Keystone XL: Build, Baby, Build

By Robert Carpenter, Editor | November 2011, Vol. 66 No. 11

While obtaining the FEIS after three years represented a huge step, the approval process continued with a 90-day public comment period that wrapped up in early October. That has been another wild run, full of loony protesters against the pipeline and unlikely alliances supporting the project. Several government agencies have also had the opportunity to share their opinions.

Of the five states along the proposed path, only Nebraska has balked at the route, expressing concern that the potential for leaks could negatively impact the huge Ogallala Aquifer although the FEIS studied that issue at length and concluded an underground pipeline was the safest, most environmentally beneficial method of transporting the oil. Perhaps TransCanada could consider stopping the pipeline at the Nebraska border and instead use tankers to transport oil on state highways down to Kansas. Let them experience environmental impacts and wear and tear on the state’s infrastructure from surface transportation for just five years and I’ll bet Nebraska would consider a radical position shift.

Another recent argument against the pipeline came recently from an Oregon U.S. Senator who claims Keystone would be “an export pipeline,” allowing TransCanada to charge whatever it wanted for the oil and drive up prices. Of course it’s an export pipeline. But so what? Most of our oil is exported to the U.S. already. But would you rather receive oil from a friendly neighbor or an unpredictable and hostile government in Venezuela? As for price, Canadian oil is subject to the same market conditions as other oil exporting nations. I seriously doubt that would change when we receive our oil from a friend rather than an enemy. Energy security is a huge issue.

Keystone XL will also create major economic benefits to the states it crosses and the United States as a whole. The project will be financed entirely through the private sector – note the absence of the term “stimulus.” There will also be no need for billions in “subsidies” to develop an energy source that may or may not be viable in 30 to 50 years.

All the data is now in the hands of the State Department. But there is still some wiggle room and that’s where politics can really come into play. Bottom line, a decision could be made on the future of the Keystone XL by the time this column comes out. Or, the pipeline’s fate could hang in the balance for several more months depending on whether the environmental lobby or economic needs weigh out as more important to the administration.

Let’s hope common sense is the winner. Build the pipeline.