By Aaron Haskins, Michigan Energy Program Intern
For years, we have been heard a lot about the Keystone Pipeline. Oil companies like TransCanada continually reassure us that the pipeline will have minimal impact on the environment while creating thousands of jobs for both Americans and Canadians. Those who oppose the pipeline say that it will contaminate drinking water, endanger the environmentally sensitive farmland it passes through, and raise oil prices throughout the Midwestern United States.
The proposition for an extension to the pipeline called “Keystone XL” has been hotly debated by economists and politicians for years now, but the project is still in limbo. The northern half of the pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canada border, which means it can’t be built without approval from the Obama administration. Given the controversial nature of the pipeline and the pressure coming from both sides, I am not surprised that a final decision hasn’t been made. I am, however, disappointed that there even needs to be a discussion an either/or debate when it comes to creating jobs and protecting wildlife and the environment.
If Keystone is allowed to move forward, it will indicate America’s commitment to tar sands as a long-term form of energy – which isn’t good. Tar sands are an unconventional form of petroleum proven to be much more polluting than regular oil. Approving a pipeline designed to put tar sands extraction in the express lane would be a sorry symbol of our lack of progress toward clean energy.
Proponents of the extension have argued that the pipeline will not increase harm to the climate or our communities because those tar sands were going to be burned anyway. For them the pipeline merely serves as a more convenient method of transport. Justifying the project using this kind of logic is akin to saying, “I don’t want my friend to drink and drive, but since he’s going to anyway I might as well start his car for him.”
In 2008 (around the time Keystone XL was first proposed), President Obama called on us to “be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil.” Now, it is our turn to call on him to be the president who helped us do it by saying no to Keystone XL.