Free Markets, Free People
In Nebraska, where environmental groups had protested the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline because it would pass through the “environmentally sensitive” Sand Hills, they are now protesting a proposed solution as well.
The legislation is designed to restart a state review of a pipeline route that avoids Nebraska’s ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region.
Gov. Dave Heineman has indicated that he would sign the bill. He supports getting the Keystone XL pipeline built as quickly as possible.
But, say the environmental groups, this is just not acceptable:
Such eagerness was one of the concerns expressed by the groups. Under LB 1161, the governor would make the final decision on whether to approve a crude-oil pipeline route through the state.
Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska said that would be a clear conflict of interest because an agency under the governor — the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality — would oversee an environmental review of the new route.
Using Kleeb’s logic, Obama had no right to refuse it in the first place because the agencies that conducted the review process for the pipeline at a national level worked for him.
Regardless, the environmentalists intend to try to tie the law up in court:
Kleeb and others said they would prefer the pipeline regulation bill that was passed during last November’s special session, which would put the Nebraska Public Service Commission — an independent agency with elected commissioners — in charge of reviewing the Keystone XL.
Ken Winston of the Sierra Club said he expects a lawsuit to be filed challenging LB 1161′s constitutionality.
Of course Nebraska, as those who’ve followed this story know, is criss-crossed with multiple oil pipelines, none of which have caused the catastrophic environmental problems the environmental groups claim will come with the approval of this pipeline.
The obvious point, of course, is this has never been about “environmentally sensitive” areas. It has been about stopping this pipeline because it will be carrying crude that comes from an area environmentalists have decided produces “dirty” fuel and that we should be denied its benefit. For whatever reason they seem to think if they stop this pipeline, the oil sands in Canada they will come from will simply cease to produce. Of course that’s poppycock. Canada has already said it has plenty of other customers for its oil, to include China.
So this is the latest in the battle to deny this country a safe and secure fuel source for groundless practical reasons, but instead based in ideology which refuses reality for some asinine utopian fantasy world. They would deny this country the benefit of 800,000 barrels of oil a day because they have decided we shouldn’t have it.
Yet my guess is they’d also claim to be big proponents of “democracy”. The only problem, as poll after poll demonstrates, “democracy” firmly backs the construction of the pipeline by huge majorities.
So to hell with it. It’s off to Plan B as outline by Saul Alinsky – use their own rules against them.
Or, in other words, instead of letting the democratic process work and accept the results, tie it up in court.
More on the Keystone decision and why it was a decision based in politics, not what was best for America
More fallout from the Obama Keystone XL pipeline decision. Read this carefully:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in a telephone call yesterday, told Obama “Canada will continue to work to diversify its energy exports,” according to details provided by Harper’s office. Canadian Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver said relying less on the U.S. would help strengthen the country’s “financial security.”
The “decision by the Obama administration underlines the importance of diversifying and expanding our markets, including the growing Asian market,” Oliver told reporters in Ottawa.
Currently, 99 percent of Canada’s crude exports go to the U.S., a figure that Harper wants to reduce in his bid to make Canada a “superpower” in global energy markets.
Canada accounts for more than 90 percent of all proven reserves outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, according to data compiled in the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Most of Canada’s crude is produced from oil-sands deposits in the landlocked province of Alberta, where output is expected to double over the next eight years, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
“Relying less on the U.S.” “Diversify our markets”. “99% of … crude exports go to U.S.”
Those three phrases shout one thing in unison: The U.S. is an unreliable trading partner.
One more shocking statistic, if we want to talk about safe and secure petroleum supplies in our future – “Canada accounts for more than 90 percent of all proven reserves outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries”.
In case you missed it that’s OPEC. That’s right the very oil cartel in which we find most of the less than friendly oil exporters in this world.
As Gale Norton points out, this should have been a no brainer:
This seems like a truly simple determination. Iran is threatening to blockade the 20 percent of the world’s oil supply that flows through the Strait of Hormuz. The American economy is struggling from high unemployment. The volatility of oil prices, reflected in periodic spikes at the gas pump, is a threat to productivity. A privately funded pipeline project that would create tens of thousands of jobs while helping stabilize America’s energy supply clearly seems to be in the national interest.
Here we have, next door to us for heaven sake, a supply of oil from a friendly nation which is about as secure as it can get and we do what?
Warren Meyer, writing at Forbes, hits upon some apparent truths:
But local environmental concerns were merely the public pretext for a decision that is much more troubling. Opposition to the pipeline began to rally among radical environmental groups long before any of them had the first clue about the pipeline route. The real goal of these groups was not to protect water along the pipeline route, but to make it impossible to develop new sources of oil in Canada. Unable to stop Canadian oil drilling and tar sand extraction programs, environmental groups are now trying to block any pipeline that is proposed out of the oil producing regions.
As I pointed out yesterday, the “local concerns” had been addressed or were being addressed successfully according to the Governor of Nebraska. And, as Meyer points out, there was no real reason for this decision except:
The Keystone decision only makes sense in the context of a general push to limit energy supply and roll back our industrial economy and all its amazing gifts. Part and parcel of this same effort has been the growing opposition to natural gas fracking. Fracking is an underground procedure that has been used safely and successfully for decades to extend the life of older oil wells. Fracking is one reason that serial predictions of older fields “running out of oil” have been repeatedly incorrect.
