Opinion

Pipeline project conflicts with fight against climate change

This spring, President Barack Obama will decide whether to approve the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. The decision will be a litmus test of his commitment to fighting climate change and of keeping promises made to his constituents.

During Obama’s proposed “year of action,” and in the context of unprecedented pollution as well as popular discontent with the federal government, allowing this pipeline project to go forward is unjustifiable.

The argument for “energy security” sounds very attractive, but the Keystone Pipeline will serve only to increase Big Oil profits at the expense of the American consumer and the health of our planet. Higher prices at the pump will not be the only consequence of this oil market expansion project.

If completed, the Keystone XL Pipeline Project will be a 1,179 mile long crude oil pipeline connecting tar sands oil production from Alberta, Canada to Southern Nebraska. According to Transcanada, the company seeking the mandatory Presidential Permit for the project, the pipeline embodies “critical infrastructure … for the energy security of the United States and for strengthening the U.S. economy.”

While Pew Research polls show that 65 percent of the American population support the project, there has been a great deal of misinformation spread on the matter. A recent report released by the U.S. State Department concluded that the pipeline would not have a “significant” effect on greenhouse emission, but the press discovered that the contractor hired to prepare the draft had extensive business ties to Transcanada. In response, the U.S. Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change pronounced the findings to be “fundamentally flawed.”

The crude oil developed from these tar sands will not be sold for domestic consumption, but rather exported to foreign countries lacking serious fuel emission regulations. To allow this exportation is to abandon the effort to reign in global emissions. It will actually increase prices at the pump in the U.S.

Last year during at a speech in Oklahoma, Obama said: “We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipelines to encircle the Earth, and then some. … In fact, the problem … is that we’re actually producing so much oil and gas … that we don’t have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it where it needs to go.”

This “problem” he referred to, caused by his administration’s reckless laissez faire policy, has actually created a flood of crude supply, resulting in a major discount for American consumers. With the addition of the pipeline, oil companies will be able to expand into foreign markets with a higher demand, which will in turn raise gas prices in America by an estimated $0.30 per gallon. And an increase in the price of gas always corresponds to increased food prices and other goods.

Everywhere you look, evidence of drastic climate change is coming to light. Despite these trends, the Obama administration continues to push the fossil fuel industry’s agenda.

As Bill McKibben from Rolling Stone Magazine put it, “At the moment when physics tells us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine.”

If Obama does decide to approve the pipeline, the credibility of his image as a populist leader striving for “change” must be called into question.

Matt Pontecorvo is a sophomore majoring in political science.

February 27, 2014

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