While I do not buy into the magic 20,000 jobs hyped by the pipeline fans, I'm also not buying into the environmental doomsday hype from the pipeline opponents.
Hardly virgin territory
On the other hand, there's no reason why the big-shot investors backing the pipeline cannot wait a little while longer to come up with a compromise route. The Republicans do seem to be trying to force through a not-quite-shovel-ready pipeline as a favor for their rich friends -- and along the way make Obama look unfriendly to business.
In my view, the investors can afford to hang tight until the chatter settles down about the great Ogallala aquifer. Because in the end, the enviro-fringe has a fairly weak case.
Yes, the pipeline route crosses part of this giant aquifer, which actually spans parts of eight states. Yes, a pipeline disaster would be ugly. But it's pure exaggeration to assume a spill from the Keystone project would threaten the entire aquifer, ruin drinking water for the entire Midwest, or be "game over for the planet" (as one hyperventilating critic put it).
In fact, roughly 25,000 miles of petroleum pipelines already cross various parts of the Ogallala Aquifer, carrying some 730 billion barrels of crude a year to a wide variety of destinations. I find this image of the pipelines already crossing the sacred aquifer to be highly compelling. The existence of many, many other pipelines operating safely for many years in this part of the country is generally quite absent from the arguments put forth by the anti-pipeline crowd.
Would it be preferable if the Keystone pipeline could avoid the aquifer? Sure. Is there a better compromise route than the current proposal? Probably. But so far there is no agreement on such an "alternative" route. So, Obama has a decent point in insisting on more planning. But only a temporary one.
In the end, the pipeline SHOULD be built. That's the thing I wish Obama had said when he refused the hurry-up permit. But he's beholden to the greens and the greens just can't say yes to a petroleum pipeline.
If people seriously think they can stop Canada from exploiting their oil sands, they are living in fantasyland. Would we prefer that the oil be shipped to China? Or would we rather keep our Gulf Coast refineries busy?
Instead, the green crowd hopes stopping the pipeline will stop oil sands development, and somehow save the world from being stomped by carbon footprints. It is also clear to me that this group does not represent mainstream America.
Yes, cars are OK. In fact, they're better than iPhones
The vast majority of the driving public wants continued affordable gasoline prices. They support reasonable pollution control on their cars. They support better mileage for their cars. But they want their cars. Not trains.
Didn't we just spend a lot of money and several thousand American lives fighting in Iraq? Wasn't a lot of that fight about protecting U.S. interests in the oil-rich Middle East? Tell me, doesn't "freedom-loving" America look hypocritical for backing various oil-soaked dictators and repressive monarchies like Saudi Arabia? Especially by so-called progressives?
If so, then why are progressives so opposed to doing some business with our good friends and trading partners in Canada? Canada is a fine neighbor, a stable democracy, and an all-around great place for enjoying the great outdoors. Why would we refuse to support a project that would, at least somewhat, reduce our demand for violent dictatorships while supporting a friend?
Time to get the Midwest back to work
The greens may want to save Mother Earth, but it's not so clear that they care about the people living in fly-over country. This pipeline won't create that many jobs, but overall, the fossil-fuel sector does employ a lot of people and could employ more.
The middle of America has plenty of coal and natural gas -- but to the greens, mining is evil and fracking is a dirty word. Even though most greens owe their very lives -- including their ability to enjoy their wonderous iPhones -- to the electricity, gasoline and plastics derived from fossil fuels. The Midwest also has lots of places to put nuclear power plants without ever worrying about them getting swamped by a tsunami -- but that's a debate for another day.
But right now, and for the next few decades at least, I want more mining jobs in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. I want more fracking jobs in Pennsylvania.
I say those jobs -- in places that sorely need them -- can be created without destroying the environment. I say let the projects move forward -- with zero short cuts. Yes, we should enforce strict rules for coal mines, fracking operations and pipelines. But once the standards ARE met, let the work move forward.
In the Keystone debate, I say the thousands of miles of existing pipelines over the Ogallala aquifer prove that pipelines can be operated quite safely.
So I say let the enviros of California and the "new" West pay the excessive utility bills they deserve for resisting building windmills and mirrors in the desert. I say let the East Coasties wring their hands over offshore windfarms while paying four-figure rent for one-bedroom apartments.
Just get on with that silliness and let us Midwesterners get on with the real work of recharging the nation's industrial heartbeat.
We've got families to feed.