I got another Keystone XL (KXL) email this morning, but it wasn't from Duncan Meisel or Bill McKibben:
Thank you for writing. President Obama has heard from many Americans concerning the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project, and we appreciate hearing from you.
The President is committed to creating the most open and transparent Government in American history, and values your input. Given your interest in this matter, you may be interested in reading a recent official White House response to a petition on this issue. To learn more, please visit: www.WhiteHouse.gov/Energy.
Thank you, again, for writing.
The White House
It's nice to see they found something to keep Bo occupied. Meanwhile, in Costs and benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline, Professor Hamilton reiterates his support for the
wealth, err project and downplays the possibility that spills will pollute the Ogallala aquifer:
Although small spills will still occur, pipelines are by far the most efficient way to transport petroleum, and we could hardly do without them. The United States already has over a quarter million miles of oil and natural gas transmission lines, and millions more in gas distribution lines.
The goal in my mind is not to "create jobs" in the sense of paying somebody to do nothing. Instead, the goal is to create new real income and wealth. I think a key measure to look at is not the cost of the project (how much is going to be spent on people and pipes), but instead its value added. And this has been the main reason that Keystone has always looked to me like it should be an easy decision. Light sweet crude in North Dakota is still selling for $20/barrel less that you could get for it if you could find a cheap way to transport it to the Gulf of Mexico. A quick calculation suggests that infrastructure that could move 500,000 barrels a day would generate $3.6 billion in annual value added. That benefit would go to the people who work to build the pipeline, motorists who buy the gasoline, workers and companies that produce the oil, and the government that collects taxes from all the rest.
Econbrowser commenters note that once again the oil industry says it is too expensive to protect the environment—in this case bypassing the aquifer is supposed to cost half a billion, and point out that the tar crude is particularly nasty stuff. Other commenters claim that anyone that drives a car and doesn't support this project is a hypocrite. No one can prove that the pipeline will pollute the aquifer, but no one can guarantee that it won't either. Esquire covered the risks in depth several months ago:
Stansbury is a professor of environmental water resources at the University of Nebraska. He got a look at Trans-Canada's proposal and decided to put together his own report about what a "worst-case" spill in the Sandhills really would mean. His findings were radically different than those put together by Trans-Canada. Stansbury estimated that worst-case spill would contaminate nearly five billion gallons of groundwater, and that the "plume" of benzene and other contaminants would be 40 feet thick, 500 feet wide, and 15 miles long. This was far worse than Trans-Canada's worst estimates. Last June, Stansbury filed his report as part of the "comments" on the Trans-Canada environmental impact statement. Which was about when politics fell on his head.
One beneficiary of this project, financially, would be Canadian firms that are now selling their syncrude at the WTI/Cushing price—well below the Brent world price—but two other beneficiaries would be the Koch brothers. Canadian people who live near the tar mining areas will find some jobs, but will also continue to bear the brunt of the environmental damage. Nevertheless in, Harper warns Americans he will ship oil elsewhere, the Prime Minister who just withdrew from Kyoto keeps up the pressure on Obama and Congress:
When asked how serious Ottawa is about selling oil to China, and run the risk of compromising Canada's relationship with the United States, Harper replied: "I am very serious about selling our oil off this continent, selling our energy products off to China."
Fortunately Harper doesn't have a real British accent, or we'd have no choice but to obey him. Echoing an Occupy mantra at Tar Sands Action, Bill McKibben notes the reality that we have to get money out of politics to stop KXL:
Here’s one thing that’s emerged more plainly with each passing day. Right now in Washington, money rules. Sooner or later Big Oil will ram Keystone, and fracking, and a thousand other bad ideas down our throats unless we manage to change the system. That’s what we’re going to have to work on next year if we have any hope of ever bringing climate change under control. I think part of the problem is: we’ve come to feel that money’s hammerlock on policy is sad but completely inevitable.
We’ve let ourselves be cynical, which is understandable (the Capitol should have an Exxon sign out front, and a couple of pumps, and a grubby bathroom) but also weak.
Instead, I think we need to stand up for a certain kind of naïveté. We need to say it’s not right that the 234 House members who voted for Keystone last week had taken $42 million in dirty energy money. It’s no different than if before next weekend’s Patriots-Miami game, the owner of the Dolphins trotted out to midfield and handed each referee ten grand. It stinks.
High school chemistry teacher Dan Allen has a poetic piece, Dialogue: I Spoke to the Land and to the People of the Machines, on Energy Bulletin. Here is an excerpt:
II. THE PEOPLE OF THE MACHINES SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES
Then I went to speak to the people of the machines.
And I asked them what they wanted, and I asked them what they needed. But they really only understood the first part – what they wanted. So all their ‘wants’ they called their ‘needs.’
And their strained, tuneless voices rose up frantically in a great din.
And the people of the machines said that they needed the trees and grasses removed. And they needed the soil loosened and carted away. And they needed to kill the fungi, and bacteria, and nematodes, and springtails, and beetles, and worms, and mice, and countless other creatures. And they said they needed -- somehow -- to control the rain.
And they cried out that they needed the birds to leave; there were too many and they were in the wrong places. They needed them to go to someplace else. And they needed to kill the insects and spiders. And the wild gardens would need to be plowed under. And that all available land must be filled up and ‘developed.’ And the wolves, of course, needed to be shot. But that the deer were to be saved in great multitudes as living targets in the space remaining -- in order, of course, to practice their killing.
And they would need to dig up and break the great rocks, and to pile them up in heaps in the full light of day. And they would need to separate their remaining wholeness into parts. And they would place the parts in separate piles to be used later. Or they would burn them to power their machines. They grew very excited when describing this. It seemed to make them happy.
And then I asked them why they needed all these things.
And their eyes darkened and their faces reddened.
And they grew very angry.
And they screamed at me.
And they threatened me with violence.
And they told me I was crazy.
And they demanded an apology.
But then, briefly lifting my cowering face, I looked into their eyes.
And I saw that they were scared.
And I knew then that they did not know why they needed these things.