1 billion dollars worth of damage in the United States.
  • Rising carbon emissions and other pollutants from the heavy crude transported by Keystone XL will also incur increased health care costs. Emissions also increase both the risk and costs of further climate instability.
  • KXL will divert Tar Sands oil now supplying Midwest refineries, so it can be sold at higher prices to the Gulf Coast and export markets. As a result, consumers in the Midwest could be paying 10 to 20 cents more per gallon for gasoline and diesel fuel. These additional costs (estimated to total $2–4 billion) will suppress other spending and will therefore cost jobs.

    XL Pipeline proposed route (click for big)

A new route ain’t gonna help much with all the other impacts of the big pipe. And, finally how do you get to Texas from Alberta without crossing Nebraska and their precious Sand Hills? Take a close look at the map. Probably the best route would be to go straight south along the entire length of the Rocky Mountain Front through the energy colonies of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and maybe New Mexico. No need to discuss it with them, they don’t have enough population to object and their comments could not be “significant” anyway.


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