Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Keystone XL approved: blame the environmentalists

The Keystone XL pipeline looks like it will now be built, thanks to Trump’s pen. And I blame my team, the environmentalists. We did not properly frame the problem.

We framed the problem as an environmental problem. Keep that nasty tar in the ground. It pollutes the local water and contributes to CO2 emissions. Yes, all true. But not an argument that stirs many emotions, except for the emotions of us hard-core greenies.

Feb 2013 Forward on Climate Rally, Washington DC
Instead we should have asked the question, “why is they want to build that pipeline all the way to the Gulf of Mexico in the first place?” Well, the answer is pretty easy: Global markets are better than U.S. markets, and profit. The Gulf Coast is home to one of the largest concentrations of refineries in the world. Crude oil needs to be refined into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, etc., before being sold to the consumers. Also, you need to know this: U.S. law prohibits the export of crude oil. This is a remnant for the 1970’s Arab Oil Embargo days. But, refined products like gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, can be exported. So the oil companies have to refine that tarry oil into something they can sell on the world market. Right now they can't. Not easily.

So the bottom line is this: If we were really interested in national security and energy independence, like Trump says, this is not the way. That Canadian tar will be sent to the Gulf, processed into gas, diesel, and jet fuel then sold on the world market to China, India, Europe, you name it, where it can be sold for more than it can be sold on the US market. Have you checked out the price of a gallon of gasoline in Europe?

We environmentalists took our eye off the ball. In the future we should look for ways to reframe the issue as one of national security rather than saving polar bears. The environmental math involved in all the different pieces and parts of Keystone XL were too complex for your average politician sound bite. We should have tried something different, like, "if you are going to take land away from U.S. citizens and pollute North America, at least keep that gas at home so we can stop importing in from the Saudis and Venezuelans."

But now we are all going to pay for it. As will the environment.

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