The premise of the article is that President Obama must chose between his domestic environmental supporters and a major foreign ally.
President Obama faces a knotty decision in whether to approve the much-delayed Keystone oil pipeline: a choice between alienating environmental advocates who overwhelmingly supported his candidacy or causing a deep and perhaps lasting rift with Canada.Broder even suggests that failure to approve the pipeline could cause a trade war.
Canada, the United States’ most important trading partner and a close ally on Iran and Afghanistan, is counting on the pipeline to propel more growth in its oil patch, a vital engine for its economy. Its leaders have made it clear that an American rejection would be viewed as an unneighborly act and could bring retaliation.After spending a good deal of time reading media coverage in Canada of the pipeline issue, I do not recall ever seeing any threats of a trade war. Broder does not offer any substantiation for his vaguely worded threats. I cannot help but wonder what that retaliation might look like. Perhaps they would sell us less tar sands bituminous sludge, albeit a strange response to our not expanding heavy oil imports. Or perhaps they will not join us in our next costly military misadventure. Or maybe they will not buy our overpriced weapon systems.
It is the oil industry that is promoting the pipeline issue as a diplomatic crisis. According to the head of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, "the signal of a rejection of a permit by the president would be a significant change in the Canada-U.S. relationship." In other words, it is just another talking point from the oil cartel to push for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Broder weaves the talking point into the entire article.
Here is another unsubstantiated claim:
The proposed northern extension of the nearly 2,000-mile Keystone XL pipeline would connect Canada’s oil sands to refineries around Houston and the Gulf of Mexico, replacing Venezuelan heavy crude with similar Canadian grades.One of the major talking points is that Canadian tar sands give us energy security because we no longer have to rely on importing oil from the Middle East or other politically volatile regions. Broder elevates this argument by claiming the expansion will automatically replace imports from Venezuela. Had he done a little research he might have discovered the imports from Venezuela have already declined, but unlikely to decline further because of refinery partnership agreements.
The real battle over the Keystone XL pipeline is between the oil industry and the overwhelming majority of Americans that favor a transition to clean energy. Public opinion has been shaped by media coverage that pretends the pipeline is about energy security and jobs despite the fact that neither are true. It is a pet project favored by the oil industry to increase profits.
There is no evidence that the Keystone XL pipeline will lower oil prices. The attractiveness of Gulf Coast refineries is that they facilitate export of refined oil products, which have increased dramatically since 2005. If our energy security depends on importing more tar sands crude from Canada, then why have oil prices and exports increased since 2005 despite rapidly increasing imports from Canada?
There is also no evidence that the project will create anything other than short-term construction jobs. A Cornell study debunked claims coming from the oil industry. Here are a few key points.
--The project budget that has a direct impact on U.S. employment is between $3 and $4 billion or about half of what industry claims.Instead of putting people to work on pointless pipeline projects, how about rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, including modernizing our water supply and sewage treatment? We have critical infrastructure needs in this country, but the Keystone XL pipeline is not one of them.
--50% or more of the steel pipe, the main material input used for Keystone XL, will be manufactured outside of the U.S.
--Jobs will be temporary and between 85-90% of the people hired to do the work will be non-local or from out of state.
--The Perryman study, which estimates around 119,000 (direct, indirect and induced) jobs is a poorly documented study commissioned by TransCanada.
--Job losses would be caused by additional fuel costs in the Midwest, pipeline spills, pollution and the rising costs of climate change. Even one year of fuel price increases as a result of Keystone XL could cancel out some or all of the jobs created by the project.
The Keystone XL pipeline is about climate and energy policy. Instead of any serious discussion in media, we get junk like this Broder recasting of industry talking points. Climate science and energy security demand a rapid transition to a low carbon economy. Oil will not disappear from our transportations any time soon, but it will never be cheap.
The New York Times recently dismantled its environment desk, which had produced some important investigative journalism on climate change and hydraulic fracturing. Despite assurances that the quality of coverage would not be affected, Broder's latest bromide makes me wonder.
Time to move forward on climate and put a stop to the failed energy policies of the 20th century.