Sunday, April 8, 2012

On the Keystone Pipeline Debacle

This article was published as a guest column in the Waco "Trib" not long ago. Here is the version of it, as it was originally submitted. What was published was very close to this.


We all saw the politically-motivated decisions, for and against, the Keystone pipeline project. I submit this as an example of the very worst in American governance (actually the lack thereof) today.

The corporations submit a proposal to build a pipeline at least cost to them. This crosses some sensitive aquifer recharge zones without any protection against oil spills in those zones. It’s a pipeline. They do inevitably leak.

The Republicans are largely for the project as it is proposed. They trumpet the jobs it will bring (which will be temporary on a scale of about 3 years), and the “cheap fuel” it will bring (which it will not).

The Democrats are largely against it on environmental grounds (which actually are of real concern). Here, with an upcoming election, the President and his party are playing to a chunk of their base.

Both sides treat this as an either-or issue. Neither actually looks at what is the right thing to do, or not to do. The President prevails, blocking the project, but leaving the door open for another proposal. So, the Canadians are looking to give that oil and that business to the Chinese instead.

What utter crap! All the worse because it is politically-motivated, and it hurts this country.

I am sick and tired of the political stereotypes for “liberals” and “conservatives”. Each group has a checklist of touchstone beliefs to be a group member.

These touchstone beliefs are so far divorced from actual reality as to be dangerous to the nation. The media plays into this and amplifies the effect, solely because controversy sells. National destruction-for-profit looms. This is inexcusable!

If you ditch all the political rhetoric and concepts, and go back to the dictionary definitions, you find out that a “conservative” person essentially believes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Likewise, a “liberal” person believes “if it is broke, go fix it”.

Folks, we need both viewpoints! And nothing at all in those definitions says the same person cannot be both “liberal” and “conservative”, depending upon what he sees facing him.

The decision as to whether something is “broke” or not is not a political decision, nor should it be. It is a matter of plain facts and common sense. To do otherwise, endangers this nation, plain and simple.

What to do about those things that are “broke”, is a matter of civilized debate. Here is where the politics can get into it, but only at a muted levels: the business of the people (that’s all of us) must come first! Before party, before personal advantage.

That’s the kind of people you-all should have been electing. But in so many cases, you didn’t.

Back to the Keystone pipeline.

As I said, it should not have been an “either-or” political football. Good old common sense says fix the spill risks to the vulnerable aquifer recharge zones, and then build the thing, “best possible speed”.

That means issue the permit forthwith, but with the proviso to provide secondary containment in the risky areas. This is essentially a paved road under the pipe (which you need anyway for maintenance), combined with a series of concrete-bottomed runoff ponds to catch the loose crude draining off the road, before it can sink into the dirt.

Folks, it’s crude oil. There is no “disposal” or “waste treatment” here. You just hold the oil in the runoff ponds until the leak is patched, then pump it right back into the pipe. It’s all going to the refinery to be cleaned up, anyway!

It would be nice if our friends the Canadians sent that oil to us instead of China. There’ll be about 3 years’ worth of construction jobs while it’s being built. But don’t expect it to materially affect world oil prices; it’s just not that much oil in comparison.

My advice is: ditch the politics and go back to common sense. And start electing a crop of people who will do the same. The current crop ain’t it.

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