Planet Blue Blog: The Keystone veto: the right decision, but now let’s approve the pipeline

Friday, February 27, 2015

See this article on the U.S. Conversation here
See an unabridged version of this article on the Planet Blue Blog, here

On Tuesday, President Obama vetoed the Keystone Pipeline bill. It’s an action one would expect from a serious Constitutional scholar of any political stripe; the bill is an attempted encroachment of the Legislative branch on the powers of the Executive. But what should he do next?

Forget about the bill: it is time to approve the pipeline itself. The greatly exaggerated claims from both sides of the discussion have prolonged the process to near Dickensian Bleak House lengths. Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is neither the “Game Over for the Climate” that opponents have contended, nor the jobs bonanza that supporters have touted. While no pipeline operates without risk, Keystone is an important addition to our energy supply infrastructure for the next several decades.

Crude oil is nasty stuff. As John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil, has said, “you never, ever, ever want to see it, touch it, taste it, or smell it.” In the US we refine about 15 million barrels per day of it into products ranging from gasoline and diesel for transportation to important feedstocks for production of chemicals and plastics. That oil has to get from the places where it is produced to these refineries. Unfortunately, we can’t Skype it in; we can’t order it online and have Fedex, UPS or Amazon drones deliver it. Invisible to most Americans is the vast infrastructure – pipelines, and increasingly, rail transportation – that moves crude. Crude oil is moving around America at every hour of the day, aboveground and below.