Recently, though, fracking has presented the promise of substantially increasing our domestic energy supply by opening up new shale formations previously thought to be impossible to produce. With this new promise, anti-growth, anti-energy environmentalists have suddenly taken notice, and are gearing up to try to kill this exciting (and ironically quite clean) new energy source.
I think he has a very valid point – a point that William Tucker has also written about. This is about stopping progress. This is about a selfish belief that since they have theirs, the rest has no need for more. Here’s Tucker’s description:
It is not that the average person is not concerned about the environment. Everyone weighs the balance of economic gain against a respect for nature. It is only the truly affluent, however, who can be concerned about the environment to the exclusion of everything else. Most people see the benefits of pipelines and power plants and admit they have to be built somewhere. Only in the highest echelons do we hear people say, "We don’t need to build any pipelines. We’ve already got enough energy. We can all sit around awaiting the day we live off wind and sunshine."
And that’s precisely the case with Keystone. Meyer again:
Ostensibly, Obama made the decision to block the pipeline because of concern over contamination of the Ogallala Reservoir, a vast underground water source that makes much of Midwestern agriculture possible. And I am sure there are folks whose concerns are narrowly about the Ogallala or other environmental and NIMBY concerns along the proposed route. But the US has tens of thousands of miles of petroleum pipelines, many cris-crossing this same general area. There is nothing unprecedented or unmanageable about this particular line. Had these routing issues been the actual problem, the Obama Administration could easily have approved the line with conditions or route modifications.
The national security and energy needs of the nation are being held hostage by an affluent elite who have decided, because they can, that enough is enough. And they have the perfect soul-mate/tool to implement their desires in the Oval Office. Don’t forget, this is the guy who said that at some point, “you’ve made enough money”. They couldn’t be more simpatico.
Meyer also asks a question to make a point about the red herring of the route:
Does anyone doubt that had this exact same route been for high speed rail, rather than a pipeline, it would already have been approved and President Obama likely would have been proposing to throw a pile of taxpayer money at it to boot? This despite the fact that high-speed rail almost certainly has more environmental negatives than an underground pipeline. The route has always been a red herring — the real goal is reducing energy supply.
He’s dead right. Also:
The Keystone XL pipeline would have single-handedly carried more energy to the United States than the sum of all the green energy projects funded by the Obama Administration. And it would have done so entirely with private funds rather than the Administrations increasingly ill-fated and ham-handed attempts at venture capitalism with taxpayer funds.
In the case of the pipeline, the Obama administration killed a private infrastructure project that is widely supported, covers its own costs, and requires no taxpayer money. I wonder where Thomas Friedman is — does he still lament our inability to do large infrastructure projects of the kind President Obama just blocked, or does he only support large state-funded triumphal projects? This seems yet another example of what I called the tendency of government to shift capital from the productive to the sexy.
There you have it, all laid out in a neat bundle. A “private infrastructure project that … covers its own costs and requires no taxpayer money”, vs. an environmentally destructive government boondoggle that most oppose and neither the federal or state government can afford?
The choice of this administration is the latter.
Finally, to once and for all put the “route” issue to bed, check out this map. Find Omaha. Yes, that’s right, there are oil pipelines all over Nebraska.
And surprise …the XL pipeline is the second phase of TransCanada’s pipeline plans.
TransCanada won approval in 2008 for the first Keystone pipeline, which carries crude oil across Saskatchewan and Manitoba and through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. That portion began moving crude in June 2010.
Uh, yes, that’s right … Nebraska. And apparently, at least to this point, everything has operated as expected with no environmental problems. So could these route problems have been handled without rejecting the pipeline in question? Of course they could have.
P.S. I’ll have a lot more to say about fracking (which suffers from the same sorts of attacks by the same sorts of groups) in a post soon.
Robert Samuelson, writing in the Washington Post, correctly dissects the Obama decision to reject the Keystone Pipeline into its two proper constituent parts: politics and the net practical effect:
President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is an act of national insanity. It isn’t often that a president makes a decision that has no redeeming virtues and — beyond the symbolism — won’t even advance the goals of the groups that demanded it. All it tells us is that Obama is so obsessed with his reelection that, through some sort of political calculus, he believes that placating his environmental supporters will improve his chances.
Aside from the political and public relations victory, environmentalists won’t get much. Stopping the pipeline won’t halt the development of tar sands, to which the Canadian government is committed; therefore, there will be little effect on global-warming emissions. Indeed, Obama’s decision might add to them. If Canada builds a pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific for export to Asia, moving all that oil across the ocean by tanker will create extra emissions. There will also be the risk of added spills.
The unions are in his pocket, or so this decision would seem to say. Not in his pocket and not particularly happy with him at the moment are the members of the radical environmentalist movement. He apparently thinks they’re important to his re-election. This was a political move designed to shore up that constituency with the implied promise of permanent rejection of the project after he’s re-elected. That’s the message to them (whether it is true or not, they’ll still vote for him now because they know a Republican will okay it). He most likely figures the unions will suck it up and support him and, my guess now, he’ll find a bone he can throw their way sometime between now and November.
