Maybe it was a political hot potato, but now that the election is over, the government’s decision on a major new oil pipeline from Canada should be made on the merits, and not on the politics.
For many environmentalists, the idea of the Keystone XL pipeline is not just an issue with the pipeline itself, but with the use of the heavy oil from tar sands. Unhappily for this point of view, the reality is that America needs more energy. Oil and gas are key components of our energy future for many years to come.
And even if one has objections to the idea of refining the Canadian oil, a former top aide to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama has some blunt advice for environmentalists:
“Those who will decide whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run between the tar sands of western Canada and Nebraska, need to recognize that Canadian oil not flowing to the United States will probably flow to Asia, where it will be burned with fewer environmental protections,” wrote Lawrence Summers in The Washington Post.
It’s a more than fair point. America is not the only market for oil. China’s worsening environmental problems are of concern to everyone worried about the pace of global warming, and China is scouring the world for raw materials, including oil.
Finally, North American energy sources ought to be exploited here in North America.
That we should develop oil and gas resources with appropriate environmental controls is obvious, as is the long-term need to diversify our energy production portfolio. But the approval of the Keystone pipeline is not ultimately a hard decision on its merits.