One of the most contentious issues between Republicans and Democrats of late has been the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. Keystone is an oil pipeline proposed by Canadian company TransCanada that would transport oil from Alberta to refineries in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas. Congress recently passed a bill authorizing construction of the Pipeline, and the President has now officially vetoed that bill.
So what’s the big deal? Republicans insist that the building of Keystone would create thousands of Americans jobs, reduce oil prices, and grow the U.S. economy. Sounds good. Democrats argue the pipeline would wreak environmental havoc where it is built, potentially leading to devastating oil spills, and increase global warming due to increased production of oil. Yikes. Nevermind.
But who’s right? Well, the reality is…neither. The Keystone Pipeline would likely create fewer than 100 permanent jobs, and the estimates of thousands have been debunked by numerous sources, Snopes included. There will be decent amounts of construction jobs, but they will also be temporary, and there is no reason to believe a Canadian company will exclusively hire U.S. contractors. The pipeline will likely reduce oil prices in states where it empties into, but economists have pointed out that other states will see prices rise as oil is diverted away from their refineries. So much for a major economic growth machine.
Democrats aren’t right either. The likelihood of any major oil spill from the pipeline is quite slim.While ocean rigs are more prone to accidents, pipelines tend to be much safer. So safe, in fact, that Americans forget that there are already numerous major oil pipelines similar to the Keystone throughout the United States. TransCanada will also produce the oil regardless of the Pipeline, and simply transport it by railway–which is arguably just as damaging to the environment if not more so considering trains run on fossil fuels.
As to what I think of the pipeline, I have my own problems with it that others share. The pipeline will run through private land, and many owners of that land simply do not want a pipeline running through it. Who would? Problem is, rather than pay competitive prices to these owners, TransCanada is seeking eminent domain. The United States government would force owners of the land to sell it to TransCanada or grant easements regardless of whether or not they say yes or no. Can you imagine being told you have to give up your property for the construction of a pipeline? Major oil companies are the last entities that need to be subsidized by eminent domain.
So the pipeline will have little effect on jobs and the economy, and little effect on the environment. And yet the issue that seems to really matter–eminent domain–is largely ignored. Looks like politics as usual to me.