Here’s what most people do not realize: major oil pipelines extending 2,151 miles from the Canadian Tar Sands already have been completed and are in operation from Hardisty, Alberta, east through Saskatchewan and Manitoba and south through eastern North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas and then on to refineries in southern Illinois and central Oklahoma, carrying 590,000 barrels of oil each day.
If they knew that, they would certainly wonder why there is an uproar about adding capacity for an additional 830,000 barrels a day through new pipelines from Hardisty through eastern Montana and southwestern North Dakota, where it would pick up U.S. oil from the now famous Bakken Fields and then move further east through South Dakota and Nebraska to Steele City, Nebraska, where the existing pipeline travels on to Cushing, Oklahoma, and then continue it about 500 more miles to the Gulf Coast of Texas, where so many refineries are located.
Canadian oil is cleaner than most of what we get from Venezuela and the Persian Gulf. And our rejection of the Canadian oil will not slow development of the tar sands, a supposed goal of the environmental activists. Canada will simply build a pipeline to Vancouver and sell the oil to Asian countries.
According to Marita Noon, executive director of Energy Makes America Great, The Heritage Foundation has concluded “the project will create some 179,000 jobs on American soil and continue good trade relations with a close ally.” What’s not to like? Plenty, for some people.
The late environmental activist Paul Ehrlich once said that having cheap energy is the equivalent of putting a machine gun in the hands of an idiot child. That, I am afraid, is exactly what our alphabet soup of environmental activist groups evidently believe, which is why they support wind and solar energy with all their might: because they know it will never be cheap. In fact, they know it will never even be economically feasible.
Now they are panicked over the oil industry’s game-changing ability to develop heretofore uneconomical shale gas and oil with the advent of horizontal drilling and hydro-fracking, the latter technology having been used for 60 years in conventional oil drilling without any environmental damage whatsoever.
For years now, our government has ordered up environmental impact studies on the Keystone XL Pipeline, and when each study concluded there were no serious problems, they ordered up a new study. There have been four in all, the latest from the State Department, of all agencies, which again concluded there would be no major environmental impact. Now the State Department is calling for public feedback even though there have been tens of thousands of public comments already.
The drumbeat has failed so far. In mid-March, 17 Democrats voted with 45 Republicans in the Senate for a budget amendment supporting the pipeline, up from 11 Democrats voting for a similar amendment last year. That is good news, as is a recent Fox News poll reported in the Wall Street Journal on March 27, in which 70 percent of registered voters expressed support for construction of the pipeline.
Meanwhile, the labor unions, longtime Democrat supporters, are four-square in favor of the pipeline for the jobs it will bring. So how can the pipeline lose? Easily.
Recently the environmental activists staged a demonstration in Washington urging President Obama to stand his ground. Few showed up and some were arrested, but they made their point. Environment expert Daryl Hannah, best known for her movie role as a mermaid, said the State Department report was “totally wrong, flat out totally wrong.” Can the president resist that siren’s call? I doubt it. His office is a wholly owned subsidiary of both Hollywood and the green movement, with the administration having already spent billions and billions of dollars on failed green projects.
But there still could be a happy ending for most of us: the railroad. After nearly going bankrupt in the 1970s, U.S. railroads are back stronger than ever. They have saved North Dakota from overflowing with a glut of oil, by filling miles and miles of tank cars on Obama supporter Warren Buffet’s Burlington Northern Line with 500,000 barrels of oil each day and carrying it to refineries on the west coast of the United States. (Hmm, could that be another reason Obama opposes the pipeline?) By year’s end their capacity will rise to 700,000 barrels a day.
The railroads are fully capable of building new track connecting the Dakotas with our Gulf Coast-unless Obama and his Hollywood friends decide this, too, would be an environmental hazard. Stay tuned.
Jay Lehr, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org) is science director and senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank based in Chicago.