Saturday, January 21, 2012

Keystone Backlash

Robert Samuelson, the sometimes vaguely libertarian but utterly mainstream economist called the decision to squash the pipeline "national insanity":
President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is an act of national insanity. It isn’t often that a president makes a decision that has no redeeming virtues and — beyond the symbolism — won’t even advance the goals of the groups that demanded it. All it tells us is that Obama is so obsessed with his reelection that, through some sort of political calculus, he believes that placating his environmental supporters will improve his chances.
Then he started to get mean...  Meanwhile, the decision is beginning to rub some members of his labor support the wrong way:
“It’s repulsive, it’s disgusting and we’re not going to stand idly by,” Laborers’ International Union of North America General President Terry O’Sullivan told POLITICO. “The rules have changed. So we’ll react accordingly.”

O’Sullivan said the first move will be to pull his union out of the BlueGreen Alliance — a coalition of environmental groups and labor unions that represented nearly all of the groups that signed a joint statement backing Obama... “Unions and environmental groups that have no equity in the work have kicked our members in the teeth,” O’Sullivan said. “And anger is an understatement as to how we feel about it. We’re not sitting at the same table as people that destroy our members’ lives.”
But, what the heck, it's not like Obama was counting on North Dakota's pitiful 3 electoral votes anyway.  And speaking of North Dakota,  the fact that the pipeline will not be built means that oil being extracted in NoDak will have to be shipped out by track and rail car, causing more oils spills (pipelines are much safer than track and rail traffic), and less efficiency from an energy, and carbon point of view; it takes more energy to roll it than to pipe it:
"Pipelines are by far the safest and most economically efficient way to transport oil, but we are left with a limited number of options if pipelines are off the table," said Tony Clark, chairman of the North Dakota Public Service Commission. "Once the oil is flowing, it has to go somewhere."...

Calgary-based TransCanada Corp.'s 1,700-mile pipeline is designed to carry crude oil from tar sands near Hardisty, Alberta, through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The pipeline also would move 100,000 barrels of crude daily, largely from North Dakota's burgeoning oil patch and some from Montana...

Alison Ritter, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Mineral Resources, said the state's so-called takeaway capacity is adequate, though producers and the state were counting on the on the Keystone XL to move North Dakota crude.

Shipping crude by pipeline in North Dakota adds up to $1.50 to its cost, compared to $2 or more a barrel for rail shipments, producers say. "Oil that would have moved by the Keystone XL is now going to shift to rail transportation," Ritter said.

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