On March 22, the US Senate issued a symbolic endorsement of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would deliver crude oil extracted from Canadian tar sands to refineries in Texas. Proponents of the pipeline claim that it would provide US jobs and might lower the cost of gasoline.
Environmental groups have vocally opposed Keystone XL, asking President Obama to reject the proposed expansion of the Keystone Pipeline. On Wednesday, an estimated 1,000 demonstrators are expected to protest the pipeline during the president's fundraising trip to San Francisco.
Recently, many in Congress have expressed a desire to move past party lines. A growing group of Representatives now insists that a bipartisan solution is simple: Transport the oil without building a pipeline.
Eco-friendly alternative to pipeline construction
According to Rep. Elena Escarrà (D-CO), a member of the Natural Resources Committee, the most eco-friendly answer is to "upcycle" existing infrastructure, namely, the nation's largest waterway.
The proposal calls for the crude oil to be poured directly into the Mississippi River, where the current would carry it to collection stations in Illinois and Louisiana. Because oil floats, it can be skimmed without disturbing the river's ecosystem, asserted Escarrà. "Organisms living in the river will begin the process of digesting the crude. This extra step will provide us with cleaner oil at a lower cost."
More details of the proposed bill, nicknamed "Oil and Waterway" by several media outlets, are expected to surface later today. The unorthodox proposal is already receiving tweets of support as legislators from both parties rush to cosponsor the promising piece of legislation.
Rep. Glen Wilborne (R-IA), a member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, emphasized potential benefits for other areas of the logistics industry. "At its current depths, the Mississippi River is a rusty machine. Once we've oiled its surface, our barges will float with ease," said Wilborne. Consequently, dredging could be postponed "until actually needed."
Sustainable job creation
Calming the tide of environmentalist concern is only half the battle. How does the proposal stack up, jobwise?
Oil and Waterway proposes to create jobs to construct and operate the two oil collection centers. However, critics claim that the proposal could fall short of Keystone XL's job creation potential.
A spokesperson for the proposed bill says that its job creation would be driven by the transportation industry. The bulk of the new jobs would be added to deliver the collected oil to refineries in Texas.
Because no new pipeline will be built, Oil and Waterway proposes to bring the oil by tank trucks. One legislator reasoned that this pipeline-alternative proposal would create many new jobs for truckers, some of whom may have lost jobs in the aftermath of the Recession. "We pledge to end the truck driver job shortage," said Rep. Kelly McCroy (R-OH).
Editor's Note: Happy April Fool's Day!