A “pipeline” to productivity


Transcanada Corporation

By Zachary McCarthy

Congress finally (sort of) agreed on something! Too bad it’s something the rest of America doesn’t quite agree on. This week, the House of Representatives passed a bill that greenlighted the Keystone XL pipeline on a 270-152 vote.

For those of you scratching your heads wondering if Keystone XL is some knockoff product related to the beer brand, I’ll go ahead and clarify what it is (and risk sounding like a rejected ecology teacher).

The Keystone XL pipeline, unlike similar pipelines of its caliber, would refine gas from rare oil sands in a manner that requires copious amounts of water and natural gas for steam. It extracts and transports fuel all the way from the south of Canada through North Dakota, South Dakota and Nevada.

The problem many people cite with this model is that it drains more resources than it extracts. You don’t need to get a five on the A.P. Environmental Science exam to realize that doesn’t sound too efficient.

Yet even as an environmentalist and a liberal (big shocker considering that I’m a teenager in Westport), I have absolutely no problem with Keystone. Sorry, my Democrat colleagues.

Let’s look at all Keystone can offer us. A pipeline of Keystone’s level is a massive undertaking, but its return on investment is undeniable. Who are we, a nation in recession, to reject a project that would create 42,000 jobs for the foreseeable future? With a currently vicious, volatile commodities market, how can we reject a lifeline of 830,000 barrels of oil a day? Keystone would be a local, plentiful supply of energy in a world where transporting gas is an expensive (and exceedingly dangerous) process. That is an extremely valuable asset.

I’ll be the first to admit that a sprawling oil pipe isn’t nature-friendly, and no, it isn’t an infinite output to be totally relied on. And though I do consider myself an environmentalist, I’m also a pragmatist who sees that the progress of sustainable energy has been sluggish at best. We’re still mastering renewable fuels, and the reality is that transitioning to a green economy would most likely take decades of continued research, modification and pitch-perfect adjustments.

Also, consider that an influx of oil does not mean that environmental research will be slowed or stopped. If anything, both the taxed revenue of the mammoth XL project paired with its probable stimulation of the economy could be invested in more expensive, yet farsighted, options.

Keystone will complete its trip to the White House over the next few weeks and, yes, it will probably “earn” Obama’s veto. (Editor’s note: it sure did.) But, before the executive and the legislative branches get tangled into another spat, I just ask that everyone (yes, even you, my likely left-winger) consider Keystone. It’ll fuel hundreds of cars, scores of arguments and, hopefully, an improved economy. With the right amount of responsibility, and a few investments in the future, nature won’t do so badly either.