On the keystone pipeline – an opinion

by Neil Rickert

There has been a lot of discussion about the keystone pipeline, and whether approval should be given for its completion.  A number of environmental groups have been pressuring President Obama to reject the pipeline.

Background

The pipeline would bring crude oil from Canadian tar sands to refineries in the USA.  Extracting oil from the tar sands is a particularly dirty operation, in terms of its effect on the environment.  Environmentalists point to the pollution that will be caused by extracting this oil.  And they remind us of the global warming problem as they argue for rejection of the pipeline.

My opinion

I see this as a lot of noise, as a pointless argument.  I have no personal objection to building that pipeline.

The environmentalists are correct, that extracting this oil will cause environmental damage.  However, extracting the oil does not depend on the pipeline.  If the pipeline is not approved, the oil is likely to still be extracted, and then shipped some other way.

As long as there are consumers wanting that oil, it will be extracted.  If we want to stop the extraction, then we should favor policies that reduce consumption.  If less oil is consumed, then less will be produced.  The attempt to stop the production of this oil, while doing nothing about consumption, is likely to fail.

That’s the way I see it.

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4 Comments to “On the keystone pipeline – an opinion”

  1. It is not just about extracting the oil though. It is about WHERE they want it to through. It is an above ground pipeline that goes through tornado alley. There is no guarantee the pipeline can withstand a tornado. There are many reasons global warming is used as a counter argument and this is one of them. The tornadoes have been getting stronger and more frequent.

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  2. If the oil is shipped in tankers it is not a pipeline. The whole point of the pipeline is to have direct access from Canada to Texas. If the pipeline is built to Vancouver you have to go through California. It is geographically improbable (not impossible, but it would be extremely difficult and cost more than what the oil is worth.)

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  3. “As long as there are consumers wanting that oil, it will be extracted. If we want to stop the extraction, then we should favor policies that reduce consumption. If less oil is consumed, then less will be produced. The attempt to stop the production of this oil, while doing nothing about consumption, is likely to fail.”

    I agree. The biggest focus needs to be on curbing our demand for oil by enacting legislation and infrastructure changes to facilitate consumption reduction as well as alternative energy production. There certainly are efforts being made to accomplish this, but America is an oil-hungry monster and for the most part people seem unwilling to pay more for alternative fuels or considerably curb their usage of energy in general. I even support higher gas prices if it helps to catalyze an alternative energy boom (through market forces). However, leaving these decisions entirely up to the consumers, even when there are a lot of sources informing them that oil is finite, non-renewable, etc., is inadequate. Consumers are irrational and cognitively dissonant. Corporatocratic forces are continually pushing consumers to buy more, consume more, whatever the cost. They have created a dependence loop where consumers want the oil even if “they don’t”. We need legislation to persuade/force people to act according to a sustainable natural capitalistic model rather than the unsustainable classically capitalistic model we’ve been adhering to for decades now. The way I see it we can take one of two paths: ignore the inevitable and wait until our oil supply runs so low that catastrophic loss of life and loss of capital ensue, OR have a hard plan to taper off our non-renewable energy consumption by alternative-energy-promoting legislation which includes major energy-production infrastructure changes. Choosing the latter means overcoming major hurdles set by the Corporatocracy. If there’s any hope of enacting beneficial legislation (ultimately controlled by corporate interests) it will have to fulfill the for-profit models of corporations while protecting sustainability and the environment (i.e. “natural capitalism”). The bullet that corporations will have to bite is that short term profit loss as we transition to natural capitalism. It’s either this or corporations stand to lose a lot more in the long run. Time will tell how short-sighted they are — even when their future profit is at stake.

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