President Obama this week made good on his threat to veto a Republican-backed bill to approve construction of the 1,179-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline. The pipeline would carry more than 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The bill “cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety and environment,” the president said in his veto message to Congress on Tuesday.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the veto a “national embarrassment” and said the president’s decision will deny Americans 42,000 jobs.
Does the president’s veto of the pipeline project protect the environment or undermine America’s economic interests? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, weigh in.
Proponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline would have you believe its veto by President Obama is a disaster-in-the-making for America. Actually, the decision is merely inconvenient for well-heeled international oil interests — and that’s hardly the same thing.
“What about the jobs?” the pipeline advocates cry. Well, what about them? Yes, building the pipeline might create as many as 3,900 construction jobs — but those jobs would be temporary. After construction is over, Politifact has confirmed, just 35 permanent jobs would be created to keep the pipeline in operation. The economy will survive.
“What about America’s energy needs?” they cry. Well, what about them? Here’s the (clean) little secret: The United States has already begun its shift into the post-petroleum future. As Bloomberg reported in December, it was once the case that domestic oil consumption and the country’s gross domestic product moved in tandem — when one went up so did the other — because oil was fueling our economy. Now? The economy is growing. Oil consumption isn’t.
In fact, America’s demand for fuel will be flat this year. Why? Baby boomers are retiring and giving up their commutes; millennials are avoiding commutes altogether by moving to cities, giving up cars and taking the bus. And it turns out that snooty lefty values of conservation have helped: Increased fuel efficiency in new cars has dampened the demand for oil, and Americans really are relying increasingly on wind and solar energy to power their homes.
“What if Canada ships its oil to China instead?” Let it try! It’s true that there are several cross-Canadian pipelines under consideration to accomplish that task, but one route is opposed by a majority of Quebecois, another by First Nations tribes that control some of the affected land. Turns out Canadians aren’t much interested in a pipeline crossing through their backyard, either.
Add it all up, and the benefits to the pipeline seem underwhelming. So do the risks of inaction. President Obama’s veto of the pipeline is hardly a calamity; don’t let oil company advocates persuade you otherwise.
What a foolish, dishonest veto President Obama delivered to Congress this week. The facts plainly contradict the president’s rationale for blocking legislation that would allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to proceed.
The president claims this particular act of Congress “cuts short thorough consideration of the issues that could bear on our national interest.” But the administration has been dithering over Keystone for six years. How much more thorough could this process be?
Not much more thorough. The proposal has gone through multiple levels of federal and state review. But at this point, the president is looking for any reason to delay or deny the pipeline.
And just about any excuse will do. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Feb. 2 suggested that maybe building the pipeline isn’t such a great idea because, after all, global oil prices are really low right now. But nobody expects low prices to last. Gasoline costs are already creeping upward as U.S. and overseas oil companies ratchet back their production.
Incidentally, this is the same EPA that concluded in its final environmental review for the State Department a year ago that Keystone wouldn’t significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. Talk about an “inconvenient truth.”
In reality, the administration’s rationale for blocking the $8 billion Keystone project is purely political, a concession to the environmental left that constitutes a sizable fraction of the Democratic Party’s base. Groups such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, as well as well-heeled activists such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., insist that it’s not enough for the United States to embrace renewable energy — it must also reject fossil fuel.
But Canada is going to develop its tar sands oil fields no matter what the United States decides. If the administration ultimately rejects the project, Canada will simply build a pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver, where those hundreds of thousands of barrels a day will be exported to a wealthier and more energy-hungry China.
Environmentalists “win” by depriving Americans of jobs and denying the U.S. market another source of petroleum. But, if you’re inclined to think fossil fuels present a mortal threat, then the environment will “lose” because the oil will be produced and burned anyway — and the United States will be left worse off in the bargain.
Mr. Boychuk is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Mr. Mathis is a contributing editor to Philadelphia Magazine. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or www.facebook.com/benandjoel.