The Campaign Spot

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar: Oh, Hey, the Keystone Pipeline Is Cool Now.

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar: Oh, Hey, the Keystone Pipeline Rocks!

Look, Obama administration, if you don’t want to build the Keystone Pipeline, just come out and say so. Take the political lumps and get it over with. Enough of this perpetual “well, we just need to review it a few more months” limbo. To put the length of time of this review in perspective, when they first sought approval to build the pipeline, the fossils that make up the fossil fuel of the oil were still walking around.

And get a load of who’s endorsing the project now that he’s no longer in a position to help it come to fruition:

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in an interview Thursday his endorsement of construction of the Keystone oil sands pipeline comes after learning new information, including that the pipeline would not greatly increase carbon emissions.

Speaking at an energy conference in Texas earlier this week, Salazar said he supported the project.

He said he believed construction could “be done in a way that creates a win-win for energy and the environment.”

This is the first time Salazar, now a lawyer in the private sector, has endorsed the pipeline, which would carry crude from tar sands in Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

In 2012, Salazar hewed close to President Barack Obama’s position on the issue.

“My concerns about the Keystone pipeline are in line with the Obama Administration’s position on the issue. I feel that the president acted responsibly in rejecting the initial proposal on the grounds of environmental issues,” he said, according to media reports. “Until the guidelines for this project are significantly altered, the pipeline should not be constructed because of the potential risks it poses to the well being of U.S. citizens.”

Salazar insists that as interior secretary, he couldn’t influence the State Department’s review and approval process. But does he really expect us to believe that his vocal approval to his colleagues within the administration wouldn’t have changed anything?

This just handed to me from the Keystone supporters: Gee, thanks a heap for going out on that limb, Johnny-Come-Lately. Would you prefer a medal or a monument?

I’ll let the editorial board of the Washington Post lay out the reasons to build the Pipeline:

ENVIRONMENTALISTS HAVE drawn a line in the sand on the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s the wrong line in the wrong sand, far away from any realistic assessment of the merits — as yet another government analysis has confirmed. It’s past time for President Obama to set aside politics and resolve this bizarre distraction of an issue.

The State Department’s latest study — the product of more than five years of investigation — largely confirms the conclusions of previous assessments and those of many independent energy experts: Allowing the firm Trans­Canada to build Keystone XL, which would run across the Canadian border to Steele City, Neb., is unlikely to have significant effects on climate-change-causing greenhouse gas emissions. That’s because its construction, or its rejection, would not significantly affect the extraction of tar sands bitumen, an oil-like substance, in Alberta. Even if the president rejects Keystone XL and no other pipelines out of Alberta are built, the crude could still travel by rail and barge — with marginally higher greenhouse emissions and a higher likelihood of accident. One hundred eighty thousand barrels of Canadian crude already moves on train cars every day.

Here are the reasons to not build the pipeline:

  • Self-identified environmentalists hate oil companies.
  • Self-identified environmentalists really hate oil companies.

I can hear it now: “But Jim, what about if the oil pipeline leaks? What if it gets in the aquifers?” You know what you do if there’s a leak in an oil pipeline? You stop pumping the oil through the pipeline, and you drive out and you fix it. Sure, it’s messy, but the leak stays in one place. It’s a heck of a lot easier than heading out and putting a new hull on a sinking Exxon Valdez, on bobbling waves as all that oil chokes an ecosystem and the little fishies and seagulls.

Back to those self-identified environmentalists who really hate oil companies. They fume at the companies for providing a fuel that is absolutely essential to modern life. Vast majorities of those who denounce oil companies the loudest still use cars in one way or another. Even if you’re driving a Prius, that thing isn’t a hybrid of wind and solar. It still uses gasoline, depending on the circumstances. And even if you walk everywhere, you still go to the store and buy things that were delivered on a truck that uses gasoline.

This is one of the reasons those who don’t self-identify as environmentalists scoff and mock those who do, even if we like a lot of the same stuff the environmentalists do — clean water, clean air, clean beaches, open spaces, cute and cuddly endangered species, etc. Most of us grow up and recognize that there are always going to be trade-offs. If you put up a wind turbine, it’s going to kill some birds. (The only legal way to kill a bald eagle in the United States is with a wind turbine.)

When you see horrific oil spills like the Exxon Valdez or the BP Deepwater Horizon, it’s natural and justified to get really angry at the oil companies. Unleash the hordes of lawyers. Hold them accountable. But there’s no magic wand that makes us no longer need oil, not without fantastic breakthroughs and years and years to transition to newer fuels and sources of energy.

This is why the fuming about Keystone looks like such a pose; it’s not about what their efforts to prevent the Pipeline project actually do, it’s about broadcasting to the world how much they care.

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