ThinkProgress Notices that Keystone Isn’t That Important

by Charles C. W. Cooke

It seems that ThinkProgress has finally cottoned on to the fact that that Keystone, while important in and of itself, is really yesterday’s debate:

After countless marches, arrests, Congressional votes, and editorials, the five-and-a-half year battle over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is nearing its end. If a recent ruling in Nebraska doesn’t delay the decision further, America could find out as soon as this spring whether or not the pipeline, which has become a focal point in America’s environmental movement, will be built.

But while critics and proponents of Keystone XL have sparred over the last few years, numerous pipelines — many of them slated to carry the same Canadian tar sands crude as Keystone — have been proposed, permitted, and even seen construction begin in the U.S. and Canada. Some rival Keystone XL in size and capacity; others, when linked up with existing and planned pipelines, would carry more oil than the 1,179-mile pipeline.

Indeed so. And it’s not just pipelines. As Grist’s Lisa Hymas noticed as early as 2012, “Keystone pipeline protesters are having an unintended impact.” “Thanks in part to anti-pipeline activism,” Hymas observed, “oil in North America is increasingly being shipped by train.” She might have added that the rest is being moved by either boat or truck – both of which are significantly more dangerous than pipes.

The mistake that Keystone’s foes have made is to have convinced themselves that if they can kill the pipeline, they can prevent the oil from being moved and burned. They can’t, as the federal government’s own Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement confirms:

Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply-demand scenarios.

Sure, let’s approve Keystone. It is absurd that its champions have gone this long without a decision. But lets not pretend that it’s going to save or ruin the country.

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