A Rational Decision on The Keystone Pipeline? Do Not Count On It Obama and the Democrats are afraid of losing the votes of the greens, even though their arguments against getting oil from Canada are silly

By Paolo von Schirach

February 1, 2014

WASHINGTON – When public policy issues morph into something akin to religious beliefs we are in trouble, and this is definitely the case in all matters pertaining to the use of carbon-based energy in America. Here is an example. Commenting on the proposed Keystone pipeline that would carry additional Canadian oil to America, an otherwise intelligent, educated man wrote a while ago that there is a clear and in fact obvious cause and effect relationship between the extraction and burning of more Canadian oil here in America, enhanced global warming and the economic ruin and possibly death by drowning of millions of Indians living along the coastline of the subcontinent

Crazy arguments

Come again? The use of some more oil in America will cause the death of millions of Indians? Of course, it is so. It is so if you “believe” that any use of carbon based energy increases the already lethal levels of green house gases in the atmosphere, thereby causing the melting of the polar caps, the rise of ocean levels and the consequent drowning of millions of innocent victims who live near the water.

The “science” is clear

For the “believers” this extreme scenario is not just a theory. It is all known and proven. It does not need any further analysis or exploration. According to them, those who deny it, deny “science”, and they do so only because they are motivated by their greed and their reprehensible desire to make money by peddling carbon-based energy, even though they must know that the use of oil will lead to environmental Armageddon, and quite possibly the end of life on Earth.

Believers are well-organized

Unfortunately, since “the believers” are politically well-organized and are mostly supporters of the Democratic Party, elected leaders, first and foremost President Obama, cannot ignore them. And this “reality” forced him to create an otherwise silly theatre of endless reviews and analyses of the “environmental impact” of the Keystone project, the now demonized pipeline that would carry additional Canadian oil to America, with huge benefits for American consumers.

Impossible to have a rational debate

In a sane world, this issue would have been settled a long time ago. The simple fact is that America, notwithstanding additional domestic production and reduced consumption, still imports almost 50% of the oil it needs –every day. This is a fact.

Some of these imports come from the perennially unstable Middle East. Thanks to added Canadian production, (mostly in the Province of Alberta), now we have the opportunity to buy more oil from friendly Canada, thereby relying less on the Middle East.

As I said, like or not, we need to import oil. This being the case, what is more sensible, reliance on supplies from Canada, a stable ally, or on oil from far away and potentially unstable countries? Besides, as we have to send our dollars abroad anyway, is it better to send them to Canada, our best trading partner that will use them to buy stuff from us, or to Saudi Arabia?  Is this really that complicated?

Global warming is irrelevant

In all this, global warming issues are essentially irrelevant. Canadian oil will be extracted and used anyway. If America does not buy this Alberta oil, it will end up in China or elsewhere in Asia. Besides, the quantities that will be carried by the new Keystone pipeline, (less than a million barrels a day, while the total world consumption is around 90 million barrels a day), while significant in the context of US total oil imports, are not large enough to alter one way or the other global carbon-based energy consumption.

We should build the Keystone pipeline

If we were sane and sensible, we would go ahead, build the Keystone pipeline and get more Canadian oil, this way replacing imports from the Persian Gulf. This would be sensible and prudent. This choice would strengthen our bilateral relations with Canada. Besides, by making us less vulnerable to possible future oil shocks resulting from upheavals in the Middle East, added reliance on oil from Canada would enhance our energy security and consequently our national security. 

Sure enough, it would be nice if one day Elon Musk of Tesla Motors, or someone else, will come up with affordable electric cars that can go a thousand miles without battery charges. I do believe that at some point we shall come up with new technologies that will make oil and gasoline obsolete. But we are not there yet. Until then, let’s get the oil we need from our friends.

What will Obama do?

Unfortunately we cannot have a rational conversation about this practical issue. And therefore it is not clear what President Obama will do. Will he approve the Keystone pipeline or not? He knows that his party needs the votes of the “believers”. That said, do these votes count more than the national interest? In other words, is Obama a statesman or just another politician? Stay tuned, and you shall find out.


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