A good five decades ago, the late David Brower, long-time executive director of the Sierra Club, warned his supporters that an upcoming mountain road battle should be fought as if it were Armageddon, for if it weren’t the next one very well could be.
Sierra Club zealots and their allies have been doing that ever since achieving more than a few victories in their determination to reduce industrial production and force all Americans to adopt a lower standard of living (all in the name of “saving” the planet).
President Obama, perhaps because he believes this or because he loves their votes, has repeatedly supported their agenda. His veto of the Keystone XL pipeline is the latest example.
The zealots repeated their message over and over: Terrible environmental damage would be done by the inevitable pipeline leaks; not a drop of the Canadian oil going through it would benefit the United States; and virtually no jobs would be created to build it.
Mr. Obama and his spokespeople echoed this refrain. He went one better. For over five years he has dodged making a Keystone decision because it was awaiting a required State Department review. Never mind that the department had already said the pipeline posed no significant environmental threat, or that the department works for Mr. Obama (he seems to have no difficulty steering its decisions about the Middle East).
By vetoing the project he is betting that the Republican Congress cannot muster enough votes to override (they are a few short in both houses).
If an override fails and the pipeline is not built, there will be no reduction in production and sales of Canadian tar sands oil by one drop. They will simply ship it cross-country to their own West Coast ports and thence to China, the world’s Number One air polluter. Or, they will ship it by rail to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. One railroad is building a Texas terminal that will be able to handle two 120-oil-car trains per day.
The veto will have no effect on the production of U.S. oil, much of which must be shipped from high plains states such as North Dakota to refineries on the coasts. If no new pipelines are built, ever more of this oil will go by rail.
Oil-by-rail is far safer than before and continuing to become more so; nevertheless, for the cynically minded, there will be “silver lining” in the form of an occasional derailment and some oil spilled, giving the zealots a fresh excuse to scream, “Irreversible environmental damage!”
In the meantime, the Sierra Club gets from Obama’s veto a device for stiffening the spines of allies to redouble efforts to make it ever more difficult to get any pipelines to be built, despite the fact experts consider this the safest way to transport oil.
The International Energy Agency predicts that $2.6 trillion will be spent in the U.S. and Canada on oil infrastructure between now and 2035. This will not deter the Sierra Club and its allies from day-to-day planning of their war against oil and gas. Be assured they won’t rest until you have replaced your automobile with a vehicle the size, power, and range of a golf cart.