Phony pipeline controversy

Phony pipeline controversy

January 20th, 2012 in Opinion Times

President Obama made the right decision Wednesday to reject, at least for now, an impossibly rushed approval process for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada's acidic tar-sands reserves in Alberta to a Texas Gulf coast port. The artificial deadline was shamelessly contrived last month by Republicans. It had to be rejected.

Nebraska's Republican governor and many irrigation-dependent farmers and ranchers in the six Midwestern states that the risky pipeline would cross reasonably fear its potential for damaging their vital water supplies, especially the mainstay, high-plains Ogallala aquifer that it would bisect in Nebraska. Given two leaks in the past year from acidic crude in Canada's first north-south pipeline, it's imperative that the EPA have enough time to finish its environmental review of the new pipeline proposal.

But never mind the facts.

Republicans were locked and loaded in their contrived quest to create a phony issue pitting construction jobs and oil supplies against environmental protection. Their hair-trigger assault Wednesday on Obama's decision clearly proves their intention to conjure a campaign issue regarding the pipeline. The issue deserves a more objective analysis.

The pipeline would not, for example, provide "tens of thousands of jobs," as House Speaker John Boehner claims. Analysts say it would create from around 2,000 to possibly 5,000 temporary construction jobs over a two-year period.

The environmental issues are too large to ignore. Extraction of oil from tar sands is far more energy intensive than regular oil-drilling and refining, and generates a much higher volume of greenhouse gases. The product is heavier and harder to process. The destruction of land and forests is immense. And the risk of environmentally damaging spills in metal pipelines from the acidic crude is undeniable.

Americans, moreover, would get little to no benefit from the pipeline's conveyance of the heavy tar-sands crude to the Gulf. Most of the oil would be sold abroad.

Of the six companies that already have contracted to buy 75 percent of the crude, five are foreign. They would buy it for export to their markets. The sixth company, Valero, an American company, is export-oriented. The rest of the crude would go to the highest bidder, which means its price would be fixed against the regular international commodity markets for oil.

Republicans and the big oil companies to which they kowtow know all this. But you couldn't tell it from their rhetoric and the political campaign ads that will soon center on the pipeline.

Yet there is no doubt this issue is contrived and distorted for purely political reasons. It was barely a month ago, on Dec. 22, that Republicans fixed the 60-day February deadline for a final decision on the pipeline by Obama. They attached the deadline demand as a condition for their agreement to the bill which extended the current payroll tax cut for one year to help keep the economy moving forward.

Obama and Democrats had proposed to pay for the tax cut, which lowered Social Security payroll deductions from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent, through a modest surcharge on annual incomes of over $1 million. Republicans rejected that, but came up with the pipeline condition for obvious political reasons: They intend to use his rejection of the current pipeline proposal -- the TransCanada pipeline company has already promised to resubmit it -- to make phony claims about the president's jobs, economic and environmental policies.

But contrary to Republican claims, it proves nothing of the sort. His forced decision was simply a phony set-up job to advance a political campaign farce. It proves nothing but Republican deceit.