10. March 2014 10:20
Many of us recall the Keystone Kops, the fictional, incompetent policemen who were featured in many silent films of the early 1900s. I am beginning to believe they may be back and involved in the aptly named Keystone XL oil pipeline project. This pipeline, proposed two years ago, would move Bakken crude oil from the upper U.S. and Canada to the Gulf Coast. Since it was suggested, it has been a political minefield; but last week, President Obama told the nation's governors in a meeting at the White House that he expects to make a decision in the "next couple of months". This prompted an outburst by Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, saying that if Obama were really serious about improving the economy, he would approve the project.
Predictably, the project is trapped between Democrats, Republicans, environmentalists, and others who have strong feelings about digging a trench across the country. In the meantime, the oil is moving by rail at the rate of thousands of barrels a day and has been a tremendous shot in the arm for railroads, tank car manufacturers, and other related industries. The significant downside is that there have been some very serious accidents involving the oil trains. Train shipments of oil are expected to reach 2 million barrels a day this year. While the pipeline would not eliminate the need for rail transport, it would certainly help. A recent State Department environmental report overcame one hurdle when it indicated that the backers of the pipeline are right – it will not have a significant impact on carbon emissions.
Environmentalists are crying "foul", saying the report was a sham, and the proponents point to the project's $3.4 billion in increased economic activity suggested by the report. While the arguments are sure to continue, with the U.S. on a trajectory to be the world's largest oil producer by 2015, a decision is critical. Realistically speaking, the politics and polarized opinions surrounding the project could tie it up for years; but if we ever want to get out from under the oil hammer the Mideast continues to hang over our heads, something must be done – and soon.