Saturday, January 21, 2012

Is it not possible to reroute the Keystone XL pipeline?

President Obama has just rejected the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Recall that Obama initially tried to postpone a decision on the pipeline until 2013--a cowardly move intended to avoid angering either of two big Democratic special interest groups (environmentalists and unions) before the election. When forced to make a decision by Congress, he decided to reject the pipeline. Newsweek, not exactly known as a right-wing publication, called it an "act of national insanity."

The Newsweek article correctly points out that environmentalists concerned about global warming emissions get nothing from this except for a symbolic PR victory. Canada has already committed to extracting the oil from the tar sands in Alberta, and they will now most likely build a pipeline to the Pacific for export to Asia. By rejecting the pipeline, Obama antagonizes a strong ally and sacrifices tens of thousands of new American jobs. The pipeline would also lower fuel prices and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

There is, however, one very legitimate concern about Keystone XL. The proposed pipeline would have gone over the Ogallala Aquifer, a vast underground water source that makes most of Midwestern agriculture possible. Contamination of the Ogallala could have devastating effects on the region's agriculture and drinking water. While it is true that there are already numerous pipelines going over the aquifer, I would imagine that leaks are much more likely in a new pipeline (because of possible structural flaws, engineering problems, etc) than in one that has been working leak-free for decades.

The solution, then, seems obvious: reroute the pipeline around the aquifer. But that wouldn't satisfy environmental groups, who sometimes seem to want to roll back industrial society. Some would argue that they just want to switch from fossil fuels to wind and solar. But the fact remains that wind and solar are currently unreliable and not at all cost-effective. Plus, even wind and solar are vulnerable to environmentalist and NIMBY opposition--a salient example being the decade-long controversy over an offshore wind farm on Cape Cod. If people oppose even wind energy, then (assuming they are not currently living off the land in a technology-free community) where in the world do they think they can get their energy from?

Anyway, it seems that appeasing environmental special-interest groups is a bigger priority for Obama than jobs, fuel prices, or energy independence.

1 comment:

  1. you kidding, they don't care what the route is