OUR VIEW: Time to approve pipeline
We totally get opponents' environmental worries about the Canadian Keystone XL Pipeline project -- if the oil conduit were being built in a perfect world where all ideals were practically attainable when we wished.
Unfortunately, the Keystone project -- which would lay pipe through parts of Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska -- is being built in an imperfect world, where complex practicalities, unhelpful timing and economic necessity place environmental concerns at a lower priority than we may like. Yes, we understand the hazards in apparent global warming, the negative contribution of burning fossil fuels to that scenario and the desire to leave a cleaner, healthier planet to our children, children's children and other generation to follow.
The world is genuinely working on that, but it's not a problem amenable to a quick fix. Absent a new, better energy source, it's going to take many decades to resolve, and by then accessible oil for all intents and purposes may have run out.
In the meantime, people -- in industrial behemoths like America and emerging economies such as China and India -- will need lots and lots of energy, which for the foreseeable future will be in the form of petroleum, which is the commodity most available, energy-rich and easily distributed worldwide. Adequate production, infrastructure and distribution capacities for alternative fuels just do not yet exist to significantly fill the supply gap if new oil sources are shut-in before they begin. We strongly hope they do one day, but for now it's a pipe dream.
Beyond whether the XL Pipeline is philosophically a defensible idea, there are many concrete arguments in favor.
Heavy Canadian tar-sand oil will be mined and distributed around the world, whether or not the U.S. allows the pipeline to transport it through our states to refineries or ports. So, our national environmental concerns about it are moot. We're also going to need imported oil from somewhere, and Canada seems a far more politically defensible supplier than, say, Saudi Arabia, which still supplies a sizeable chunk of our demand despite growing U.S. internal reserves.
Some opponents are wary of pipelines because they might rupture somewhere and spill crude on American soil, but if the pipeline were blocked, the Canadians would simply truck it or move it on trains, which is possibly even riskier. Six accidents have occurred in the past year involving trains carrying crude oil, plus some oil trucks have crashed.
Also, Keystone officials have reconfigured the proposed pipeline's route to help avoid environmentally vulnerable or valuable sites, including the Nebraska Sandhills. The project will also support an estimated 2,000 direct jobs that will last about two years and support another 40,000 related jobs.
A recent report by the U.S. State Department highlights the jobs the pipeline would produce and characterizes its environmental risks as effectively neutral. Republicans and Democrats are joining across the aisle in support of the project.
It's time to stop haggling and let it happen.