Good Politics is Bad Policy: Obama Declines Keystone XL Pipeline Permits

                On Wednesday, President Obama let politics get in the way of good policy when he decided to reject the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. In Obama’s speech, he claimed that the State Department has not had enough time to review the proposal and will let TransCanada reapply for permits to build the pipeline. This decision to deny the pipeline its permits is clearly an attempt by President Obama to coddle the green vote in the upcoming election at the expense of what’s good for America.

                Opponents of the pipeline have three main contentions: First, that Alberta tar sands are too dirty; second, that the pipeline is unsafe, and third that America should not be increasing its oil imports. All of these claims are fallacious, illogical and unsound when compared with America’s energy situation. Even at the best possible growth estimates for green technology, America is still going to be importing millions of barrels of oil a day by 2025. The question is not whether we should be importing this oil (we cannot possibly grow green tech fast enough not to) but where this oil should come from.

                Canadian oil shipped to the U.S. via pipelines like the proposed Keystone XL is the best possible alternative to importing oil by ship from corrupt dictatorships in Latin America and unstable regions in the Middle East. Does it make sense for America’s petrodollars to support our staunch ally to the North, or prop up backwards and brutal regimes in unstable regions? The answer seems clear, ethical oil from Canada is the right choice. Morally, we should have more Canadian oil.

                From an environmental perspective, Canadian oil sands have a bad image. However, with increasing self-regulation in the industry and improving technological standards the oil sands are becoming cleaner every day. Environmentalists who claim that boycotting tar sands oil and stopping the Keystone XL pipeline will somehow stop or slow tar sands oil production are completely wrong. Already, the Canadian government has proposed to fast-track the Northern Gateway pipeline which will supply tar sands oil to China. Since the tar sands are going to continue at full production anyways, there is no reason we should harm U.S. interests by futilely stopping the pipeline. Besides, surely, from an environmental perspective, it makes more sense to send Canadian oil to the U.S. via pipeline rather than by ship to China and then have the U.S. import oil by ship from the Middle East. From an environmental perspective, the Keystone XL pipeline is beneficial, or at the very least, not harmful.

                Two other important considerations are national security and ecological safety. A popular concern about the Keystone XL pipeline was possible ecological damage from a spill. Everything does have some risks, but since the same amount of oil needs to be imported anyways, pipelines from Canada are much less risky than importing the oil by ship from the Middle East. The other option is for the U.S. to drastically increase domestic production of oil, but as we saw in the Gulf of Mexico, this option has substantial risks as well. From a national and economic security standpoint, having our oil come from a politically stable ally like Canada is better than having oil come from dictatorships in unstable regions. From a safety and security standpoint, the Keystone XL pipeline is the best option.

                Clearly, from a moral, environmental, and security standpoint the Keystone XL pipeline is in the interest of the United States. Building the pipeline does more good than harm. This becomes even more true when we consider the over 20,000 (according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy) jobs which would be created by this project. Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline will not affect the tar sands oil production but it will mean a loss of American jobs and a decrease in America’s energy security. Mr. Obama has let politics get in the way good policy. Unfortunately, this seems to occur much too often on both sides of the house these days.

-Stuart A. Allan