By Greg Smith
There must have been a wave of cheers across Canada last week as Republicans won a majority of the U.S. Senate because the logjam over approval for the Keystone XL Pipeline may finally be over.
The Obama administration’s blockage of approval for construction of the proposed pipeline from Alberta to Texas sums up six years of his presidency: a feel-good strategy that was both doomed to fail at its intended environmental goals while certain to antagonize a key ally in the process. Stopping the pipeline from being constructed offers no benefit to anyone, including the environmentalists who form the heart of the opposition.
The crux of the matter is whether the lack of a new pipeline to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries that can process the heavy crude oil coming from the Canadian oil sands will cause Canada to simply stop extracting the oil. During the 2012 presidential debates, Obama pointed out the U.S. is increasing oil production. Due to concerns about pollution and fears of global warming opponents don’t want oil extracted from the tar sands of Alberta.
It seems rather hypocritical for the U.S. to be in an oil boom while telling a neighbor their oil should stay in the ground. It is the usual argument made by too many comfortable, well-heeled environmentalists to save the planet others need to ditch their car and each winter set the thermostat to “Mother Earth thanks you.”
Canada has made it clear it will continue extracting the oil. Without Keystone oil will travel by rail – which requires more fuel and is more dangerous — to the U.S. refineries able to process it, or be sent via a proposed pipeline built to Canada’s east or west coast. In that scenario the oil can be refined in Canada and shipped elsewhere in the world, or sent abroad as crude to be refined elsewhere with lesser environmental regulations. U.S. refineries and oil companies can be cut out of the process with less energy available to the American consumer, and greater pollution in the atmosphere.
With Keystone there is a large construction project employing thousands of Americans, added business for American refineries on a permanent basis and more energy available to the American market. This will mean lower prices and encourage other business and commerce in the U.S.
Without Keystone U.S. companies and consumers could be completely shut out of access to the benefits of Canadian oil, while the oil continues to flow, but at greater economic and environmental cost, and we have jerked around a close ally for years for no good reason.
Forgoing the benefits of Keystone is still less maddening than a sitting president unable to muster the courage to just make a damn decision and live with the consequences. Obama’s unwillingness for a verdict on the pipeline permit may have actually come into the calculations Vladimir Putin made when Russia invaded Ukraine. It’s a pretty easy bet that a man afraid to make a choice on a proposed pipeline probably isn’t much of an adversary in realpolitik with a former KGB colonel.
As Soviet leaders saw decisiveness in Ronald Reagan’s willingness to fire air traffic controllers during an illegal strike in 1981, Obama has shown himself unwilling to ascend the ramparts in a fight. In short order such vacillation moves from farcical to dangerous. ©
Greg Smith is a freelance writer and political consultant who lives in Bantam, CT. His blog is found at www.betterfatthanfascist.com.