After more than six long years of argument, debate, protest, lobbying, and court rulings, a bill approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is wending its way through the Senate. Once the bill has passed, it will be sent to the president’s desk, where Barack Obama has pledged to veto it, marking only the third time he has chosen to use that constitutional power, and the first time he has done so since 2010.
And also utterly pointless.
The strongest argument against the pipeline is that it will contribute in a significant way to increasing greenhouse gas emissions. The only problem is that everyone knows that the contribution will be negligible — with estimates ranging from 27 million to 110 million additional tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year out of a global total of roughly 40 billion tons. That’s an annual increase of somewhere between .0675 and .275 percent.
That’s right: the high-end estimate predicts that the pipeline will increase global greenhouse emissions by slightly more than one quarter of 1 percent.
But of course, stopping the pipeline would do no such thing. As everyone on both sides of the debate concedes, the Canadians will get their tar sands oil to market one way or the other, whether or not the pipeline is approved and built as proposed. (Rail transport is the most likely alternative.) And that means that rejecting the project will have essentially no impact on global carbon emissions.
And trains don’t contribute to Global Emissions, right? Or risk huge natural disasters and deaths as they pass through our cities and towns, right?
Yet the number of jobs at stake is as negligible as the projected increase in pollutants. Estimates place the number at around 2,000 annual temporary jobs over two years of pipeline construction, followed by 35 permanent positions once it’s up and running.
You heard that right: 35. Two digits; no zeros.
All of this is common knowledge. Pretty much no one on either side of the argument attempts to deny or refute any of it.
And yet here we are at the O.K. Corral, the Senate and president poised for a showdown.
Are you getting excited yet? Feel the drama building and your blood boiling with passion?
Of course, for everyone in the country who isn’t an environmental activist, the hoopla defies comprehension. But hey, that’s the way our politics work now: enormous amounts of time, energy, and resources — and the president’s limited political capital — expended on a ploy to get a special-interest group trained and tested for…some as-yet-undetermined future fight.
Pssssssss – that’s the air going out of the drama balloon. A whole bunch of time, money and energy wasted. Oh wait, we are talking about politicians aren’t we. Just sayin’…