What’s Coming Down the (KXL) Pipe?

Energy to oppose energy was present in the form of 50,000 protesters during Presidents’ Day weekend in Washington, D.C. The brigade of environmentalists marching in the nation’s capital included approximately 100 Brown students who were transported to Washington, D.C. via bus. The protest was organized by the Sierra Club and 350.org for the purpose of raising awareness about environmental issues with a specific focus on encouraging President Barack Obama to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline in the coming months before its construction begins.

Opponents to the pipeline have recently been circulating table slips in Brown’s dining commons stating their reasons for opposing the pipeline. While opponents continue to claim the pipeline has “no benefits,” these claims are unfounded and are nothing more than a red herring for the opposition’s stance against the use of fossil fuels in their totality. However, the reality is that fossil fuels compose over 80 percent of U.S. energy consumption, while nuclear power composes about 20 percent. The forms of renewable energy that these environmentalists support constitutes only about 10 percent of the energy grid, largely because of their high production costs and unreliability, thus making them unattractive in the market. After all, the Obama administration has already sent over $90 billion to the green energy industry, which has resulted in very little improvement to renewable energy’s fate in the free market.

Environmentalists’ vehement objections to the Keystone pipeline are misguided. International agreements to impose taxes on pollution would actually reduce emissions; opposing KXL will only impoverish Americans.

Despite the importance of fossil fuels in the present-day American economy, the environmental agenda has continued its assault on the KXL pipeline, claiming that it will have very little economic benefit, that it will severely harm the environment, and that somehow, if the U.S. does not take advantage of this new supply of oil, that no other country will. Unfortunately, the claims made on the table slip and those espoused by the 50,000 protesters are false arguments against a pipeline that will help to grow the American economy.

The table slip makes a presumptuous claim, stating that “All pipelines spill; the KXL pipeline is sure to spill disastrously.” However, there are currently over 55,000 miles of oil pipeline running through the U.S. These pipelines are in operation daily and produce minimal environmental effects while providing a vital economic resource. The table slip then falsely claims that: “KXL will lie dangerously close to an aquifer, making water contamination very likely.” This statement is unfortunate, given that adjustments to the plan for the pipeline were made so that it did not affect the aquifer referred to. Despite the constant claims from the environmental movement that the pipeline is unsafe, three independent studies conducted by the State Department have concluded otherwise, finding that the pipeline will have minimal environmental impact on the landscape that it traverses.

The environmental movement has also blatantly ignored the economic benefits of the project. The AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department has wholeheartedly endorsed the project. With union backing, it’s no surprise that 67 percent of polled Democrats have given their approval of the KXL pipeline, in conjunction with 76 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Independents. The overwhelming bipartisan support of the project is indicative of the American public’s demand for jobs and the expansion of the American energy supply, not fallacious rhetoric from environmentalists. The KXL pipeline will satisfy the desire for jobs by creating 20,000 middle class union jobs along with an estimated 117,000 jobs in the oil sands industry by 2035, according to the pipeline’s builder, TransCanada.

The polls conducted by Pew Research, Fox News, and Rasmussen Reports also show that an astounding 83 percent of Americans believe that the KXL pipeline will increase America’s energy security. Given that the pipeline will be responsible for pumping 800,000 barrels of North American oil into American refineries per day, it is hard to argue how the KXL would not decrease America’s reliance on foreign oil while increasing domestic supply. Constructing the pipeline would also improve trade relations with neighboring Canada, thus opening the door for an even greater trade relations in the future and subsequent economic benefits domestically.

Now let’s return to the environmentalists’ climate change and anti-fossil fuel argument, the impetus for their opposition to the KXL pipeline. The premature assertion that somehow the Canadians will not gain from this monumental supply of energy if the Americans do not budge is simply not in line with reality. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already stated that if the oil is not transported to American refineries via the KXL pipeline, the oil will instead be sent in a pipeline extending to the western border of Canada to then be exported to China. If Obama capitulates to the demands of the environmentalists, the American economy will place false hope in renewable energies that are currently too costly while surrendering hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day to the Chinese. The oil will still be used, and our economy will reap no benefits. The environmentalists would win; the American people would lose.

As America moves into the future, energy is an issue that is elusively moving down the pipe. We must not be opposed to renewable energy; we must embrace all sources of energy. Private investment in clean natural gas and renewable sources is currently highest among the same companies that produce oil. This should signal that America’s energy grid will experience change, but that the free market, not the government, will be the catalyst for affordable, clean, and renewable energy sources in the future.


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