Thursday, November 06, 2014

Everyone is obsessed with the Keystone XL Pipeline

Apparently the new Senate will have enough Republicans plus enough Democrats who have already committed to supporting the Keystone XL pipeline for the plan to survive a filibuster. That means both chambers of the new Congress can pass a bill requiring the pipeline to be built. It's not clear whether the President would veto a Keystone bill. For a while I have maintained that the President would ultimately approve the project. I thought that even before I realized that the pro-Keystone side would end up with a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

As I have also said before, it has never made sense to me why this particular project has become such a make-or-break issue for both sides. Sure, another oil pipeline raises safety concerns and does further entrench the infrastructure that keeps us dependent on an oil-based economy. But we are already pretty fully entrenched in that oil-based economy and this is hardly the only project that raises safety concerns. It just seems like other proposals, like cap and trade, would lead to a lot more concrete progress on the environment than stopping this pipeline would.

And on the other side, why is the energy industry and its allies so committed to this particular pipeline project? I realize it will help get tar sand oil out of Calgary. But that oil is already reaching the international market through other transit routes. Even if those other routes aren't quite as good, why are these people acting like unless the Keystone pipeline is built their world will end?

Is each side getting over-invested in the issue just because the other side seems to care so much?

(For the record, I am mildly against the Keystone XL pipeline, but I also think it not all that important and probably will be built eventually)