Thursday, November 17, 2011

Keystone XL Pipeline Editorial Full of Bad Ideas

Washington Post's Illogical Arguments Set Bad Precendent

I was dismayed by four rationales offered by the Washington Post editorial entitled Washington’s unwelcome delay in the Keystone XL pipeline project, which advocated proceeding post haste. There are lots of good reasons to delay. Watch my friend Bill McKibben on The Colbert Report, but don't let that prevent you from sending the Washington Post a letter yourself! Watching Comedy Central is not doing something about the problem.


My first objection to the editorial board's ill-considered words was that delay in a quasi-judicial proceeding (three years of review, as they noted) does not equal a reason to proceed with a project. If you use that logic, then the people in New England who are concerned about the power lines that NU/NSTAR intend to build from Canada's hydroelectric dams through New Hampshire on to markets in Massachusetts and Connecticut also should lose their case eventually, because those delays have already begun.

Secondly, while Hydro-Quebec's dam energy is not as easily exported to the Chinese as their oil is, the Post's  rationale that if America does not buy Canadian oil somebody else will could be applied to any transportable natural resource, from Trufula trees to lithium.

I live in China for the time being, as an English teacher although I am a lawyer who once worked at the NH Public Utilities Commission and advised Jon Edwards on a carbon tax. I assure you that as thirsty as the Chinese are for energy, papering their nation and ours with their "Made in China" solar panels is much more in line with their foreign and domestic policy objective of reducing carbon than soaking up Alberta's shale tar. The WaPo should not shill for the greedy, but take a stance that democracies make moral decisions about the future of the planet based on science and reality, not fears and dreads.

Third, the Keystone XL pipeline is a corporate project, not a national project. The insidious suggestion that we would "offend a reliable ally" (Canada) if we did not drink from the Alberta tar well or hook our high-voltage wires to Quebec's reservoirs suggests that these editorial writers believe WalMart's or American Electric Power's corporate ambitions abroad are synonymous with our national interests. Governments are supposed to harness corporations, through their charters, to protect the public good not act as extensions of their sales and marketing departments. Recant and applaud the Administration for their forbearance!

Finally, this will not "cost infrastructure jobs" as the Post suggested. The real, long-lasting infrastructure jobs are, as McKinsey & Company pointed out long ago, in energy efficiency and conservation projects which can obviate the need for this oil in less time than it takes to build almost any kind of power plant or its wires and pipelines.