President Obama announced Friday that his administration would reject TransCanada’s permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have run from Alberta’s tar sands region to the Gulf Coast. Environmentalists (and Nebraskan landowners) rejoiced, but many conservatives were quick to criticize the move.
Here are their arguments, rebutted:
Won’t someone think about the jobs?
Keystone supporters are fond of saying that the project will create jobs.
Thousands of high quality energy sector jobs will be left on the altar of Obama’s environmental extremism. #KeystoneXL
— Gov. Bobby Jindal (@BobbyJindal) November 6, 2015
But according to an analysis from the State Department, the project would create only 35 permanent jobs across the country.
Still, a lot of Republicans took to Twitter to talk about the thousands of jobs — which would have been mainly temporary construction jobs — going down the drain.
My statement following President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline: pic.twitter.com/dYDGGq527J
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) November 6, 2015
A lot fewer of them are talking about jobs programs that could help communities dominated by fossil fuels transition into the clean economy so many — including Obama — say we need.
Keystone XL would have been fine for the environment
Even if it weren’t seen as a trade-off with the economy, there is a tendency among Keystone supporters to say the project won’t be bad for the environment.
POTUS rejection of #KeystoneXL goes against years of studies showing little environmental impact but significant economic impact.
— Charles Boustany (@RepBoustany) November 6, 2015
While the U.S. State Department said there would not be a major impact on climate change (individual projects generally don’t have “major impacts” on climate change — it is the aggregation of extracting and burning fossil fuels that is the problem), it’s likely that the pipeline would eventually experience a spill. Tar sands oil is heavier than conventional crude and more difficult to clean up. (See an example of that here.) Tar sands oil extraction also has greater carbon intensity than other forms of oil. Climate scientist James Hansen has called it one of the world’s dirtiest types of fuel.
In addition, if completed, the pipeline would have carried enough oil to emit 181 million metric tons of CO2 every year — more than 37.7 million cars or 51 coal plants.
Even if, as people on both sides of the issue have pointed out, the symbolism of Keystone might have become as important as the actual oil running through its vein, the trend matters. As Obama said Friday, “If we’re gonna prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re gonna have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”
Keystone would have brought us closer to energy independence
Of course, not everyone accepts the scientific consensus on climate change. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) pivoted nicely from the environmental angle to energy security, another overused and disproved argument for Keystone.
that this administration continues to prioritize the demands of radical environmentalists over America's energy security.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 6, 2015
The State Department, in its final Environmental Impact Statement Friday, found that Keystone would have a “negligible” impact on energy security. And an excerpt from this piece from 2013 lays out why shouting “security” is cynical and wrong.
Listen to Army Brig. Gen. Steven M. Anderson, who oversaw logistics for allied troops in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. In an interview last December, he said, “all Americans should be outraged” about the national security liabilities of the Keystone project because it “keeps us hopelessly addicted to oil.” He continued:
I want to stop paying big oil and I want to start seeing a green economy in this nation. And big oil is pushing Keystone, and Keystone is essentially going to maintain the status quo for another 25 years. And during that time I can only imagine the impact it’s going to have on our environment and, indeed, our national security.
Even if you walk it back to a simple question of where America gets its energy, Keystone doesn’t really help.
If we measure energy security by energy prices, the Keystone project’s influence will be negligible to negative. The Canadian oil moving through the pipeline is expected to increase gasoline prices in the Midwest and perhaps nationwide as refineries in the Gulf of Mexico produce less gas so they can process tar sands oil. And as energy experts have repeatedly pointed out, more oil production in North America or the United States has little impact on the price we pay in the global petroleum market.
Being anti-Keystone is anti-American
The “Obama hates America” trope has already been trotted out by conservatives, including former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL).
Bush, a current Republican presidential candidate, said rejecting the pipeline is a “self-inflicted attack” on the U.S. economy and jobs.
The Obama Admin's politically motivated rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline is a self-inflicted attack on the U.S. economy and jobs.
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) November 6, 2015
Someone might want to tell him that climate change represents a much, much bigger attack on American jobs, safety, and health than any one pipeline ever could.
But don’t worry, Keystone supporters! House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised that the fight is not over.
— Sen. McConnell Press (@McConnellPress) November 6, 2015
— Sen. McConnell Press (@McConnellPress) November 6, 2015
It’s unclear, frankly, whether the American public is at all interested in Congress taking this up. A poll from January on energy issues found that only 7 percent of voters said they wanted Washington to allow Keystone.