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Leave it in the ground isn’t a sane option

by Rob Port | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Say Anything | November 11th, 2015


On Sept. 19, 2008, TransCanada submitted a permit request to the U.S. State Department to build a pipeline across the United States/Canada border. The name of this project was the Keystone XL pipeline.

It took 2,605 days — seven years, one month, and 19 days of obnoxious political dithering — for the permit to be rejected

In shooting down the project, President Obama said it has had “an overinflated role in our political discourse.”

True, maybe. The Keystone XL project was actually just phase 4 of the Keystone pipeline network which stretches across the United States. The first two phases of this network are already completed and operating. Phase 3 is currently under construction.

Phase 4 was the Keystone XL phase, and because it became a national political football it has been canceled. That changes nothing about the thousands of miles of pipeline already built and operating.

But I’m not sure the role of the Keystone XL pipeline in America’s energy infrastructure has been overinflated. It represents a shift in the environmental left’s approach to opposing fossil fuels.

No longer are they satisfied with merely reducing dependence on fossil fuels. They’ve moved to a more extreme goal: The elimination of oil production entirely.

The political defeat of the Keystone XL project — I say political because it passed every environmental and safety review with flying colors — is fuel for that fire.

You don’t have to take my word for it. “It’s good, and at the same time it cannot be the extent of Obama’s work on climate,” Lindsey Allen, Rainforest Action Network executive director, told Time of Obama’s Keystone decision. “This is an opportunity to build on momentum and work to stop other projects like this.”

Allen’s group is part of a new initiative called Keep it in the Ground which seeks to stop oil and gas production entirely. That this would be disastrous for the American economy and the average American citizen’s quality of life seems lost on these people. The vast improvements in everything from cross-country mobility thanks to low-cost transportation to cheap consumer products made from plastics derived from petroleum would be lost if we “keep it in the ground.”

But the people behind this push have President Obama’s ear, as the Keystone decision proves, and that has serious implications for the American energy industry.

For instance, North Dakota is America’s second largest producer of oil. The state’s oil producers are desperate to move away from oil-by-rail shipments which are not only expensive — east coast refiners have been turning their backs on North Dakota crude because of costs, according to an article on Oilprice.com — but sometimes oil trains derail and explode.

Yet pending pipeline infrastructure projects that were already in the crosshairs of activists now seem like a bad bet post-Keystone.

The Sandpiper pipeline would run from Tioga, N.D., through Minnesota to Wisconsin and would take as much as 250,000 barrels per day. The Dakota Access pipeline would run from northwest North Dakota to Patoka, Ill., carrying as much as 450,000 barrels per day. Together these two lines, combined with the 100,000 barrels of daily capacity the Keystone XL pipeline would have provided, could take just about all of North Dakota crude currently being shipped by rail.

But both projects have met with furious political opposition that, while not garnering as much national media attention as the Keystone controversy did, is no less furious.

It will no doubt be more furious now that the anti-pipeline activists got a victory on Keystone.

This isn’t a good development for North Dakota, where the oil and gas industry is a major economic driver. Heck, it’s not a good development for America. This means it will be harder for our country to develop its resources, even as other nations continue to develop and sell theirs on the international market.

Which, by the way, is also closed to the American oil industry thanks to the ban on oil exports President Obama has promised to protect with his veto pen from congressional efforts to rescind it.

Like with Keystone, “leave it in the ground” would be a big political victory for those advocating it. But it would be a big defeat for America’s well being.

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