The construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline has been a hot-button political issue for a while now. For those who do not know, the Keystone Pipeline is a system that runs from Canada to states as far south as Texas. The idea is that it will greatly reduce transmission costs of obtaining oil from Alberta, which has very large oil reserves, to the United States. The hope is that this will create jobs and lower the cost of oil for consumers.
The final phase of Keystone is awaiting government approval. Terry O’Sullivan, who runs the Laborer’s International Union that represents many construction workers, had this to say, as quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal article:
It’s not the oil that’s dirty, it’s the politics. Once again, the Administration is making a political calculation instead of doing what is right for the country. This certainly is no example of profiles in courage. It’s clear the Administration needs to grow a set of antlers, or perhaps take a lesson from Popeye and eat some spinach.
O’Sullivan may have a point here. There has been a lot of political backlash surrounding the project (many cowboys and Indians marched through Washington DC on Tuesday to “show Obama, to show Washington DC the very faces of the people that the decision of the KXL pipeline represents) in spite of the fact that a report by the Obama Administration (a liberal group, not a conservative one!) shows that there will be negligible increases in emissions caused by the pipeline (an idea which economic theory, the Hotelling Model in particular, also supports). It seems that Obama may be more concerned with pleasing a liberal audience than following the numbers.
But why should anyone be opposed to the pipeline at all, then? Many are concerned about environmental effects other than emissions. Some environmental activists would point to the fact that more oil production puts ecosystems in danger. This is a fair point, but, of course, we must weight the costs with the benefits. The aforementioned report concludes that only one endangered species — a fish species — is likely to be adversely affected by the implementation of the pipeline. That is unfortunate. But it must be weighed against the fact that the pipeline will create thousands of jobs, make energy cheaper, and reduce America’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil. There are other concerns to be raised against the pipeline, not all of which I have time to discuss here, but I encourage all interested in the pipeline to weigh costs and benefits carefully.
So, Obama probably does need to “grow some antlers” in this situation.