That leaves the practical effect of his rejection to the overall environmentalist goal of “reducing greenhouse gas emissions”. The effect? It will likely mean even more emissions than running the pipeline through the US. As Samuelson points out the tar sands will be developed and exploited, the product will be transported through a pipeline and most likely that pipeline will now run to the west coast of Canada instead of our Gulf refineries. But unlike the trip by pipeline to the coast, there will then be an added step of transporting it by sea to China.
Great win there enviro-types.
But there’s even more damage done by this decision.
Now consider how Obama’s decision hurts the United States. For starters, it insults and antagonizes a strong ally; getting future Canadian cooperation on other issues will be harder. Next, it threatens a large source of relatively secure oil that, combined with new discoveries in the United States, could reduce (though not eliminate) our dependence on insecure foreign oil.
It’s not “relatively secure”, it is very secure. Canada is and has been our largest supplier of “foreign” oil for years. And they’re both a friend and a neighbor. How more secure – other than having the tar sands within our borders – can a supply get? What we have an opportunity to do here is displace the commensurate amount of foreign oil from unfriendly and insecure sources by the amount the tar sands would yield.
Sound like good policy? Sound like a smart move? Of course it does. So why the rejection of such a seemingly common sense decision. See reason one above: politics. This is all about election year politics. The president who claims to have the best interest of all Americans at heart has just demonstrated that that claim is nonsense. He’s catered to a particular election year constituency in deference to what is obviously best for the nation.
…Obama’s decision forgoes all the project’s jobs. There’s some dispute over the magnitude. Project sponsor TransCanada claims 20,000, split between construction (13,000) and manufacturing (7,000) of everything from pumps to control equipment. Apparently, this refers to “job years,” meaning one job for one year. If so, the actual number of jobs would be about half that spread over two years. Whatever the figure, it’s in the thousands and thus important in a country hungering for work. And Keystone XL is precisely the sort of infrastructure project that Obama claims to favor.
What has supposedly been the focus of Obama for some time – that’s right, jobs and infrastructure. His rhetoric has been all about how we need to create jobs and improve our infrastructure. Here you have a infrastructure project – an actual shovel ready one – that will provide jobs and he rejects it and, as usual, tries to shift the blame to Republicans for something he decided. The implication, of course, is he might have made a different decision if they’d have let him vote “present” until after the election. Because, you see, they’ve now forced him to tack this stupid decision on his less than impressive record as president – and now he’ll have to run on it. As usual, the blame-shifter in chief had decided it is someone else’s fault.
And in case you were wondering about the timeline on this project, it goes pretty much like this:
The State Department had spent three years evaluating Keystone and appeared ready to approve the project by year-end 2011. Then the administration, citing opposition to the pipeline’s route in Nebraska, reversed course and postponed a decision to 2013 — after the election.
By the way, the supposed primary excuses for the rejection was the opposition to the pipeline mounted by Nebraska. In fact, as POLITICO reports, the White House used the Republican governor there, Dave Heineman, as cover for its decision. Heineman takes exception to that:
"I want to say I’m very disappointed," Heineman told POLITICO. "I think the president made a mistake."
"Really what he was saying in denying the permit was ‘no’ to American jobs and ‘yes’ to a greater dependence on Middle Eastern oil," he said. "We want to put America back to work."
Why is Heineman disappointed? Because there was a way in the works to let the project go ahead while negotiations were finalized that would have satisfied Heineman and the states initial objections:
He said that his Legislature and his administration were working to get the final approvals in place and that the State Department should have approved conditionally while Nebraska worked out the final route. The company seeking to build the pipeline, TransCanada, was perfectly willing to begin construction at either end and finish in Nebraska, according to Heineman.
But the unilateral president, in a fit of political pique and in full political mode, decided to dump the project … at least for now. Those ready shovels could be breaking ground today. Instead, we have to hope, if and when the decision is reversed, that it hasn’t been overcome by events and Canadians aren’t loading tar sand oil on Chinese ships.
Naturally the administration thinks Heineman’s idea is just, well, inappropriate:
“It’s the responsibility of the State Department to grant this permit, which really looks at the crossing of the international boundary. … It’s important for us to look at the full pipeline and not move forward on such a major infrastructure project that will be a part of the country and the landscape for many years in pieces like that. I hadn’t heard about the governor proposing this, but we don’t really think that’s an approach that really deals with the national interest question in an appropriate way," Assistant Secretary of State Kerri Ann Jones said on a conference call.
Right. Of course. Naturally.
Say’s the governor:
"If you’re a decisive president and you want to put America back to work, you can find a way to get to yes," Heineman said about the administration’s response. "That’s what most governors do. So I’m just not buying that."
Yeah, neither am I. Neither are 70% of the voters.
Politics … pure and simple.
Jobs president? Don’t make me laugh.
National security first? Nope, politics first.
Concerned with all Americans? Seriously?
An “act of national insanity”? Spot on.