WASHINGTON – The US Senate just had a vote on the Keystone pipeline that would transport Canada’s oil to refineries in Texas. Those in favor narrowly lost. If they had won, most probably president Obama would have vetoed the bill. (The same bill had already been passed by the House). This is almost surreal.
Keystone should have been approved long ago
Indeed, in a normal country the Transcanada Keystone XL pipeline project would have been approved years ago, as a matter of course.
Upon completion and approval of a rigorous environmental assessment, (all this has been done, multiple times actually), the US Federal Government would have concluded that it is in the economic and national security interest of the United States to construct a pipeline that will bring more than 830,000 additional barrels of oil a day extracted from Canada’s oil sands (located in the Alberta Province) into the US market.
We need oil
Whatever we can say or argue about global warming and climate change, for the time being our entire transportation system, from diesel locomotives to heavy trucks, buses and private cars, runs on oil-derived fuels.
This may change in the future. We may soon have cost-effective electric cars, fuel cells engines, and what not. But we are not there yet.
Therefore, as we still need to import a lot of oil, (notwithstanding a most remarkable increase in US production thanks to shale oil), it makes perfect sense to get more of it from Canada, a neighbor, a solid ally and a major trading partner.
Let’s get it from Canada
Yes, as long as we must import about half the oil we consume every day, it makes sense to get more of it from a friendly neighbor, rather than buying it from Saudi Arabia or other OPEC countries.
In this context, the Keystone pipeline, while not absolutely vital, becomes an important addition to our critical energy infrastructure, because it would allow us to get more oil from Canada. Indeed, via this new pipeline we would add to our total supply, (830,000 barrels of oil a day is not exactly a drop), this way increasing US energy security. Basic common sense indicates that, as long as we depend on oil imports, it is a lot better to rely on close by, friendly producers of this strategic commodity.
As I said at the beginning, in a normal country, having reviewed the overall energy scenario and America’s ongoing dependency on imports, the US Government would have quickly approved the Keystone project.
Not a normal country
But we are not in a normal country. And this is because (sadly) any debate on the continuing use of carbon based energy in America has now acquired a religious dimension. Given this transformation, Keystone is no longer a pipeline project. If you are a true green, being against Keystone is about virtue, righteousness and morality.
If you are against oil, you are moral and virtuous. You agree that carbon based energy is demonic stuff, because you know that its use will destroy the planet. Therefore the Keystone pipeline should be opposed on moral grounds, just as any other device that will encourage us to use more oil.
On top of it, this pipeline will bring into our sacred land the worst kind of oil. This brew is heavy, therefore it is the worst polluter. One more reason to oppose any pipeline that will bring it to us. (Never mind that this evil Canadian concoction is currently transported into the US every day via rail cars, a far more dangerous system than a pipeline, as many accidents demonstrate).
And you thought that America is a modern country whose leaders are inspired by pragmatism in promoting choices that favor economic growth.
Energy has become an ideological subject
It is a real tragedy that energy is now an ideological subject, even though ideological bias is disguised as science. Look, even if we accept that global warming is both real and man-made, at the moment there is not a lot that we can do about what causes it, unless we want to cripple our carbon dependent economies.
Sure enough, burning oil derived gasoline is bad, because it produces the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. However, the trouble is that for the moment we have no cost-effective real alternatives to oil-derived fuels.
We have made quite a bit of progress here and there. Our cars are now much more efficient, while on balance they pollute a lot less. Increased use of mass transit systems reduces the number of cars on the road. Biking to the office also helps a bit.
But we still do not have a real breakthrough, a “game changer”. Which is to say that, for the time being, we are stuck with oil. This does not mean that we have to “love” oil. This simply means that we recognize that it is indispensable.
Let’s invest in research
By all means, let’s invest more in research in non carbon fuels. Let’s push the envelope. Let’s come up with real alternatives. Everything else being equal, if tomorrow Tesla Motors, (or any other innovator), comes up with a cheap, reliable, and efficient electric car everybody will buy one.
And this will be the end of the oil era. No more drilling, no more wells, no more pipelines, no more refineries, and no more internal combustion engines. Good bye Exxon, BP, Total, Shell and Chevron. But we are not there yet.
Given all this, demonizing the oil that we still badly need is stupid and infantile. Like it or not, for the time being we depend on it. Therefore, let’s get more of it from Canada, our friend and ally.
Let’s build the Keystone pipeline.