WASHINGTON – In case you were wondering, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the leading candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for President, just declared that she is opposed to the proposed Keystone pipeline that would transport approximately 800,000 barrels of Canadian heavy oil a day, from the Province of Alberta, (extracted from oil sands), all the way down to the Texas oil refineries.
Pipeline would be a “distraction”
Clinton came out against the pipeline because it is a “distraction” –so she said– while we should all be focused on what really matters, that is reducing carbon use and emission in order to fight climate change.
Well, no surprise here. Ms. Clinton looks at the polls, and therefore she knows that the Democratic Party green activists who will vote in the primaries next year are for the most part strong global warming believers. For them any project that results in more oil being used in America is a sin. They will never vote for any candidate in favor of a new oil project. End of story.
Therefore, the smart thing to do is to go with the flow and declare that Keystone is not helpful. (I really do not understand what Clinton means when she says that she is against the pipeline because it would be a “distraction”. From an environmental stand point, is it going to be good, bad or neutral?)
What is the problem with Keystone?
But what is so bad about this proposed pipeline that TransCanada would like to build? Nothing, really. The proposed project has been carefully reviewed, several times, over a period of many years. The very State Department that Clinton used to run during Obama’s first term declared that building this pipeline would not alter future emissions much. In other words, there would be no environmental damage caused by getting more Canadian oil into America.
And what would be the upside? Very simple. While we all know that America vastly increased its oil production, mostly thanks to shale oil extracted via fracking in North Dakota and elsewhere, the U.S. still imports millions of barrels of oil. Getting more oil from Canada means importing less from OPEC or other countries, while increasing our imports from a friendly neighbor that is also a major trading partner.
From the stand point of “energy security” it makes perfect sense to get more oil, still the essential fuel, from a close by ally than getting it from producers in the Persian Gulf. All in all, for a major importing country like America it would be good to have more options when it comes to imports. And the Keystone pipeline, while not a permanent “solution” to anything, would simply help America in its effort to reduce its dependence on distant suppliers.
Greens do not like it
But the “Environmental Church” does not like oil. And it dislikes Canada’s “heavy crude” even more because extracting it requires more energy, and burning it causes more emissions. Again, if you look at the net impact of 800,000 barrels a day of heavy Canadian crude on total U.S. emissions, you would see that it is almost zero. But this is irrelevant. This debate is not about rational arguments.
In the end, this is all about ideology. Ms. Clinton is a smart lady. Of course she knows all this: meaning that the Keystone pipeline is harmless. But the politically smart thing to do is to take a position in line with the “green” wing within her party. Once more, flawed ideas yield flawed policy positions.
America used to do better. I hope it will again. But not with this kind of “leadership”.