Over the past months and right after the Senate defeated legislation authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama said the pipeline was just to move Canadian oil through the US to the Gulf Coast for shipment overseas. He has also said he is concerned about its environmental impacts and the small number of jobs that would be created. For all of these statements, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker has awarded the President Three Pinocchios.
The late Daniel Boorstin, former Librarian of the Library of Congress, wrote The Image: A Guide to Pseudo Events in America 50 years ago that went to great length to explain how illusions have replaced reality in our daily lives. Politicians and special interests use “pseudo events” to confuse the public and advance their own agendas. The opposition to Keystone XL is a granddaddy of pseudo events. There is nothing that the President has said or environmental zealots have said about Keystone that can withstand the antiseptic of reality and the cold light of day.
The notion that the US would just be a pass through vehicle—a conveyor belt as the Washington Post wrote, is inconsistent with the configuration of most Gulf Coast refineries. They were built to process high sulfur oils like those from Canada and also Mexico and Venezuela.
The President has also stated Keystone would only produce 39 full time jobs. To build the pipeline TransCanada will need steel, earth moving and construction equipment as well as engineering services. In addition to direct employment, there will also be indirect as a result of work on the pipeline. The remaining pipeline construction will take years to build and during that time investment and construction dollars will be spent in the US. Isn’t that a good thing? After construction is complete, there may only be 39 full-time jobs, but focusing on that is a true Pinocchio distortion.
The State Department has studied the permit application for six years. It keeps finding there are no serious environmental issues and each time the White House says a do-over is needed. In other words, keep studying it until you get the answer the President and his environmental supporters want.
Whether we approve the pipeline or not, Canada will produce its oil sands because it is a significant source of economic well being to Canada. So, the question is not whether but where does the oil go, how does it get there, and who uses the products that are produced from it. Presently, the oil is getting to the US by rail that has been shown to be less safe for humans and the environment than by pipeline.
The President’s slow walking is more than an embarrassment; it is a huge insult to a strong allie and trading partner and another failure to govern.