Yesterday it was announced that the Keystone XL project, an oil pipeline which would have connected the oil sands of Alberta to refineries that could handle the product here in the United States, was shelved again by President Obama. This despite his quest to find “shovel-ready” projects and address the nation’s high unemployment rate.
Reactions? Well, pretty much what I expected. Needless to say, Mark Green at Energy Tomorrow was critical of the decision, stating President Obama wasn’t after jobs but “settled on a different calculus – re-election politics.” The American Petroleum Institute writer also pointed out the Keystone project had been under review for three years, plenty of time to gauge environmental impact. This is particularly true when one considers the Keystone XL pipeline could have run close by the existing Keystone pipeline already in use.
Closer to home, it’s clear that Senator Ben Cardin is out of touch with Americans who would rather not see surging gas prices become a way of life. Instead, the state’s junior Senator said in a release that proponents were “putting expediency and corporate interests ahead of the many…concerns.” Again, Senator Cardin must have missed the point: the project was reviewed for three years. It may be worth reminding Big Labor about this statement from Cardin a few months from now.
On the other hand, one of his possible Republican opponents gets it right. Rich Douglas was appropriately outraged about Obama’s lack of foresight, saying he and his allies “knifed American workers in the back…the administration and (certain members of) Congress sent a message to American workers – drop dead.”
And I loved this passage regarding Cardin’s opposition:
Each election season, the U.S. Congress and Senate Majority – to which Mr. Ben Cardin belongs – protest their undying affection for American workers and their families. But when push came to shove on Keystone, when Mr. Cardin and other Senators could have hammered some sense into Foggy Bottom and the Oval Office, where were they? In the head.
Indeed, Douglas served as a Navy submarine machinist’s mate, so he’s qualified to make that blunt assessment.
Equally caustic was the response by local Congressman Andy Harris, a portion of which I’ll pass along:
“We can’t wait for the President because his inaction will hurt the American economy and consumers through higher energy costs. The time to act is now and that’s why I’ve cosponsored H.R. 3548 which takes the authority to approve the Keystone Pipeline out of his hands. This bill allows the project to move forward and encourages economic growth and job creation through the construction of the pipeline.”
Good for him; unfortunately the bill may be too little, too late.
There’s a hard reality at work here: the Alberta oil sands are already being exploited and a number of countries want the oil from them. It’s not a stretch to believe that a pipeline couldn’t instead be built westward toward the Pacific, and that China would be more than willing to make it happen. While President Obama’s actions and the unforeseen event of the Deepwater Horizon disaster have contributed to the rise in gasoline prices since Obama took office, we can’t overlook another key fact: we’re not the only developed nation thirsty for oil. Already a portion of what we refine here is shipped overseas, and the fact we haven’t built a new refinery in over three decades doesn’t help matters either.
(If Obama wanted to create shovel ready jobs, he could also dust off a proposal President Bush had several years back – he offered a plan to use closed military bases as sites for new refineries. More importantly, though, Bush wanted to streamline the permitting process for expanding capacity, whether at new or existing sites.)
In time, it is theoretically possible that Americans could get all of their oil from either one of three places: on American soil, in the waters off America’s shores, and the friendly neighbor of Canada, which is already our leading foreign supplier. Because of various factors, around 5 out of every 8 barrels of oil we use already comes from domestic supplies or Canada, and according to another EIA summary we peaked in foreign oil dependence back in 2005. Sadly, rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline may force us to reverse that downward trend and leave us vulnerable to the prospect of Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz or tensions in other regions of the world.
But President Obama can burnish his reputation among those who believe the alternative energy fairy will come down and make our cars run on magic pixie dust. At least they may as well believe this since it’s about as logical as using food for fuel or subsidizing hybrid cars to the tune of $250,000 apiece. (Oh wait, we already do those things. But I still think the pixie dust is far-fetched.)
It looks like America’s loss may be China’s gain, while Canada stands to benefit regardless.