Last week, the White House reinforced its stance against the Keystone XL pipeline. Amidst Senate efforts to pass legislation allowing TransCanada to build a pipeline from Canada to Texas, President Obama again promised to veto any such bill that crosses his desk. After years of debate and discussion, we find ourselves stuck in the same quagmire from whence we began. As a nation, we are spending valuable time, effort, and money fighting over what is, in the larger context of our country, a rather trivial enterprise. In a country with $18 trillion in debt and 47 million people in poverty, the Keystone pipeline — a project that will directly create an estimated 10,000 temporary jobs — has captured the imagination of greens and domestic energy enthusiasts alike.
But let’s take a step back. What exactly is at stake and when did it all begin? Proposed in 2005 by TransCanada, the original Keystone Pipeline was designed to transport heavy crude oil from the tar sands of the Canadian interior to oil refineries in Illinois, and after five years of political wrangling and construction, it was finally completed in 2010.
In 2008, TransCanada proposed an extension of the pipeline—Keystone XL—that would transport crude oil from Canada across the Midwest to Houston, TX. This pipeline, considered by many to be more hazardous due to its intersection with Nebraska’s Sand Hills, would have a diameter of merely 36 inches but would shuttle more than 800,000 barrels of oil daily from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
In 2011, the US State department issued a much-anticipated report on the pipeline, saying that Keystone XL would neither lead to greater global tar sand production nor pose a significant threat to the environment, so long as proper environmental protocols were followed. Environmental advocates and agencies (such as the EPA) fiercely challenged these findings, convincing the State Department to postpone indefinitely its final decision on the pipeline. Since then, Keystone XL has become a lightning rod on the Hill, as Republicans and moderate Democrats have pushed against President Obama’s refusal to approve the pipeline, while the president has felt increasing heat from the left to hold his ground.
The great Keystone travesty isn’t the President’s frustrating intransigence, but the fact that people on both sides of the aisle have spent countless hours and millions of dollars on what has amounted to a partisan proxy war. While it’s ridiculous for the President to single-handedly veto reasonable economic projects, the fact remains that Keystone XL would account for approximately 0.5% of national job growth in any given year. There are big fish to fry in this country, and our leaders would do well to spend less time bickering over the guppies. With entitlement programs leaking money like a busted fire hydrant and militant Islamists threatening the life and liberty of millions around the globe, they have their work cut out for them without the added burden of Keystone XL.
With that said, conservatives presently seem to be within striking distance of a veto-proof majority. If this majority coalesces, and GOP leaders are confident in passage, then they should press forward. If the only way forward is another three years of wasted breath, then let’s move to more pressing policy concerns.
—Davis Parker is Manager of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE
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